On The Edge

Randy wrote On The Edge because he had not seen a realistic presentation of a
Child Protective Service Investigator depicted in any media.  He also accepted
the challenge of not varnishing the words of children reporting abuse because
too often professionals do, when so doing places the children at risk.  The play
represents the emotional landscape for a typical investigator over the course of
a very difficult week, heightened in Colin's case by a personal crisis.  There are
not any resolutions to any of the case histories in the play because for a CPS
investigator there are none.

This play is about Colin, a veteran CPS investigator.  It depicts the chaos of his
life caused by his job.  He suffers from secondary trauma, a common problem
for professionals working in his field.  Because of his job, Colin can not help his
own daughter:  when we leave the theater, Amy is seriously mentally ill and still
in the hospital; his wife, Martha, is trying to figure out her life.

And what about Colin?  At the end of the play, he is on leave without pay, under
investigation for abusing his daughter, and out in the cold.  He is haunted by the
words of children he has heard.  He is over the edge.  Did Colin abuse his
daughter?  He is not sure.

(also known as compassion fatigue, compassion
         stress, vicarious trauma, burnout)

“The natural consequent behaviors and emotions resulting from knowledge
about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other.  It is the stress
resulting from helping or wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person.”
                                                                                      (Figley, 1995)

“Vicarious traumatization is a process of change resulting from engagement
with trauma survivors”
                                             (Pearlman, L.A & Saakvines, 1995 a)


  •   Distressing emotions (crying unexpectedly)
  •   Intrusive imagery of client’s traumatic material
  •    Numbing or avoidance of work with clients or related materials
  •   Alternating anger and sadness
  •   Feelings of victimization
  •   Loss of hope
                                                                  (David Conrad, L.C.S.W.)


“Vicarious traumatization (VT) refers to the cumulative transformative effect on
the helper of working with survivors of traumatic life events.”

(Saakvitne, K.W. & Pearl, 1996.  Transforming the Pain: A Workbook of Vicarious
Traumatization. New York/ W.W. Norton)


“Prior to joining Trinity University in 1988, I spent the preceding twenty years at
the University of Oklahoma in the Department of Communication.  Students
there in Social Work would often take our graduate courses.  If they wanted a
degree beyond the MSW, they would often choose a doctoral program in my
field.  Primarily from them I have learned about life as a social worker, especially
about secondary trauma and the many ways it affected their own lives.  So, I
could understand to some extent Colin’s frustrations and social disintegration.  
Despite or perhaps because of my emotional reactions to the content, I enjoyed
the play.  I believe On the Edge has great merit and hope that you locate a
producer who can enhance its potential with a full staging.”  
L. Brooks Hill, Chairman of the Department of Speech and Drama   Trinity

"I read it (
On the Edge).  It drew me in,  The chaos was evident, the pain, the
dead ends, the fact that there was no good path for Colin.  It also brought back
emotions when I volunteered with you at CPS."  Gayle, who volunteered for a
year with the playwright when he worked as an investigator for Child Protective

On the Edge is an "incredible script.  It is extremely intense in both language and
circumstance which, obviously, is your objective.  I have no doubt that the script
truly does reflect your 'data base'.  If theater is, in fact, an attempt to present 'a
slice of life', then your play is a thick, challenging and appropriately disturbing
slice".  Lee Scott, a friend of the playwright.

Paul Baker (former director and founder of the Dallas Theater Center "called...to
tell me that he had read your play (
On the Edge) and was excited about it.  
'Strong and powerful work' he said.  High prise, indeed, from him.  He also said
that it is worthy of production.  That should give you some confidence in your
play."  Eugene McKinney, retired Playwright from Trinity University in San Antonio,

"It blew me away!"  Punch Woods, Former Director of the Tucson Community
Food Bank
Copyright 2006 Randy Ford

On The Edge