Sometimes it’s difficult to do the right thing. While performing “Dorm,” a collaboration between UM’s theatre department and student outreach group Counseling Outreach Peer Education (COPE), cast members portrayed a potential off-stage sexual assault situation.
In this skit, Lisa, a girl who had gotten too drunk at a party, stumbles into her room with a guy. Anna, Lisa’s roommate, is irritated that she was “sexiled” and heads to the study room. Anna meets up with four other friends who all discuss the situation and debate what to do. Some friends are concerned and believe that Anna should intervene and check on Lisa, while others suggest leaving Lisa alone out of fear of overreacting.
After the performance, which took place on Thursday in the Shalala Student Center, the five actors held a Q&A session with the audience and stayed in character while giving their answers.
Audience questions included, “If it were you, would you want someone to intervene?” and, “Is the possibility of getting in trouble for underage drinking worth the safety of your friends?”
The session encouraged an interesting dialogue on college drinking culture, friendship and the importance of bystander intervention.
Following the Q&A, the cast restarted the production. This time, the crowd participated in the performance. When audience members felt the need to intervene, they could simply raise their hand and shout, “Stop!”
“Dorm” is an example of “theatre for social change” or “applied theatre.” Audience participation is essential to the dialogue and understanding of the presented scenario.
Skit director and lecturer cfrancis blackchild is in her third year of teaching at UM. She works closely with students to research and devise scripts that shed light on the issue of campus sexual assault. blackchild refers to the group of students who perform this type of theatre on campus as “The Troop,” also known as “Theatre in Action” (TIA).
“People don’t know how to talk about these situations, and this type of theatre production forces people to think and reflect in new ways,” blackchild said.
Paul Schulz, an undeclared freshman and one of the audience members who intervened during the skit, noted increased discussion about sexual assault situations.
“Rape itself is being acknowledged more frequently, so I feel more comfortable and confident with intervening,” Schulz said.
blackchild said these conversations are necessary for change.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. Sixty-three percent of these incidents are never reported to the police.
“We work hard so students at this university understand that there are many programs in place that want to help victims through advocacy, support and awareness,” said Kendeldrick Broaden, a senior psychology major and peer educator for COPE.
Broaden also spoke about the importance of students holding each other accountable and the need to implement more forums where students engage in these particular conversations.
“Things like this happen all of the time,” Broaden said. “Unfortunately, it can happen to anyone.”