With the rising influence of the #MeToo movement and retaliation against sexual assault perpetrators, the unavoidable topic has reached WSU theater with its exclusive production of “Class of ‘94.”
The play, hosted by WSU’s Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities and written by Diana Grisanti and Jennifer Kokai, opened on April 6.
The production is based loosely on a true story out of Philadelphia, the plot centering on a female Catholic high school student who consulted her guidance counselor after being sexually assaulted.
The show focuses on topics surrounding sexual assault including confrontation, policies about reporting sexual assault, mandatory reporting laws and individual emotional responses to sexual assault.
Grisanti was commissioned to write the piece for Weber State in 2016 by Kokai after receiving the Hurst Visiting Artist Grant. Grisanti is an artist in residence at Vanderbilt University.
The show is completely unique to Weber. One of the challenges of producing a new play was developing the script, which was not completed until the beginning of WSU’s spring break.
“We have been rehearsing as we got new pages, and we kept suggesting things to Diana such as cuts or changes as we rehearsed, and she has always been receptive to that,” Kokai said.
The short timeframe and constant editing close to the opening night presented Kokai with additional
“A good director should be able to do a lot of script analysis before going into rehearsal, so you have an idea of what the main arch of the play is,” Kokai said. “You can give the actors advice about what their objectives are and how their characters should develop.”
However, assistance from the Women’s Center helped create a realistic atmosphere for the play and helped raise awareness surrounding sexual assault on college
While the play focuses on high school students, college students are at high risk for sexual assault.
The Women’s Center was present during the production’s opening night to provide information and support to audience members and presented data about sexual assault at WSU.
After the opening performance, a talkback was hosted. Members of the audience had a chance to interact with Kokai and Grisanti, along with Aaron Garza, deputy director of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity; Stephanie McClure, director of the Women’s Center; and Tammy Robinette, a counselor at WSU’s Counseling Center.
During the discussion, topics like Title IV arose, especially as it pertained to mandatory reporting laws and the confidentially of reporting sexual assault at WSU.
“We, as advocates, want to be sure that the survivor has a way to tell their story. They have someone they can tell their story to and give them a place they feel like they are safe,” McClure said.
“There are some situations where a Title IV investigation can be done and still keep the survivor confidential. It makes things more difficult, but it is possible, especially if there is a safety concern about it happening again,” Garza said.
The conversation also opened a discussion about the perpetrators of sexual assault and the value of the having a conversation on sexual
“I made a decision to cast someone who is a really nice person as the perpetrator because, more often than not, rapists aren’t just people who are lurking in the bushes,” Kokai said. “Sometimes, they are people you like, friends or family. They’re not obvious.”
“One of the things I liked was that this production considered the idea that both the guy and the girl at the end both wondered if they had ever made someone do something they didn’t want to,”Robinette said.
The play is for audience members 18 and older as it contains strong language and descriptions of sexual assault.