"The Yellow Dress" play sends message to teens about dating abuse and domestic violence

Spotlights warning signs of abusive relationships

"The Yellow Dress" is a play that's been performed at local high schools, but ABC Action News, along with Deana's Educational Theater and Heartland For Children, gave the public a chance to see it at Tampa's Straz Center on October 1st.

High school students, parents, and teachers filled Ferguson Hall to see the story of young love poisoned by jealousy and teen dating abuse.

Local actress, Laura Modrall, has performed the play in high schools. "As I begin to tell Anna's story, they giggle, they get uncomfortable," said Modrall.

In the play, "Anna" tells the audience about her relationship with her high school boyfriend and the signs of trouble.

When she emerges in the final act in a blood-stained yellow dress, she reveals that he has killed her.

"You do get emotional and you want them to get emotional," said Modrall. "You want them to see, it's a shock! To see that this could happen and that's why we're teaching you the warning signs," she said.

A discussion between a counselor and teens follows the play. It hits very close to home for the parents of two women who were killed in abusive relationships.

Mary and Ira Gorfinkle lost their daughter, Deana, 20 years ago. In her memory, they created Deana's Educational Theater, which produces "The Yellow Dress."

Five years ago, Bonnie Roebuck saw the play in Lakeland. It was the same year Bonnie lost her daughter, Heather. She has been funding the play in Polk County Schools ever since. She also started Heather's Hope Foundation in her daughter's memory.

The Gorfinkles met Roebuck for the first time during the performance at the Straz Center. The Gorfinkles say the play shows parents why it's so important to pay attention to what's happening in their children's lives.

"You have to be there for them and again, you can't be there in a negative way. It's a very difficult situation and for someone like us, who had never been through something like that, we could never figure out what happened. We didn't have the information that people had here," said Ira Gorfinkle.

Melissa Dohme, who survived the nearly deadly attack by her high school boyfriend, was among those who also saw the play. "I believe that if the Yellow Dress was in every high school, then every girl would be made aware," said Dohme.

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