Sexual Consent Is Subject Of New Play At San Diego REP
A new production at the San Diego Repertory Theatre called "Actually" tackles the topics of sexual politics, racial dynamics and how sometimes, the truth gets complicated.
The play revolves around two college students who have a sexual encounter after a night of drinking. The day after, the woman accuses the man of rape and the two grapple with defining the hook-up and dealing with its consequences. The play is written by Anna Ziegler and directed by Jesca Prudencio.
The woman, Amber, is played by Emily Shain and the man, Tom, is played by DeLeon Dallas. Both are graduates of the MFA in acting program at UC San Diego.
The play runs from Thursday to Nov. 4 at the Lyceum Space Theatre in downtown San Diego.
Prudencio and Dallas join Midday Edition on Wednesday to discuss the San Diego REP's newest production.
This is PBS midday edition. Maureen Cavanagh. The topic couldn't be more timely or more explosive. Two college students share a night of intimacy. But was it consensual sex or something else. A new production at the San Diego repertory theatre called actually by playwright Anna Ziegler tackles the topics of sexual politics racial dynamics and how sometimes the truth gets complicated. Joining me are Jessica Prudentia director of actually and Jessica welcome. Thank you for having me. And De Leon Dallas an actor who plays Tom in actually de Leon. Welcome. Thank you for having me. Jessica the reps schedule is set up months in advance. So the fact that this play would debut right after the Kavanaugh hearing is remarkable. What part did that controversy play in your preparation. What's interesting is what I know from my conversations with the playwright Anna Ziegler she had written this even before the topics of sexual assault have been taking over the news headlines. So it's a problem that's been as we all know has been around for years for the beginning of time even and thankfully we're at a time where people are talking about it. So it's interesting that at the time when this play when they decided to produce this play that we want was first done first done in 2017 I believe or maybe even earlier. It was the height of the Weinstein controversy coming out. So it's it seems like it's an issue that isn't going away. And this play is relevant right now and will continue to be. Can you give us a brief outline of the plot of actually actually is about Tom and Amber who are both freshman in college there at Princeton University and they've seen each other around. They both have class together interests like as we learn and when they meet up at a party at a car on college campus after a night of drinking they spend the night together and the whole play is so fascinating it's going into the lives of both characters talking to the audience confiding in the audience as their best friends about what actually happened that night. From both of their perspectives what was clear what was muddy what was murky and so they confide in us. Talk to us as their best friends as they try to figure out what happened and who they are and what made them who they are today that influence their decisions that night. Now De Leon you play Tom. Yes. One of only two characters in this play. Tell us about him. Well Tom is a young black man from Brooklyn. He is a classical pianist. He is a freshman at Princeton. He is very charming has a lot of swag. But with that he's also very impulsive and his mouth has a tendency to get him in trouble a lot now. Now it's obvious the role gender plays in this plot but what role does race play. Tom is African-American and Amber is white. Bruce plays a huge role in this production and it is something that Tom is he's he's very hypersensitive to his surroundings and he's basically trying to figure out how he navigates through this world you know. And I think a lot of what he is trying to figure out is like why these forces that are at play against him and how he explores that and how he navigates that is a big part of that so yeah race plays a huge huge part in this play in this piece. Now Jessica the audience you say plays a role as well. They're sort of like the actors best friends. Can you tell us more about that. Actually it's not necessarily a story about what happened that night. It's not a chronological in the beginning of this then this and then at the end there was this we experienced the play through their memories through the characters revealing their deepest darkest secrets. They talk directly to every audience member nonstop for the 90 minutes. Being in the theater. Another moment you see in the play is the moment they first met in the moments right before the party. So as an audience member you're given that information about who Amber is. You're led into homes life. And then you also see what happens the night before they leave the party and go home together. Now De Leon the difference between this play and some of the headlines we've been seeing about sexual misconduct is that this is not about a victim and an abuser. How do you see the two characters. Yeah I don't think this is a play about a victim an abuser. I think it's much more complicated than that. I think what makes this play so heartbreaking is that these characters like each other like that they actually like each other. And so I see these two characters as individuals who are trying to explore the truth in a very awful situation and how they get through that together and going about coping with what happened that night and wondering what you want people to take away from this play. I think that great theater doesn't give you answers. It raises questions. I know a piece of art is successful when people want to talk about it. And every time I see this play and I'm directing it every day I want to talk about it not about the actors or about the design. I want to talk about the play. And every time we bring in someone new to do see a run through people want to talk to me about it. And so I hope that audiences leave the theater wanting to talk about how complicated the situation really is. I want them to talk about who Amber and Tom are as human beings in the media we see a lot of issues. They're good people and bad people and actually presents to people who are caught and trapped in this issue. I hope that people leave this theater understanding how complicated this issue can be. I've been speaking with director Jessica Prudentia and actor De Leon Dallas. The play actually by Anna Ziegler runs at the San Diego rep to tomorrow to November 4th. And I want to thank you both so much for talking with me. Thank you for having us.