How do you shed light on the gray areas of sexual consent?
The play “Actually,” by Anna Ziegler, will attempt to answer this question in a staged reading at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 10-13 in the Black Box Theatre. Dean of Students Matthew Caires, The Voice Center, RHA employees and members of MSU’s sororities and fraternities will lead a discussion after each performance.
However, nothing springs into existence fully formed. The play, which hooked MSU acting instructor Cara Wilder immediately, has evolved into its current shape only through a veritable obstacle course that Wilder terms “guerrilla theater.”
When Wilder came across the play in spring 2017, she knew it would strike a chord with the MSU campus. Her first hurdle was adding the play to the production schedule, which quickly proved impossible. Rather than give up, she decided to produce it on her own time.
Next, she had to find promising actors. Even more challenging was the fact that the script called for a black actor, a rarity in a racially homogenous town like Bozeman. With the help of the Black Student Union, Wilder found sophomore Clay King, who stepped up to the plate in conjunction with junior Lauren Eva Lane. Lighting and sound coordinator Kate Cherry and stage manager Mackenzie Williams filled out the rest of the crew.
Time waits for no one, and Wilder was no exception. She began organizing the play in early August, which meant that her cast and crew were restricted to barely two and a half months’ worth of practice. Although Lane was familiar with the script from an early reading in February, the remainder of the group started from scratch. Lane and King’s busy schedules resulted in a lot of late nights and jam-packed rehearsals.
Yet another complication reared its ugly head with Shakespeare in the Parks rehearsals and performances, which ran from late August through early October using the theater space. Through the support of the College of Arts and Architecture and College of Film and Photography, Wilder utilized a variety of spaces from the basement of the Black Box to Studio B in the Visual Communications Building.
The perseverance of the group in creating the show is founded on a deep belief in the importance of the play. Wilder, Lane and King all discussed their desire to open up a conversation at MSU about sexual consent and its potential for murkiness through the work. “Theater knocks down walls in communication. It’s a reflection of us that allows us to share and talk about issues with a human perspective,” Wilder said.
This honest human portrayal is shaped through deep connections between the actors and their characters, even though both Lane and King had to alter their own personalities to fit the roles. Lane is a fun-loving, self-described “chatty gal,” while her character Amber is mousy and awkward. However, Lane connects to Amber over her personal experience in sexual consent. King is a sweet, reserved man whose character Tom is a “suave playboy.” But as a black student from an entirely white town, King connects with Tom through the “thoughts that are always in the back of [his] head” concerning race, as well as their shared love of music.
When watching the performance, you forget about the scripts in the actors’ hands and the practically nonexistent set through Lane and King’s exemplary performances. Both actors bring rough, raw emotion to the surface. Lane is a powerhouse on the stage, hitting her mark every time. King, despite his inexperience, is genuine and captures his audience with piercing eye contact. It’s clear that both actors find deep meaning in their work.
It is becoming more vital each day to open up a true, deep conversation about sexual consent and the gray areas within it. Sexual assault is not new, but it is becoming more and more acknowledged. As a part of this movement, “Actually” couldn’t be more timely.