Play brings stories of abuse to stage

Kelly Petryszyn

“For Better or For Worse” opens tonight

VIEW an audio soundslide from the performance.

A Cleveland playwright asked a co-worker why she had a bruise on her face. Her husband had hit her.

Her story and countless others inspired Dwayne Williams to write “For Better or For Worse.”

The African Community Theatre will put on the play, which opens tonight. It’s the first play the theater is hosting for the 2009-2010 production season.

The play invites the audience inside the household of Sophia and William. With the burden of providing for his family on his shoulders, William takes out his mounting anger on his family. The rest of the family, including Sophie and their children, struggle to deal with William’s damaging behavior.

“The play focuses on how people are victimized,” director Francis Dorsey said.

People have to ask themselves: How far would they allow domestic violence to go?

It’s a situation more common than you’d think.

One out of every four women in the United States reports domestic violence at some point in her life, according to the Family Violence Prevention Fund. Women ages 20-24 experience the highest rate of sexual assault and rape.

Domestic violence can be psychological or physical. It “has no boundaries,” Dorsey said. It affects everyone from all races, backgrounds and ages.

Lavada Townsend, a local actor from Euclid who plays the part of William, was a product of domestic violence. His mother was in an abusive relationship, and he dealt with violence growing up in Cleveland. Because Townsend came from a background of abuse, it took him some time to adjust to playing the one responsible for abuse.


The play runs from Nov. 13-15 and from Nov. 20-22. Friday and Saturday performances are at 8 p.m., and the Sunday performance is at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $7 for students and senior citizens.

“Sometimes I go home and want to kick this guy’s ass, but I have to play this guy,” he said. To get into the character, he tells himself that he is no longer Lavada Townsend – he is William.

Growing up around abuse, he feels strongly that the message needs to be heard.

We need to know that we can agree to disagree,” he said.

Domestic violence is thought of as something that “should be hushed or kept behind close doors,” Williams said.

He has seen firsthand what can happen when no one speaks up.

Williams used to work as a probation officer in Cleveland. A man who was convicted with two counts of domestic violence was released from prison when he was sent back for firing bullets at his wife’s car. The judge didn’t find him guilty, but his wife pleaded that if they let him go, he would kill her. They let him go. And few days later, he killed her.

If someone would have spoken to him, the outcome could have been different, Williiams said.

“No one should stay in an environment where are being psychologically or physically abused,” Dorsey said.

Contact diversity reporter Kelly Petrysyn at [email protected].