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Mary Bonnett is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Her Story Theater. She is a professional playwright. Her plays include her Chicago Sex Trafficking Cycle: SHADOW TOWN, THE JOHNS, MONEY MAKE'M SMILE and MONGER. They are based on interviews Mary conducted with hundreds of professionals, survivors, sellers and buyers involved with sex trafficking in the Chicagoland area. These interviews are ongoing and continue to contribute to her work including the SIDE SHOWS for field professionals, educators and youth.
Through Mary’s innovations, she has created space for Chicago celebrities, artists and jazz singers to perform in her productions as a means to broaden the base of awareness. She has partnered with survivors, activists, law enforcement, lawyers and judges to continue educating people on social issues of our times; especially on sex trafficking. Her production of SHADOW TOWN was quoted as “life changing” by many.
MONEY MAKE’M SMILE: Mary developed a 7th-12th curriculum with Chicago educators and the Chicago Teachers Union on sex trafficking of youth. This curriculum with accompanying study guide tied to her play MONEY MAKE’M SMILE presented at Victory Gardens and the Greenhouse Theater to over 5000 inner city students free of charge. It was accompanied by a four hour educational workshop, show related study guide, post show discussion with professionals and in school activities to raise awareness through student involvement in each school that attended the performance of MONEY MAKE’M SMILE. Each attending educator received a hard copy of the sex trafficking curriculum for 7th-12th graders in coordination with the Illinois State Educational guidelines.
Mary’s sex trafficking plays have reached across the country. THE JOHNS was performed in Houston, Texas for Super Bowl 2017. Mary’s The Front Lines: SIDE SHOWS series, which includes COURT SIDE, was performed for judges and lawyers, MIND SIDE for Clinical psychologist and social workers, YOUTH SIDE for 7th-12th graders and educators in Illinois and for judges in Philadelphia, PA; Her play, SHADOW TOWN, will appear in Providence, Rhode Island for professionals working with the trauma-based victims of sex trafficking and upcoming places in Oregon and California.
Mary has won numerous awards for excellence and outstanding contributions in professional theater, including writing, directing and theater education. She most recently received the BIBO as well as a Civic Engagement Award for Outstanding Community Cause Leadership. Her Story Theater is the recipient of 2017 Illinois State Senate Hero Award in Sex Trafficking Prevention and Backstage Magazine’s “Top Ten Best Theaters That Change Lives.”
She speaks regularly to organizations, high schools and universities on sex trafficking and the impact the current culture has on our youth, including presentations for the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force Conference and workshops with refugee girls through Girls Forward. Mary has appeared on television and radio shows, championing the need for change in laws and raise awareness of trafficking. Under Mary's leadership, Her Story Theater has raised thousands of donated dollars for their partner organizations.
Some other of Mary’s works include GLOSS OVER, a series of monologues set in a beauty spa, taken from the lives of homeless women from Deborah’s Place; Recent Women’s History written and directed by Mary are RADICAL IDEAS! WOMEN AND THE VOTE! Which received wide acclaim, based on the struggle of women in Illinois to ratify and win the vote, as did, 9TH FLOOR: Blocked Justice of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
She is a former theater educator. Her theater program for inner city youth was deemed a role model by the Kennedy Center. She holds a BFAs in Theater Arts, a BFA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing.
Mary is a member of SAG-AFTRA, American Dramatist Guild NYC, The Author’s Guild, SCBWI. She acts as advisory and support for Traffick Free and The Dreamcatcher Foundation. She has been involved with supporting families in search of victims and justice; as well as investing in survivors who are now free from “the life.” Along with a team of professionals, Mary is currently working on a residential home for trafficked girls ages 12-21 to be established for the Chicagoland area.