Why a Show about Sexual Violence?

Why a show about sexual violence? What’s more, why a show in resistance to sexual violence in the same performing arts festival (Minnesota Fringe Festival) as many shows with lighter material.

Not long ago I had a conversation with a fellow Fringe producer about my show. I was telling her we had 7 stellar performers doing original work on the topic of sexual violence. I kept telling her about my show, but her eyes glazed over the first time I ever said the words “sexual violence.”

Perhaps it sounds too scary. Too feminist. Too boring. Too blunt.

A long time ago, in 1994 when my parents were still together (barely) and I was a teenager (barely – 13) I was taken to The Guthrie’s adaptation of Aphra Behn’s The Rover. This 17th Century play by a woman playwright is about strong women caught between difficult choices at Carnival.

There was a red curtain that bisected the stage and audience. This was in the “old” Guthrie by the Walker, and directed by JoAnne Akalaitis. While the play overall is a haze I remember two things clearly. I remember the stylized rape scene and also remember the question and answer afterwards.

I was the youngest person in the audience save my little brother. The actress who played the character assaulted in the show talked about how difficult it was to perform this part, how throughout the run she’d been anxious and scared, nervous in parking lots, nervous in her home, experiencing a cultural or personal PTSD. After all, just look at the stats that show how common sexual violence is.

The thing is that I had been exhilerated during the play because it suggested that people who had experienced sexual violence still mattered. And it was in Behn’s play where the victim was a true subject not just a caricature. And it was at The Guthrie, that pinnacle of Minnesotan theater. I’m not naive, I know merely talking about sexual violence isn’t enough. However, how far will we get if we don’t talk?

And how far will we get if we aren’t true to our experience when we do talk?

Making art about sexual violence is difficult work. I began writing my pieces in our show almost two years ago. Strangely they aren’t hard for me to read even though the material is tough.

I remember reading the newspaper intensely as a girl, wanting to find the words for what was happening to me, in my house, with my mother. I want my words to be there for other grown girls and boys.


The show Chorus: Voices After the Silence was a collage of different performers all doing original work in resistance to sexual violence. The performers were me, Amy Salloway, Anya Achtenberg, Christine Stark, Guante, Katherine Glover, and Nancy Donoval.

In Category: COOL NEWS

Alison Bergblom Johnson

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