CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Local playwright Cindy Wilson is about to see her play about domestic violence come to fruition.
Rehearsals begin in two weeks for "Battered but not Broken," the story of a little girl who grows up witnessing domestic violence and becomes a victim herself. The play will debut in Charleston on July 5 at the Civic Center Little Theater, then go on a national 50-city tour in 2013.
Playwright, producer and director Shelly Garrett was in town this week with his wife, Doris, and several cast members, making arrangements for the show.
Garrett, who wrote the nationally touring plays "Barbershop" and "Beauty Shop," signed on to help Wilson take the show to national audiences after reviewing a script. Both Garretts were immediately struck by the quality of Wilson's show and the importance of her message.
"My mother was battered," Shelly Garrett said Thursday. "[Doris'] sister was shot, and still has a bullet in her. Cindy told me her story, and I was on board."
With help from the Garretts and local sponsors and friends, Wilson is holding a fundraising gala at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Civic Center to help raise money for the production. She said about 1,500 invitations were sent out for the fundraiser, and hopes about 1,000 people attend.
Wilson, who was a domestic violence victim herself, decided to write an inspirational play about the subject after burying her niece, Na'Lisha Gravely, gunned down by her boyfriend in a Charleston Taco Bell restaurant in 2008. She stood by while friends buried Starlena Pratt, who was burned to death by her boyfriend the same year. This year, Carol Rhim was killed and dismembered by her boyfriend, who shot himself when police came to his door.
"There is such a community here where people are used to the status quo," Wilson said about writing the play. "This isn't going to resolve the issue of domestic violence. But it's definitely going to promote positive conversation about it."
Proceeds from the show will go to help domestic violence victims. Eventually, Wilson said, she hopes to raise enough money to build a domestic violence shelter.
Those who are behind the project are supporting it wholeheartedly.
"I believe in it, big-time," said local real estate magnate and longtime performer Jon Cavendish, who has put about $1,000 of his own money into printing and other costs to promote the fundraiser. "If this play takes off, it's going to go viral. No one has ever done anything like this."
Wilson is disappointed -- but not especially surprised -- that some people in the local community still don't think the play is going to go anywhere. "I've been told forever what I can't do," she said. "I'm used to the naysayers."