“I want to tell you a story. There is small town in the middle of America. The streets are lined with strip malls and fast food places. Or, there is an affluent suburb in a big liberal part of the United States. SUVs park next to manicured lawns. Or, there is a college campus north of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania,” Alex Spieth said, standing on the stage in the Smith Center Ballroom Wednesday night.
“There is a girl, we’ll call her Jane Doe. She is young. Sixteen, fourteen, twenty-two. She goes to a party and gets very drunk. She is raped by two guys. Or one guy. They’re football players, they’re swimmers, they’re lacrosse players. They’re ordinary guys,” Spieth performed.
The Jane Doe staff and their cosponsors, including the Kaleidoscope Arts Festival, the theater department, the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, the athletics department, the gender studies program, President’s Commission on Women, the psychology department, the philosophy department and the criminology and security studies department put on ‘Jane Doe,’ a participatory theatrical event reflecting on rape culture in our communities.
The Jane Doe staff included Alex Spieth, Kaitlin Cliber, Lawrence Karl, Samantha Misterka and Darrin Mosley. Their mission was to merge art and activism to gain awareness on a college campus about rape culture.
The play was separated into acts and was made up of real material from public record of high-profile rape cases within the past five years. Only certain redacted details and names were changed to protect anonymity.
The first act portrayed the night of the crime. The screen showed real text messages between the defendants and the victim of a real case. Actors portrayed the trial, using the real transcripts.
The play, meant to represent many cases and show the outcome possibilities, showed how sometimes, the boys are protected so their futures are not ruined.
During Act 2, a clip was played that showed CNN, CBS and other major news media defending rapists because they had ‘bright futures.’
Audience members had the chance to text a number to share what they were thinking or their concerns, and the messages were then shown on the screen.
Some texts read “What about the victim’s future?,” “This is real. It happens everywhere” and “Just because they have a bright future does not give them a free pass to rape.”
During Act 3, real text messages between the defendants were shown, which explained they were scared and how they would try to get out of criminal charges.
The audience had the chance to text their concerns to the screen again. One of the texts read: “You’re scared? How do you think she feels? WE feel?”
“Both defendants are given the minimum sentence,” Spieth said. “The public is outraged. Or, it goes unnoticed. The boys go to prison. They get out, they go back to playing on the football team, swimming team, lacrosse team. Or, they don’t. Jane Doe is able to accept the fact that the assault was not her fault. The only people that were able to prevent it were boys that harmed her. She meets somebody who makes her feel safe. She goes on to live a life of personal ambition, goals and positive shared experiences with other people. Or, she doesn’t.”
“In another town, another Jane Doe goes to a party with some ordinary guys,” Spieth finished.