"If this play had existed when I was a teenager, it would have been a lifeline to me," says writer and journalist David Holthouse. "It would have saved me years of torment and wondering."
Holthouse is talking about his own play, Stalking the Bogeyman, currently playing New World Stages in a production directed and adapted by Markus Potter. The drama tells the true story of how Holthouse, at age seven, was brutally raped by a teenage neighbor boy he thought was his friend. Left at that, the tale would be disturbing enough, but it is framed by a second plot, set many years later, in which the adult Holthouse meticulously plans the murder of his assailant.
Needless to say, he never went through with the killing. In a different sort of emotional release, Holthouse — who by then was an accomplished journalist — decided to tell his story in a 2004 article in the Denver Westword.
"Honestly, my original intent was to try and destroy the guy's life" with the story, Holthouse admits. "Because I could no longer get away with doing this guy harm. I couldn't shoot this guy anymore. But I could destroy his life." However, after meeting with the man who abused him, the revenge instinct subsided. He did not use his name. Holthouse's traumatic story garnered new attention when he was invited to read it on public radio show "This American Life." That's when Potter heard it. He soon after tried to get in touch with Holthouse with a proposal to turn the story into a stage work. "It took a couple months," says Holthouse. "He basically just sent a message in a bottle to American Public Media. It gradually wound its way to me."
Potter's vision immediately appealed to Holthouse. "He did not use the words 'dark thriller,' which everyone who approached me from Hollywood wanting the movie rights to the story had," he explains. "They were all saying 'dark thriller' or 'love interest' — the main character is going to need a love interest. The answer to that was not only 'No,' but 'Hell no.'"
Potter, in contrast, was interested in "the conflict between the instinctual desire for revenge versus the higher consciousness of forgiveness."
Holthouse is conflicted about the outsized public presence this traumatic childhood episode has taken on since he first wrote about it.
"It's been a decade now that I've been living with this publically. I've been living my whole life with it secretly. There are times where I'm like, 'This is great. This is doing a lot of good.' And there are times where I think, 'What the hell have I done, putting my life out there like this?' I go back and forth daily. Long term trend: I think it's very healing."