Arts & Culture / Mosaic / Theater / April 22, 2009

Studio Theater shows focus on sexual assault

The Stonewater Rapture and I Dream Before I Take the Stand, directed by sophomore Kate Donoghue and junior Sam Newport, respectively, both premiered in Studio Theater last weekend. Both plays were based around the questions and uncertainties that come along with sexual assault.

The first play, The Stonewater Rapture, consisted of two characters; a high school boy and girl who had been dating for two months and are both strongly grounded in a religious background.

The boy, Whitney, played by sophomore Alex Lindgren, begins to feel the pressure from other boys at school to have sex. He pressures Carlyle, his girlfriend, played by junior Alicia Vallorani. “We’ve been going out two months and I’m still scared I’ll get tear gassed if I brush up against your knee,” said Whitney. Carlyle does not give in to his desires until an allusion at the end of the play.

While both of the characters have a strong physical attraction to one another, religion keeps their bodies apart. “God is not ready to fornicate,” Carlyle said. Later in the play, Carlyle is raped by the school football team and she tries to justify it as an act of God. For Carlyle, much of her experience with sexual assault is dealt with by trying to rationalize it according to her faith, while Whitney tries to tell her the reality of what has happened.

While quips of humor were included every so often, very real and weighty situations were presented in a nonchalant high school manner, such as football players taking advantage of girls at school on a $50 bet as if it was something that regularly happened. Whitney even faces sexual assault in the school locker room and his car is later defaced when the football team assumes he is homosexual.

After Carlyle’s rape, she finds out that she is pregnant. Through her religious justification of her assault, she begins to act as though she realizes her attraction to the male form and purity is no longer an issue. As the lights go down, the audience is left to believe that she and Whitney have sex with each other for the first time.

The play did an excellent job of raising questions about many types of sexual assault, more than those between just a woman and a stranger she has never met. There was assault between men in the locker room, between an entire sports team and one girl, and lines of consent between the main couple blurred as well. The characters were well acted, and in such a small space with only two characters, the play definitely held the audience’s attention.

Immediately following the first play, I Dream Before I Take the Stand took the stage, directed by Newport. A short one-act of only about 20 minutes, it also involved only two characters. Junior Chanel Miller, the woman being questioned, and senior Abby Harms, the questioner, had a quick dialogue in attempt to determine what exactly happened in a case of sexual assault on Miller’s character. Sophomore Andrew Polk played the questioner in Friday evening’s show; Newport’s intention was to offer a new perspective by offering a questioner of another gender.

Set up like a police interrogation room, the scene starts kind enough, Miller seemingly pleased to be there and trying to cooperate with the questioner-soon-to-be-turned-vicious-interrogator to get to the bottom of the case of assault.

The play was meant to explore why people react to some women’s sexual assault differently than others. Harms laid out a line of questioning that aimed to quickly determine how Miller’s character dressed, walked, and had her hair done while walking through a public park where she was later assaulted.

After Miller answered some questions, Harms reiterated, “Your hair was down, and you were wearing makeup and contact lenses.” Later, she asked questions concerning the color of Miller’s underwear and asking if the color was black because black underwear is considered sexy, and that must have meant she intended someone to see it.

The questions raised by the second one-act were interesting, though the repetitive questioning might have gotten tiresome after awhile. Many might argue that the way Miller’s character felt beat up by the end of such questioning emulates how a victim of assault or rape might feel after going through a trial, and perhaps for that, the questioning style was necessary.

Coming to a climax of intense frustration on the part of Miller’s character, the play ended with the questioner yelling that Miller had been provoking a man to assault her, and Miller yelling, “No! I was walking through the park. It was a nice day.”

Annie Zak

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