A decision, one that could change many lives, weighs on the shoulders of 10 college students. They face the pressure of turning in a video — a video of a possible rape.
Taylor University Theatre collaborated with Student Development in conjunction with Sexuality and the Body week to present “Student Body.” “Student Body” is a play that engages the topic of rape and our role in reporting it.
The play revolves around a girl named Sarah. After a party last weekend, a video of the girl was discovered. On the video, the young girl is found undressed on a table with people surround her, making it unclear what exactly happened—leading there to be a question of if a rape occurred. A group of college students discuss what they should do with this tape, turn it in or destroy it, debating the effects of their decisions.
“Student Body” is set on a college campus, connecting the play to the audience itself. Setting the play on an unidentified college campus offered a reality for the audience that this type of situation could happen anywhere, even at a college like Taylor.
“Sexual assault still occurs here, even if it can feel brushed over or forgotten because of our morals and values as a university,” said Claire Vock, a sophomore cast member.
This conversation is needed on college campuses around the country, even if it’s uncomfortable. This production didn’t shy away from the realities of rape and aimed to spark conversation.
The play itself provides a context of the thought process that the group deals with as they debate whether or not they should turn in the tape. The group understands that turning in this tape could not only change their own lives, but the lives of the abused and abuser.
“The play deals with a lot of common issues associated with claims of sexual abuse, including alcohol influence, what clothes the girl was wearing, who was in the video, procedure for sexual abuse cases, etc.,” sophomore cast member Angie DeStafano said. “As the group bickers and disagrees on what to do with the video, more information comes out about who watched it happen, who was in the video, who filmed the video and who was the abused and the abuser.”
From beginning to end, this play navigated the heavy decision by rationalizing why or why not they should turn this video in to the police. They move through the play by taking votes to try and agree on a census. The first vote was 6-3-1(the last vote being abstention). When the play concluded, they reached 1-9, leading to them destroying the tape.
“The group slowly decides to ditch the video and destroy the evidence to protect themselves, and the sad reality of an ignored sexual assault case comes to life,” said DeStanfo.
With this play being in relation to Sexuality and the Body week, the cast went into preparation for the show hoping to honor the hard realities that this play presents. Vock said she found the subject matter invaluable to consider.
“It was essential for us to have a check-in and check-out process before and after working on this material—we needed to separate who we were from the characters in the play so we didn't carry their trauma and experiences with us out of the rehearsal space,” said Vock. “This was different for everyone, whether it was spending time meditating or relaxing before, using certain songs to get into character or even yelling and shaking it out after we were done.”
While heavy in topic matter, the work presented by Taylor Theatre emphasized the importance of these discussions on a campus. The production was followed by a talk-balk session.Tracy Manning, assistant professor of theatre arts, touched on the responsibility we have as Christians to these topics during the session—emphasizing that these conversations cannot go under the rug.
“We don’t get to renege on that responsibility that we owe to one another,” said Manning.
“Student Body” left the audience with the biting reality that this situation is going on for many students across the campus, and it is going unnoticed. Moving from this process, it leaves the audience asking how we can change this reality for students.