Play about consent added to orientation, dreams for program of its own

Lane Riggs

Tessa Rae Dschaak, theater sophomore, with Xavier Alexander, theater sophomore, as a negative consent response at the Since Last Night performed by the theatre in Akin Auditorium on Aug 25th. Photo by Kayla White.
Tessa Rae Dschaak, theater sophomore, with Xavier Alexander, theater sophomore, as a negative consent response at the Since Last Night performed by the theatre in Akin Auditorium on Aug 25th. Photo by Kayla White.

A new interactive event produced during Roundup Week delves into subjects deeper than what the easiest math class is. Karen Dabney, assistant professor of theater, wrote and produced a play — Since Last Night — dealing with properly obtaining consent. 

“We decided to create this interactive theater over the summer,” she said. “And I worked with others to make sure that it wasn’t just my viewpoint, my own perspective. I had lots of help with it.”

The Since Last Night interactive play, held in Akin Auditorium on Aug. 25 at 11 a.m., was a new addition to those events slated for Roundup Week. The morning performance of the play was performed in front of about 34 people, with most of the audience talking with the actor “out of character.”

Dabney came up with the idea for the play and worked throughout the 2016 spring semester and summer break to write the script and direct the seven students seen on stage.

Some of that help came from Matthew Chisholm, coordinator of student development and orientation, whose office funded the event as a part of orientation.

“We wanted to talk about consent. Some of the students on campus — some of the freshmen — have never had a conversation concerning consent,” he said. “We just wanted to raise awareness of sexual health.”

Chisholm explained that this is the first time that this type of play has been included in orientation – but that he intends to change that.

“I’m hoping to include this play — or this message — in every orientation from now on,” he said.

Tessa Rae Dschaak, theater sophomore, also thinks that it should be included in every orientation – and counted herself lucky to be included in the play.

“It gave me more acting experience and it was also something that is really important to talk about,” she said. “Consent needs to be talked about more. College is just such a different world. Some kids have never been on their own before. It’s necessary to look at situations like this, situations that they may have never been in before.”

Dschaak thinks that the play will interest students more, in relation to the online video that last year’s freshmen had to watch at the beginning of their fall semester.

“The video was just awful. You weren’t required to pay attention and it took up so much time. This play was great because they got to ask us real questions,” she said. “One girl came up to me before the play and told me that I had personally made an impact on her life, that I had made a difference, and that really meant a lot to me.”

She said she believes she made a difference on others, too, based on the questions that they asked the actors and then began to ask among themselves.

“The group had some great questions. They were simple but important. And the reaction that I got from the play — I would definitely work with Karen again,” she said. “She did a great job influencing people.”

Equating tea to sex

One way Dabney influence others was with a rendition of the “tea video,” a video which equates tea to sex, and describes in lighthearted, ludicrous examples, that one cannot force tea onto another.

Dschaak thought that this was a good way to start the play.

“It’s got a funny but clear message. We illustrated different groups; two girls, two boys, different races together, to highlight that every relationship is affected by consent,” she said.

However, once the laughter stopped, the play started. And while the play was at times oppressive, mass communication junior Dierrica Smith said she believed that the play — and all of its awkward pauses and stiff characters was needed.

“It was a great idea to put this on, because people need to be aware of consent in college. It’s important to understand what consent means,” she said. “I heard about it because I’m a peer counselor, and we were supposed to encourage students to come out and watch and learn something from it.”

For those confused with the events of the play, the four actors — Kenadi Campbell, computer science junior, Tionne Fuller, social work junior, Dschaak, and Jonathan Stone, theater junior — were there to answer questions.

Though Dschaak answered questions directed her way, she found that her character’s responses were not the same as her own.

“We were given the opportunity to decide for the characters what the characters themselves would say. And I found that my character, Kelly, gave answers that often went against what I stand for,” she said.

And what she stands for is exactly what many new freshmen, basketball and tennis players, and resident assistants were introduced to — perhaps for the first time.

“It was a good idea to include the basketball and tennis players as well as the RA’s. The RA’s were required to go, but these groups really helped to speed ball the questions for the freshmen. It was hard to get them to talk, but they soon realized there were no stupid questions,” Dschaak said. “I loved helping out and getting to be a part of it.”

Pam Midgett, licensed professional counselor at the Counseling Center, said she was also glad to be a part of the play, and was in attendance at the play and available to help anybody whom the play may have upset.

“I was here to support students learning about choices and the services of the counseling center so that we could better help them,” Midgett said.

Crowd interaction a surprise 

Dabney said although this was her first time to produce Since Last Night, the crowd — and the number of raised hands — impressed her.

“For an event like this, you might expect upwards of a hundred. I was just expecting 25-to-50 kids, so this was a fairly decent size,” she said.

The audience, though it was not full, provided the four chief actors with plenty of questions; much to Dabney’s surprise.

“We had a good conversation. We had quite a few questions, and a lot of the students were talking to their neighbors,” Dabney said. “If they weren’t talking, they were at least listening and storing the knowledge that they took from here, so they were participating throughout the play. They were here in the auditorium with us.”

Three different groups attended. Different sets of actors performed the play, but Stone was in all of the productions.

While the audience may not have been packed, Dabney said she was excited about the event being added to future orientation lists.

“It’s very daunting but it is also very exciting. I’m enthusiastic about it, and I think that it’s the type of program that should be included to orientation events so students learn more about consent,” she said. “I hope to do it for classrooms in the future and make it a whole program of its own.”

 CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article inaccurately stated the year Dabney began working on the play. It was in 2016.