While circuses and clowns are amusing, rape is far from a laughing matter. In A Lesson On Rape Culture, playwright Cecilia Copeland uses the world of a circus act to invite people into a safe space to talk about our culture in relationship to rape. The show is conducted by the ringmaster played by Jennifer Harder. With the help of two clowns played by Romy Nordlinger and Rachel A. Collins, this three-women traveling circus act promises to “…dazzle you and make you uncomfortable” and sure enough they will. From bridezillas to college campuses, from strip clubs to a little girl playing with her dolls — the series of vignettes makes you question why you are laughing at these scenarios that break down and expose rape culture. At the same time, the play also makes you wonder why we are so immune to these events and images that appear in our daily lives.
The Ring Master states it best when she says that “…Our Culture IS Rape Culture!” — thus explaining the title’s double entendre: “R” relates to "our” as well as the first letter in "rape." This dark and edgy satirical play is constructed with vignettes that will make you laugh or cringe. This is due to the play containing some very crude language and jarring scenarios which are balanced with the very hilarious or serious moments. The combination of vignettes allows this three-women traveling circus act to push the entire audience into recognizing the issues in our culture and to push everyone into making social changes, or at the very least be willing to have an open discussion about it.
One of the ways to promote the audience participation is by requesting each audience member to complete a short survey before the show begins. Remember to be honest, for the actors will use the results in the show in order to create an extra scene at the end of the performance.
In efforts to generate awareness and resources, the producers of R Culture are collaborating with organizations including Safe Horizons, Crime Victims, Treatment Center, Beth Israel Medical Center: Rape Crisis and Domestic Violence Intervention Center, and We End Violence. Representatives from these organizations will appear at facilitated discussions during designated performances.
Overall, director, producer and survivor Emily Lerer’s production of R Culture is filled with entertaining and unforgettable scenes that will cause you to think about the content of the show even after you leave the theater. Rather than another show filled with cheap laughter, R Culture ignites a necessary discussion on combating the proliferation of rape culture in society.
R Cultureruns until Nov. 23 at the IRT Theater (154 Christopher St., 3rd floor). Performances are on Fridays through Sundays at 8 p.m. with an additional performance on Thursday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. General admission tickets are $18 and can be purchased online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/844961 or www.rculturetheplay.com.