TRAPPINGS: A new play about Parental Alienation

TRAPPINGS is a new, one-act, feature-length play that is mostly autobiographical, save for some brief moments of artistic license. The goal of this work is to raise widespread awareness about a little known and poorly understood phenomenon known as parental alienation (PA) through the medium of entertainment, something that is accessible to everyone. Theatre is a way we believe we can spotlight PA just as a work such as "Next to Normal" highlights and increases awareness of mental illness and more specifically, bipolar disorder.

TRAPPINGS is a story that is “ripped from the proverbial headlines” – OUR headlines – and illustrates much of what our family has experienced over many years. Our story mirrors the lives of countless others who've fallen victim to the same. For the many out there who don't know what parental alienation is, it is a misunderstood and often overlooked, senselessly destructive dynamic in which one parent actively engages in behaviors which alienate children from the other parent, who is often more loving, stable, and capable of rearing them. The actions thereby destroy the familial bond. This is a growing problem which plagues about 22 million parents and that many more children. According to some sources, it occurs in approximately 15% of divorces, affecting about one in 100 children in America.

Wayne and I are a husband-and-wife team who set about to write TRAPPINGS to help others understand the evils of parental alienation. In spite of the daily and pervasive devastation we have faced, we work together to remain strong and centered. The major forces which help us to do so are the love and support of our family and friends. The other is our shared passion for the arts. We have created countless award-winning entertainment projects including films, screenplays, public service campaigns, novels, and of course, stage plays and play scripts. Wayne is a five-time nominated, two-time Emmy Award winner; I have been nominated as well.

To our knowledge, this is a social, psychological, and legal issue that has yet to be explored through any dramatic representation. It is a shocking, sinister, and stealthy problem which has far-reaching, and gravely long-term consequences for all involved. PA is a deceptive and invisible form of child abuse that leaves no physical scars, and therefore, is mostly ignored by professionals from countless fields; the very fields that purport to protect and serve our youth.

The phenomenon, also known as parental alienation syndrome, has been called “An understudied form of child abuse and ‘intimate terrorism’,” according to Colorado State University social psychologist Jennifer Harman. It is form of child brainwashing done by one parent, sometimes referred to as “embittered and chaotic,” to undermine the relationship of his/her children with the other parent, whereby the children become both alienated from and in many cases fearful and loathing toward the targeted parent. In most if not all instances, there is no legitimate, reasonable, or credible basis for the targeted parent to be alienated, except for personal gains by the alienating parent.

PA is nothing more than strategic “human emotional aggression” with two sets of victims: the alienated parent and the children of the former union (it nearly always happens in cases of divorce or other legal action). The twisted irony, however, is that the alienator has successfully positioned him or herself as the victim as well as the children’s savior; a dynamic termed “pathological alignment.” The alienator tricks the children into believing a host of entirely fabricated wrongs perpetrated by the targeted parent, wherein that individual is demonized and undermined at every turn. Children engage in a campaign of denigration toward the targeted parent, at the behest of the alienator; behavior that is both applauded and rewarded by that parent.

The tragic result of parental alienation is that in most instances, children are reluctant to or patently refuse to have a relationship with the targeted parent for unfounded, illogical, and fallacious reasons.

TRAPPINGS is almost entirely a two-character vehicle with dynamic and essential multi-media elements. In brief: As siblings sift through boxes in their estranged father’s attic following his sudden and untimely death, they discover their entire childhood was not as they remembered.

At this juncture, we have the support of PAS Intervention, a 501c3 organization, who is dedicated to ending child abuse and parental alienation through educational awareness, research/development, free online support groups, legislation, legal and any other venues available. We expect to bring many other organizations and professionals on board. Our goal is also to have the support of celebrities who have experienced this heinous, evil dynamic themselves.

Our aim at this time is to raise funds to market and fast-track this critical work into professional theatre circles. We plan to bring professional/Equity actors in for staged readings. We also have delineated a portion of funds collected for the creation of a trailer for TRAPPINGS so that we may “show, not tell” our story. Once we have done so, we will launch our website in order to bring this message loudly into all professional circles, both theatrical as well as those groups who stand up to end parental alienation.

It is our sincerest hope that we may use our talents and creative voices to help expose and eventually end this ugly and debilitating dynamic so that it will never destroy another familial relationship or break the spirit and psyche of another individual who has become its victim.

A 2018 publication by Wilfrid von Boch-Galhau, “Parental Alienation (Syndrome) – A serious form of psychological child abuse” in Mental Health and Family Medicine as quoted in Psychology Today, ”signals a major advance in our collective understanding of parental alienation not only as a widespread phenomenon that needs greater attention by the psychological community, but as a serious form of child abuse and family violence that warrants an urgent response at the highest levels of professional practice and socio-legal policy.”

We intend to do our part and urge you to do yours. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. With numbers as high as one in 100 children who have experienced the damaging effects of parental alienation, perhaps you also know someone touched by it. And if you know us, you now know how we’ve been affected.

We will be forever grateful for your help and support.


Stephanie C. Lyons-Keeley
Danbury, CT

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