Wednesday, March 26 saw host to a powerful student-produced multimedia presentation. It’s Not That Simple, designed, directed and choreographed by Molly Schenk, premiered at 7:30 p.m. in Minsky Recital Hall.
With a combination of music, statistics, acting and dance, the production’s goal was to raise awareness about sexual assault.
The opening slideshow seized the audience’s full attention and refused to let go. The public service announcements, one at the beginning of each act, brought sexual assault to an uncomfortable proximity, declaring “sexual assault can happen anywhere, anytime and to anyone.”
Seventy percent of victims know their attackers. According to the FBI, only 37 percent of rapes are reported. Among the 11 sexual assaults reported at the University of Maine last year, seven took place in dorm rooms.
The opening monologue, “Turbulence,” told the story of an accidental offender. Alec Richardson’s character recounts how he was drunk one night with a female friend, blacked out and wound up having sex with her when she fell asleep. Richardson said, “I realize now what I did, but I still can’t talk to her, because all I can say is ‘I’m sorry,’ and that’s not enough.”
The monologue “Sophistry,” performed by Devin Beals, told of a male college student who went to a male professor’s house to ask for an extension on his paper. Instead, he was coerced into accepting oral sex.
The production followed the stories of five different victims. The program asked audience members to “remember that these scenarios can happen to anyone.”
The first scenario followed one girl who was assaulted by a lover. In the skit, she pushed him away before finally relenting. The next day, the lover said in his defense, “no one said ‘no’ or ‘stop,’” to which the victim replies “No one said ‘yes’ either!”
Another scenario depicted workplace harassment, with a male chasing and holding a female coworker. Several other employees sit in one corner, watching and doing nothing.
Other scenarios featured a case of stalking, a girl who is unwittingly videotaped while making love and a man who was forced to listen to an abusive relationship in an adjacent apartment.
We follow their stories until each victim finds hope. The stalking victim stands up to her deranged ex. The videoed girl finds comfort in a friend. The female coworker pushes her harasser away completely. The tortured neighbor works up the courage to reach out to the victimized neighbor.
Perhaps the most poignant scene was one involving the first victim. The audience watched as she was approached by community members and loved ones: a counselor, nurse, police officer, teacher, employer, boyfriend, ex-boyfriend’s friend and finally her mother. Throughout each interaction, the audience watched the girl’s internal struggle: “Why is this happening to me?” “I don’t know what to say.” “Just don’t tell me it’s my fault.”
One of the most eye-opening parts of the night was the discussion that followed the production. No less than three cast and crew members admitted to being sexually assaulted. Many cast members admitted to insomnia, nightmares and general feelings of depression from being in the show.
Themes in the show were the complexity of sexual assault, hope and, as actor Land Cook said, the fact that an assailant isn’t “just some someone you don’t know in a back alleyway.”
To sum the show up in one word would be “stunning;” two words would be “emotionally draining.” Walking out of the hall, one had the feeling of absolute horror and sadness, tinged with the underlying light of hope that you can do something about it.