Friday, October 28, 2011

Taking Risks and Raising Awareness at EMU Theatre

On November 7 & 8 (Wed & Thurs) at 8pm and November 9 (Fri) at 5pm and 8pm EMU Theatre will be hosting the first Lab Bill of the season with seat-shifting performances of Oleanna by David Mamet and How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel. Each show deals with different types of sexual violence towards women. Oleanna is about a bright, young, feminist college student who accuses her professor of sexual assault. How I Learned to Drive follows the story of a young girl, Lil' Bit, who is sexually abused and assaulted by her uncle. Each show will be aired back-to-back both nights but display the issues in two completely different scenarios.

We decided to interview the women who are portraying the victims in the performances. These actresses have been kind enough to talk with us about the emotional process.

Meet Kendra Jones...
Kendra is a sophomore at Eastern Michigan University. Last year, she performed in The Student Written One Act Festival and is a well-loved makeup artist in the theatre department.
(Here are some of Kendra's makeup skills from Imaginary Invalid [photo credit to Randy Mascharka])

We spoke with Kendra about her experience with Olenna directed by Heather Antos. She explained the show is about a power struggle between a professor and a student. Kendra plays Carol, a student who is having trouble in her class and seeks help from her professor, played by Caleb M. Knutson. Carol views her professor as a misogynistic and arrogant man. He takes it upon himself to physically touch her in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable. She soon files a sexual harassment lawsuit against him and ruins his chance of receiving tenure. 

"She’s justified the entire way through. She gets a bit extreme. Personally, I don’t like conflict so I wouldn’t have taken it at far as she does. But she’s not lying about anything," said Kendra. "I am completely 100% on her side."

Kendra explained there is a chance that most of the audience will not take Carol's side and end up feeling sympathy for the professor.  "She’s taking on world issues by herself so she’s acting like a soldier. She’s being very combative," Kendra said. 

Meet Kelley Stonebreaker...
Kelley Stonebreaker is a senior at Eastern Michigan University. Kelley has performed in Rocky Horror, Spelling Bee, Into the Woods, Reefer Madness, and Little Me at EMU Theatre. (Notice ALL of the shows are musicals. This is Kelley Stonebreaker's FIRST straight play at EMU Theatre.)

"Now that I’ve taken enough classes and absorbed all of this information [about straight acting], it’s like a release," said Kelley.

How I Learned to Drive, directed by Sarah Leahy, follows the childhood memories of Lil' Bit (Kelley Stonebreker) and the inappropriate relationship with her Uncle Peck, played by Derek Ridge. The story twists and turns through various ages of Lil Bit as she narrates a situation that most victims hide their entire lives. "It’s difficult for anyone to be in a position of Lil' Bit. But the fact that I have to put myself in this position is challenging," said Kelley.

Uncle Peck takes on the father-figure role for Lil' Bit and is in love with her even when she's little girl. Throughout her life, Lil' Bit experiences several disturbing moments with her uncle and some honestly genuine moments with him as well - like when he teaches her to drive.

Kelley explains the show definitely has moments that will make audiences feel uncomfortable. "If anything I hope that people become more aware of this because it’s a lot more common than people think. Yes, people will be uncomfortable but this happens," said Kelley.

“I hope that they see the truth behind all of this. Because there's a point in her life where she finds a way of dealing and coping and surviving. It might not be the way that everyone does it, but she figures it out. She eventually gets to a point in her life where she is okay,” said Kelley.

We ask audiences to remember the directors, producers, designers, and actors recognize the weight of these issues and have done their best to handle the performances with professionalism.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual violence, please contact the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network or visit Eastern Michigan University's Counseling and Psychological Services at Snow Health Center and always remember that you are not alone.

Performances: November 7 & 8 (Wed & Thurs) at 8pm and November 9 (Fri) at 5pm and 8pm. Limited Seating. Tickets $5.

1 comment:

  1. awesome article: heads up though, the shows are Mon-Wed, not Wed-friday. :)