There is a trend recently in which young writers and/or performers, and particularly those from intentionally overlooked communities (global majority, women, non-binary, disabled, queer, trans) bare their trauma on the stage for all to witness.
Yes, there is something cathartic in revisiting the past to shake off its hold on you, but you can only do that when you have actively done the work in the present to reckon with its grip.
As a writer, you are encouraged to write what you know, largely about your life experience, but I think equally it should be about writing what you know emotionally which includes not only the experience of the trauma but also the experience of healing it.
In today’s culture, trauma seems like this intangible thing that you can’t put a finger on, but by returning to its Greek origins – it translates literally as ‘wound’ – I find it easier to figure out its meaning. If you have not yet experienced the healing of your trauma, ‘the wound’, you are just rubbing on something that is still sore and tender, cutting it open each time you perform or encounter the piece again. I feel quite sensitive about this as I’ve made the same mistake – mistaking the raw sensation of baring myself onstage as me being radically honest, real and authentic – when all it did was make me feel empty. It was anything but empowering.
That is from the perspective of the writer and performer, but there is a duty of care to your audience too. To some extent, theatre is voyeuristic, you are invited by the creative team to witness something, there is an element of permission/consent there, but it is an odd sensation to feel like you shouldn’t be watching something. It is almost like being invited to an intimate dinner party by someone you barely talked to at uni, and when drunk, they conspiratorially confess their deepest darkest secrets to you. Yes, you were invited, but should you be there?
It is bold and courageous to be vulnerable and to also do that publicly, however, one should be cautious about storming the castle to slay the dragon, lest others get burned too.