By Katy Shenk
Student Life Editor
“It’s another perfect day in a perfect town,” announced the newscaster to begin the performance of this weekend’s senior capstone production, “The Rape of the Sabine Women, by Grace B. Matthias,” directed by senior Elizabeth Clemens.
Grace B. Matthias discovers, however, that the town of Springfield is anything but perfect.
The play follows the story of Grace, played by senior Meghan McPherson, after she is raped by Jeff, played by senior Jack Nevins, one of the Springfield Romans’ star football players.
Grace navigates the aftermath of her trauma amidst the misguided advice of overbearing adult figures like her lawyer, the town priest, and the guidance counselor, who all believe they know what is best for Grace and how she should be feeling and reacting.
“I chose this play because it brings light to issues that can be very difficult to talk about. This play, I hope, will spark a conversation about respect and the issue of sexual assault in our world,” Clemens said in the February 7th issue of The Elm.
The show addressed the dialogue surrounding rape cases, illuminating the doubt cast upon those bringing accusations of rape and the problem of victimizing survivors.
“The most challenging part of this production has definitely been handling the material appropriately. This is a subject that, whether we like it or not, almost everyone has an opinion on,” said sophomore Will Reid, who played Grace’s lawyer and Jeff’s father.
“Michael Yates Crowley, the playwright, does such an excellent job with the text, that it’s near impossible for any experienced actor to play Grace as the victim. I think Meghan McPherson, our Grace, does such an amazing job at portraying the many facets of Grace, and her character arc is so strong,” he said.
With an absent father and a working mother, Grace frequently turns to the news and Wikipedia to try and define rape.
Paralleling Grace’s story is the historical Rape of the Sabine Women by the Romans as part of the founding of Rome. Although she searches for the voices of the Sabine women and how they reacted, Grace is met with silence.
Junior Kelly Young, the dramaturg for the production, spoke to the systemic and historical rape culture embedded in society.
“The show asks us to examine our society and how its structures perpetuate rape culture, internalized misogyny, and internalized homophobia. There is an insidious fire burning, and this show calls us to help put it out,” she said.
When the court does not indict Jeff or Bobby, his teammate, Grace is deemed a liar and blamed for the downfall of the team. After Jeff’s death, Grace is further accused of killing him with her “attacks” on his character.
In the final scene of the show, Grace raises her voice above the cacophony of the cast to state the truth.
She repeats, “Women give birth to men who rape women, who give birth to men who rape women.”
At the end of the monologue, Grace determines to fulfill her desire to become a firefighter, a goal she had been told time and time again was impossible.
“There’s a fire burning in those men. There’s a fire burning up these women. My name is Grace B. Matthias, and I am here to put that fire out,” she said.
“Grace’s final monologue is one that always inspires me whenever Meghan performs it. Every time I hear it, there is a renewed sense of passion within me to continue fighting the injustices that many people face daily due to my gender just espousing what we are raised to believe is manly or masculine,” Reid said.
Clemens, too, left the audience with a call to action.
“When you leave this theatre, evaluate yourself, and evaluate your community. Think about how you can take a stand to enact change, no matter how big or small this action is. Be courageous,” she said in her director’s note.
Researching and witnessing the development of the production inspired Young to keep asking the hard questions.
“I’ve learned more about how to examine our culture, my own actions, and the actions of those I’m close within a more critical light and speak up about injustices,” she said.