30 characters, one Star Stone show, asking questions with gender violence on the agenda in #MeToo at Theatre@41

Star Stone in the guises of Rosey Colored-Glasses, Young Star and Rebel-Punzel in #MeToo. Picture: Abby Ballin

AHEAD of her Edinburgh Fringe run, American artist Star Stone previews her groundbreaking one-woman show #MeToo at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tomorrow night.

In a true story centred on her real-life experiences with sexual assault and gender-based violence on her journey from childhood to adulthood, Star flips the script for survivor-led narratives in her hour-long “edu-tainment comedy”.

“This is not a show focused on a single perpetrator, it’s a show focused on organisations and systems that function to uphold rape culture,” says Star. “From pretend shamans and sex cults to Tinder **** boys and Burning Man, I find humour in otherwise challenging situations, investigating how we can learn from these types of experiences and explore why these events all happened in the first place.”

In witnessing Star’s journey, tomorrow’s York audience will see “how culture raises female-identified youth to have body insecurities and lack of information regarding sex”.

“It further implies that our first glimpse of sexual violations can begin as children, that our boundaries begin their tests in primary school, and how all of this only intensifies as an adult,” says Star, who also will address the need for urgency in the fight for safe access to women’s health care in the United States since the historic overturning of Roe v Wade,” she says.

“We in the United States have a tendency to exploit people’s pain and experiences. We have a term for it: it’s called ‘trauma porn’. So when you watch the news in the USA, a lot of it is about the violence that’s happened that day, especially on the local TV stations.  Often that violence is at the expense of a minority group.”

Star grew up loving comedy, first doing improv and sketches and now progressing into using comedy in a solo show. “But #MeToo is not a stand-up show. It’s a solo show that uses solo theatre techniques. It’s a natural progression for me,” she says.

“It’s not a monologue. It’s a show with 30 different characters, and I take those characters into scenes with each other, with a narrator character introducing it and breaking the show into character scenes. Some are real-life characters; others are personifications.”

Post Los Angeles beginnings in 2018-2019, Star had intended to take the show to New York City but Covid sent it into hibernation until now. “York will be the first performance since 2019,” she says.

Why York, not New York, Star? “I do everything for myself and I was hunting down where I could do a preview for Edinburgh, reaching out to a lot of theatres. I got in touch with Alan [Park] at Theatre@41 and luckily he had a space for it. It’ll be my first time in York.”

Tomorrow, York, then the Edinburgh Fringe, are important steps for Star as she seeks to spread her wings internationally. “The topic of gendered violence is universal, and I’m interested in sharing this work with audiences across Europe and engaging in discussions with other survivors in the audience through a talk-back at future shows,” she says.

“It’s a crucial part of this journey. To only share my show with USA audiences wouldn’t make sense. It’s a global issue, regardless of where you live, so it’s important to hear responses in the UK and hopefully in Europe as an indicator of why this subject needs discussing.”

Star Stone in #MeToo: A One-Woman Show, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, August 3, 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk/events. Edinburgh Fringe: Venue 21, C Arts, C Venues, C Aquila, August 14 to 20 at 3.55pm; tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/metoo-a-one-woman-show. Age suitability: 16 plus. Show directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson.

“My work aims to share the humanity in the unreasonable, the gross, the unthinkable, and the wild,” says Star Stone. Picture: Abby Ballin

Star Stone: the back story

WRITER, creator and performer of #MeToo; actress, producer, playwright and poet with background in yoga teaching for ten years.

Graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and UCB LA’s Improv School.

Graduate of Community Word Project’s Teaching Artist Project, New York City-based social justice-orientated programme. Worked within New York City school system and in Zoom classrooms as theatre educator.  

Teaching artist for Marquis Studios in Coney Island and Wingspan Arts in Brooklyn.

Worked with New York City Mayor’s Office in 2022 to end gender-based violence. Hosted Voices: Survivor’s Speak, an evening of healing and transforming through the arts in collaboration with ArtTransforms.

Worked with Neo-Political Cowgirls for Girl Gaze programmme, supporting teenage girls to develop stories for film.

Former member of Oakland Slam Poetry team, creating poems as act of resistance to rape culture.

Former host of League of Professional Theatre Women’s online open-mic series, focusing on works in progress by New York City female-identified theatre creatives.

Performed #MeToo at Hollywood Fringe Festival and SoloFest, Los Angeles. Next up: York and Edinburgh.

Star Stone: “Particularly interested in the intersection of education and entertainment”. Picture: Abby Ballin

Artist statement, from starstonespeaks.com website

“I AM particularly interested in the intersection of education and entertainment, where the theatre is a classroom and an audience is left with a desire for self-inquiry and to engage in public discourse.

“My work aims to uplift survivors and normalise conversations around subjects like body image and mental health. I use comedy as a tool to tackle challenging subjects. 

“I create as a reminder that we cannot shy away from vulnerability, from honesty, and from revealing our humanity. If anything, my work aims to share the humanity in the unreasonable, the gross, the unthinkable, and the wild, because my life has been each of these things. It has also been full of magic and joy. 

“With each new play or poem, my approach is always to find the ‘Lila’ – the divine play of it all.”