On January 23, 2017, One Little Goat Theatre Company announced our upcoming premiere in Toronto of SMYTH / WILLIAMS, an all-female staging of the transcript of OPP Detective Jim Smyth’s interrogation of former colonel and convicted serial killer Russell Williams. The announcement has been met with interest from the Canadian public and media, as well with concern from some members of the public directly and indirectly affected by Williams’s sado-sexual, horrific crimes from seven years ago.
To those who have written in support of One Little Goat’s decision to stage this difficult transcript, thank you. To those who have reached out with your concerns, thank you, too; we would like to address them, fully aware of the high degree of sensitivity surrounding this subject.
One Little Goat is an independent, not-for-profit, artist-driven theatre company and charity that stages productions of the highest artistic calibre, often addressing vital issues at the core of our society. Neither One Little Goat nor anyone involved with the company is profiting from SMYTH / WILLIAMS, nor has any government agency funded the production.
One Little Goat’s staging of SMYTH / WILLIAMS raises awareness of, and challenges the toxic culture underpinning, sexual violence against women and girls. It is an important part of a wider public process of coming to terms with the horror, rage and grief that such violence has occurred and continues to occur throughout Canada.
One Little Goat would rather not stage SMYTH / WILLIAMS. More precisely, we wish we lived in a country where Russell Williams’s war on women and girls never took place and where today, seven years later, the safety of women and girls was firmly enshrined (or at very least equal to that of men and boys).
The terrible reality is that sexual assault against women continues to be endemic in Canada. Statistics Canada recently revealed that more than one quarter of women serving in our Armed Forces have been sexually assaulted during their careers. In other areas of Canadian life, sexual assault rates are similarly unnerving: 39% of adult women have suffered at least one experience of sexual assault. South of our border, President Trump has boasted explicitly about committing sexual assault — with impunity. In this way, Williams’s crimes against women and girls are part of a larger, national, continental, humanitarian problem.
This is why we urgently feel that, as empathic citizens and artists, it is our responsibility to bear witness to these atrocities, never allowing them to be forgotten, and identifying them as part of a nation-wide epidemic of sexual assaults targeting women and girls. With SMYTH / WILLIAMS we are confronting the attitudes and norms that enable such violence.
There will never be a ‘good’ time to address horrific, traumatic events, yet we cannot afford to wait if our society is ever to make progress in their wake. The theatre is an essential space where such an address can take place, where we can openly grapple with the most difficult issues and incidents of our times, raising critical public awareness in the process.
As painter Bracha Ettinger describes in “Art in a Time of Atrocity”:
Art proceeds by trusting in the human capacity to contain and convey its rage and its pain, and to transform residuals of violence into ethical relations via new forms […]. It is to trust that we will be able to bear in compassion the unbearable, the horrible and the inhuman in the human. […] Enlarging the capacity to elaborate, carry and transform traces of violence, whether private or historical, is a responsibility. This is one of art’s most important functions.
It is essential that such works of art, bearing witness to trauma, exist. One Little Goat’s production will bear witness. We invite the public to join us in doing so, not despite, but because of the difficulty and sensitivity at the heart of SMYTH / WILLIAMS.
Thank you once again to the many who have connected with One Little Goat in light of this upcoming production.
One Little Goat Theatre Company