Teaching and Resisting Rape Culture in Theatre Education

The ATHE 2018 session “Teaching and Resisting Rape Culture: a Roundtable on Pedagogical Skills and Best Practices” came out of a desire to find colleagues who teach with intentionality and think deeply about the aesthetic power and possibilities of the theatre apparatus when it comes to the topic of sexual violence and consent. As activist and MeToo founder Tanara Burke says in this short April 2018 video interview, “a community problem needs a community solution.”

The 2013 article “Ten Things to End Rape Culture” is a helpful start. The short 2016 piece “This is How ‘Misogynoir’ Affects Black Campus Sexual Assault Survivors” describes how racism impacts victims and points to the need for Intersectional thought and action.

When a student described the plot of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire with the phrase “Blanche gets raped,” I realized how deeply I needed to talk with students about the fact that grammar has an ideology, and that goes for the grammar of words as well as the stage.

I was inspired by the practical strategies for supporting students’ bodily autonomy and psychological health in the Theatrical Intimacy Education presentation given by Chelsea Pace, Kate Busselle and Laura Rikard at the conference. I encourage you to seek out their expertise!

British dramatist April De Angelis’s 2014 BBC4 radio piece “Theatre of the Abused” stirred a lot of thoughts for me. De Angelis was Inspired by the play Nirbhaya by Yaël Farber (with substantial contributions from the ensemble), which is about the 2012 attack and murder of Jyoti Singh in Delhi, India. De Angelis questions whether it is productive to depict sexual violence on stage. @13:00 De Angelis speaks with The Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner and @ 14:48 with Dr. Lucy Nevvit on theatre and violence. The piece does not engage with how categories of sexuality, race, and class impact the issue and it only discusses women as victims and survivors, so it is limited in its scope. Still, the first 16 minutes offers a lot to discuss regarding representation within the theatre apparatus. (Please note: the section on the show Freak by Anna Jordan @ 22:00 is very graphic, please listen with caution.)

I aim to follow up with more resources and strategies in future posts.