BY KIMBERLY ROSE
Pepperdine University’s Department of Theatre decided to take action in the age of the university campus sexual assault epidemic and brought their message regarding the issue to life in their play, The Interference. As a part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, the internationally acclaimed play presented its U.S. premiere at LA’s Rogue Machine Theatre last week. The story revolves around Karen, a student who is raped by her college’s star football quarterback. And just like the newsworthy stories bringing attention to the same issue, she has several obstacles to overcome in her effort to report the sexual assault and file a Title IX complaint. Karen goes on to be questioned about what she wore, what and how much she drank, and her sexual behavior from the police and the disciplinary panel. In the end, she decides to leaves school due to the ruthless bullying from her classmates. The story is more important than ever to bring to light – especially with cases like Brock Turner’s and Jameis Winston’s ending with the same injustice and lack of accountability.
“The Interference” was written by Scotland-based playwright Lynda Radley and was directed by Pepperdine University professor of theatre Cathy Thomas-Grant. And the Hollywood Fringe Festival isn’t its first. At the 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the world’s largest arts festival in Edinburgh, Scotland – “The Interference” won the Scotsman Fringe First award. The cast comprises of students from the Pepperdine Department of Theatre (referred to as Pepperdine Scotland company for its partnership with the Scottish Theatre Community), which spent eight weeks in the Scottish city rehearsing.
What makes theater the perfect medium for a sexual assault story to be told is that it allows the audience to build a relationship with the characters and relate their stories to an issue that people hear about, but still have trouble emotionally connecting with. In this form of storytelling, audience members see Karen’s pain, her confusion and the unfair judgments surrounding her and her case. It would seem morally right to cheer her on and hope for the justice she deserves, but in today’s day and age – people don’t always see that.
With the work of 12 cast members and several behind-the-scenes champions, “The Interference” can make the story of Karen and all girls affected by sexual assault heard. Whether it’s the judgmental opinions, the distorted or oppressed information, or the unique bias for the offender that poses a challenge to the victims – this story illustrates it all on stage. It would be hard to root against Karen in “The Interference,” while today so many do with victims - so even by sparking conversation, the Pepperdine Scotland company has done justice with this piece.