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Aga Popęda here. What are you doing Tuesday night? A Week Without Violence—a week devoted to raising awareness about violence toward women and girls—starts today, and I’d like to encourage you to check out the play My Name Is, which will be performed Oct. 19 in Salinas. The play, which is based on a true story, is written by retired law enforcement professional-turned-playwright David Norum, and presented by the YWCA Monterey County.

I recently caught up with Norum over the phone. His introduction to this story happened years ago when he was the investigating officer for the case. 

He already knew he wanted to put Annie’s story to paper during the 2009 trial. He retired soon after and sat down to write a book, but got stuck. The material turned out to be unwieldy; the task too monumental, he says. A break came in 2012 when he committed to paper a five-minute monologue. He did it for another survivor friend; and a series of performances in San Luis Obispo were a great success.

“It went really well and people kept asking for more performances,” Norum says. “Soon, I wrote a short 30-minute play for a student at a local high school. It has a bit of language and was a bit controversial. I was surprised that the school was fine with it.”

The first full-blown production of what is currently My Name Is was presented to the Monterey public in November 2019, at the Pink Flamingo Theatre. It was performed again at a benefit in Paso Robles in 2020. Each time, a different group of performers make their mark on Norum’s text and he—and Annie, who has attended every performance so far—are impressed by the various interpretations.

This particular production is happening thanks to Elaine McCleaf, who prosecuted the case “brilliantly,” Norum says. She retired from the Monterey County DA’s Office recently, and got involved with YWCA Monterey County.

“The investigation took a year and a half and the trial took four weeks,” says Norum when asked what, in his opinion, makes this particular story so compelling. That means he really has all the details in order, chronologically—an experience not available to a regular playwright. 

And Norum is not a regular writer. He is not a regular ex-cop either, he says, of his 24-year career in law enforcement. This play combines his artistic talents and his particular work experience. “Those things happen in broad daylight,” he says, about cases of domestic violence. “The goal is to raise awareness.”   

The survivor in the story will attend, and will hold a Q&A session after the play. It all takes place from 6-9pm on Tuesday, Oct. 19 at the Rodeo Room on the Salinas Rodeo Grounds. For more information, and to buy tickets, go here.

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