Sunday, May 19, 2024

Play spreads awareness on sexual assault, harrassment

John Proctor is the Villain cast on stage in the Hartman theatre in the John Myers building.

 

By Cinara Marquis

At a small-town high school in northeast Georgia, a group of teenagers navigate their complicated lives. It’s 2013, and the characters of “John Proctor is the Villain” are in their spring semester of junior year. They face scandals, young love, sex education and lots of pop music.

The play brings a contemporary view to the American classic, “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, a story about the Salem Witch trials. Through the lens of “The Crucible,” the main cast discovers their agency, and, as events unfold at the high school, their power, rage and hope.

The coming of age story is authentic, delivering painful themes in a comedic way reminiscent of youth.

John Proctor highlights #MeToo, a social movement based in spreading awareness against sexual abuse, sexual harassment and rape culture. Started by Tarana Burke in 2006, the movement saw individuals publicize their experience of sexual abuse and sexual harrasment in solidarity with others by sharing the hashtag #MeToo.

“As a feminist director, all my artistic work is shaped and guided by a deep-seated belief and advocacy for gender equality and the issues that reside within feminism, from reproductive justice and equal pay to sexual harassment and sexual violence,” Director Shawna Kelty wrote in an email.

Both the theater department and Kelty intentionally selected John Proctor as this spring’s play because of its themes and representation of issues, taking into account the showtime being in April, Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

“SAAM and the #MeToo movement played a large role in my proposal for directing Kimberly Belflower’s play as part of this year’s season. #MeToo isn’t over — the overturning of Weinstein’s conviction last week is the most obvious national example of that,” Kelty wrote.

The disgraced Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein has been convicted on multiple counts of sexual assault and sexual harrassment. He was convicted in 2020 for sexual assault, this conviction was overturned by the New York County Supreme Court April 25. It was announced May 1 that prosecutors will be aiming for a retrial in fall.

The pivotal moment of Weinstein’s trial overturning has the potential to change the legal systems views on sexual assault.

“The sheer number of productions of ‘John Proctor Is the Villain’ on college campuses is a clear sign that the conversation around sexual assault is still relevant and necessary,” Kelty wrote. “We need to continue to trouble the culture we live in, a culture that continues to privilege predators and marginalize and retraumatize survivors.”

The play offers audiences a window into how far society has come in these issues, and what work still has to be done.

 

THE STAGE

Suzanne Tracy reflected on her time as stage manager for the play in an email.

“It was a great experience for me to be a first time stage manager,” Tracy said. “The actors and their choices onstage created an environment that was safe to learn in with every different aspect from my stage managing to the real world issues that many women have faced.”

At first Tracy was in the background of the show, taking notes and relaying them to respective members, but as the show went on she began helping actors with lines. In the final week of the show, she called the booth, where stage managers communicate between different elements during the play.

“Calling the show from the booth the last week was definitely something that I enjoyed the most and will have fond memories of because that is when my hard work was becoming a very happy reality,” Tracy wrote.

The play was a safe environment for her to practice using her voice and build up confidence in her abilities.

Taniya Jarrett, who played Shelby, faced a different situation.

In John Proctor, Shelby is a bright character, but her intelligence is often overlooked due to her frank personality.

Shelby is groomed by her English teacher, Carter Smith, a beloved teacher, husband, soon-to-be father and Christian community member. Nobody expected him to do anything like that, and when he is found out, he faces few repercussions.

“Working as Shelby, I had to think a lot about how I was at her age. Since I heavily resonated with her in the degree of being blunt about things and just wanting people to see her, it was almost natural,” Jarrett wrote in an email. “I hadn’t ever experienced what she went through, so it was kind of hard to put myself into shoes that didn’t really fit me personally, but to be vocal about it is what I naturally stand for, and portraying that in a character like Shelby helps me understand, and hopefully others.”

Shelby took hiatus after the incidences of grooming, sexual harrassment and sexual assault at the hands of Smith. Everybody in the small town believes that she left because of mental health issues. She later comes back to the high school and speaks her story.

“You can see how the plot builds in the sense of Shelby coming back and trying to continue on her life as best as she can, knowing that someone whom she trusted used her and couldn’t even give her the time of day. She wanted to be heard but instead was always silenced with the implication that she’s crazy and will always be,” Jarrett wrote.

In the end, Shelby’s connections with her friends brings her hope, a hope that she is not alone and that perseverance is possible. She dances in the face of those who have hurt her, and her friends do the same, just like Abigail in “The Crucible.”

 

CAST AND CREW

John Proctor is a play by Kimberly Belflower.

Smith was played by Will Quilla; Shelby was played by Jarrett; Beth was played by Katelynn Kruger; Nell was played by Shahsha Montgomery; Ivy was played by Sydney Wise; Raelynn was played by Ninah Keliihananui; Mason was played by Matthew Leone; Lee was played by Walker Moore; and Bailey was played by Lydya Felix.

The director was Kelty; dramaturg was Rose Bullard; assistant director and choreographer was Felix; stage manager was Tracy; costume shop manager was Erika Guay; production manager and lighting designer  was Margaret Swick; technical director was Ben Wright; sound designer was Emily Fagan; costume and makeup designer was Leo Greer; props designer was Dani Anzola Perozo; assistant scenic designer was Quilla; assistant lighter designer was Kaitlyn Rivera; assistant master electrician was Alyssa Vasquez; and assistant stage manager was Charles Marcheski.

Other cast members who helped in the lighting, painting and construction of the set included Adele Daniels; Alex Rudnick; Claire Ragusa; Jack Byrnes; Kyle Magowan; Styx Williams; Sydney Wise; Emma Baker; James Braxton; Michelle DeFina; Tyler DeLuca; Ivonne Diaz; Evan Field Hoffman; Mirren Guzzio; Maddy Hamel; Evie Hatch; Olivia Montello; Jayden Neptune; Cole Potter; Isaiah Ritter; Brionne Thompson; Alyssia Grant; Kaleb Pecoraro; Benjamin Anderson; Tyler Dodson; Angel Espinal; and Isabella Bratchie.

 

Keep up to date with the theatre department at https://rb.gy/6ttugf.

To wrap up the semester the theatre department is hosting Ringing Down the Curtain, a collection of acting, dance and guitar performances on May 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. in the Hartman Theatre in the John Myers building.

Provided by Suzanne Tracy

In the final scene of John Proctor is the Villain the characters dance on stage.

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