Audience involved in confronting play

Q&A with Eleanor Bishop, the writer of the play Jane Doe.


Jane Doe

How did you get involved in this production?

I started working on the show in 2013 when I was a student at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, US. The issue of sexual assault on college campuses was huge, and so I was inspired by the activism I saw around me. I wanted to create a piece where people could come together to feel how sexual violence affects all of us, and try to understand how it is allowed to keep happening.

What would you say the show imparts to its audience?

The show puts next to each other different aspects of sexual violence - what happens in a court of law, how the media talks about survivors (and often blames the victim or makes excuses for the perpetrator), as well as interviews with young people about these issues.

And most importantly positive stories of women embracing their desire and sexuality. It asks the audience to consider how these things are interconnected, and part of what allows sexual violence to keep occurring, and hopefully offer a way out.

Tell us how audience members get involved?

Karin McCracken (the performer) asks for people to come onstage to read a rape case trial transcript with her. Audience members read as witnesses, or lawyers in the case. Karin gives the participant a script and helps them through it. No-one has to participate if they don't want to! I think asking people to read gives a sense that we're all involved in this issue, in some way or another.

What have been audience responses to the show?

Rage. Sadness. Hope.

What feedback do you get after the show?

We get a lot of people sharing their stories of harm - themselves personally, or people they know. Like the #metoo movement, as a society we're in a place where we need to talk about sexual violence, and people crave the space to do that.

Why is the production important?

Part of what makes sexual violence allowed to keep happening is that it's uncomfortable, shameful, downright rude to talk about it in society. So it's important to make safe spaces where we can come together to confront an epidemic that affects so many people. To me, the theatre is a great place to do that, because it's contained, but it can hold emotion in a way that sometimes a newspaper article or a online discussion can't.

What do you enjoy most about the production?

I enjoy seeing people text in their responses (which we take a pause to do twice throughout the show). They're anonymous so they're honest, raw and give you an insight into what people are thinking at that exact moment.

Do you think the show can change people's attitudes?

Perhaps. I don't know if one show can change the world, but I believe cultural change happens from a variety of different sources. So I'm proud to be contributing what I can.

-Jane Doe was performed in Dunedin at the weekend.

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