Though the focus of the stage play she’s bringing to Augusta on Sunday, March 10, features eight women finding essential truths about their longtime friendship and themselves, Jackie Boatwright wants men to know that No Shells is not about male-bashing.
Far from it.
“This play takes a different turn for the simple reason is we have the husbands come in and they actually tell their sides of the story and the women actually bash themselves because a lot of what’s wrong with us is self-inflicted,” Boatwright said. “So that is why when men come they sit on the front row because they go, ‘OK, a bunch of women getting together and they’re not bashing us. Oh yeah, I want to see this.”
No Shells will be presented at 5 p.m. Sunday at Imperial Theatre. Tickets are $27.50 to $40 from the box office, imperialtheatre.com or by calling (706) 722-8341.
The play is based on a book the former Augusta resident wrote, Shells With No Substance, to deal with her son’s tragic accident at a Hephzibah day care center in 2001. Anthony DeJuan Boatwright, then 14 months old, suffered severe brain damage after he wandered into the kitchen of his day care and fell into a mop bucket filled with a mixture of bleach and water.
After the accident, she said she had to find within herself the strength to help take care of her son, who needed around-the-clock care. DeJuan died last March at age 11.
“Being a former state title holder in pageants and modeling and all of that, at the end of the day when I went through the situation with my son, none of that mattered,” said Boatwright, who helped get legislation passed in Georgia and Virginia that forces child-care facilities to disclose whether they have liability insurance, which the owners of the Hephzibah day care didn’t have.
“All that mattered was what I had on the inside of me. And so I wrote this book and it’s designed to encourage women to look beyond the outer and start looking inward.”
Thus the title of the book and play.
“A shell is a woman that we compare to the beautiful sea shell that you see lying along the beach. When you turn it over there’s nothing in it,” Boatwright said. “There’s so many women, they’re so pretty on the outside but when you turn them over there’s nothing in them. So when they’re faced with trials and tribulations and hardships and struggles, they crumble. They have a bottle of pills in their mouths, just considering the worse possible outcome as opposed to standing up and fighting and finding a way to overcome the obstacle.”
The play, she said, takes the audience through a full range of emotions. In addition to the serious moments, it also puts a comical spin on some of the beliefs and ideas women hold onto and value, she said.
No Shells, which she wrote in 2011, has a 13-member cast, including Boatwright, who is also the director. It takes place during a dinner the friends of 20 years have each year. At this particular dinner, an event triggers each to reveal hidden feelings about one another.
“After the show,” said Boatwright, “I have women walk up to me and say, ‘That was me. I was that person, or I saw myself. Or I saw my girlfriend.’ ”
The show in Augusta is part of a 20-city tour of the play.