By Liz Lombardi
In its world premiere by the Abingdon Theatre Company, Stet offers a sharp look at the struggles that come with reporting a critical story while maintaining the integrity of both the journalist and the source. At a time when campus rape has become an increasingly prevalent headline in the news, this play shows just how emotionally difficult it can be on all parties involved.
Stet was written by Kim Davies and developed with director Tony Speciale and actor Jocelyn Kuritsky. It is strongly modeled after the Rolling Stone article about the campus rape at the University of Virginia and the legitimacy rumors that followed. Many of the details are taken nearly word for word, however, Stet focuses on the time before the article was published.
The play is written in a highly conversational flow, allowing for the thoughts and motives behind each character to shine through truthfully. It was easy to see every event actually happening to each actor in real time. Actors Jocelyn Kurtisky, Bruce McKenzie, Lexi Lapp, Déa Julien, and Jack Fellows tackle the tough subject matter with refinement.
It goes after the heavy topic of campus rape on a level that shows that the voices of rape victims are easily silenced. They are stereotyped to the point that any person suffering from assault might take any measures necessary to ensure that they finally get heard. Stet also shows that there are well-meaning individuals who are so willing to help tell these stories, desperate for a change in the culture, that they might go as far as comprising their journalistic integrity.
The play opens with a dose of technology in the form of a broadcast projected onto the walls of an office meeting room. We meet reporter, Erika, a young women with a tough exterior, giving an interview on the article she has just written. After a montage of assault victim support videos, Erika receives a pitch from her boss, Phil, to write the story on campus rape that the world has not yet heard. The story about the aftermath, of how the victim becomes survivor, or of how they move on in life.
Erika gets in touch with Ashley, the rape victim, Christina, a freshly graduated campus assault response employee, and Connor, a hot-headed frat boy. Throughout the play we see their stories revealed, and the contrasting reactions from each character.
The lighting design by Daisy Long provoked strong emotions on a pleasingly neutral set, designed by Jo Winiarski. The projection design by Katherine Freer served as another reminder of how much influence the media has on any story, and how permanent these stories become after they are put online.
Stet is produced by the Abingdon Theatre Company in partner with The Muse Project, a new initiative that motivates female actors to generate and identify the roles they want to play. They are also partnered with the advocacy group Take Back The Night, whose mission is to end sexual assault by creating safe communities through awareness events and initiatives. A portion of every full price ticket to Stet will be donated to them.
Stet runs an hour and forty minutes without intermission at the June Havoc Theatre. It has been extended through July 10. For more information, visit www.abingdontheatre.org.