Scarlet by Sam H. Freeman
Directed by Chad Henwood
"The Black Box Grant fosters creative experimentation with performance forms and processes through funding innovative projects that emphasize content over spectacle and work with limited resources in stripped down spaces." - Official mission of SUU's Black Box Grant program.
I saw the U.S. premiere of Scarlet in May of 2017 and was completely taken away by the story it told. I immediately purchased the script when I left the theatre. The story follows one woman as she faces the aftermath of her sexual assault in the age of social media. It deals with cyber bullying, revenge pornography, and isolation from friends and family. The thing that attracted me most to this story was Scarlet is actually played by four different actresses. They each play different aspects of Scarlet as well as all the people in her life. It's incredible. My experience at SUU and the climate of sexual identity on campus made me want to bring this story to our university.
I applied for the grant at the end of 2018 with the goal of producing it the following April during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I've pasted a section of my grant request on the right.
Gaining the rights
Gaining the rights to even perform the play was a long journey. The rights were, at the time, being withheld because the show was being further developed. We were not aware of this for some time because the rights were through Samuel French UK and communications between us and them proved quite difficult (time difference). As a final effort, I tracked down the playwrights twitter and messaged him directly for permission to do the show. He contacted the Samuel French and we were given the go ahead to produce the show.
Rehearsals and Performance
Our rehearsal process lasted about 3 1/2 weeks for the whole production. During the run I went to participate in a cultural exchange in Romania, so those days were spent learning the choreography part of the concept. While it was a short rehearsal process the show was a great success. During the performance we also had a resource display outside of the theatre with local resources for victims of sexual assault.
Festival of Excellence
During our rehearsal process we also presented a portion of the show for SUU's Festival of Excellence. I presented my concept and reasons behind bringing the show to SUU while also presented a few scenes that demonstrated the concept.
(Left to Right) Top: Kevin Marshall Dann, Jessi Sommer, Peyton Nichole Smith, Chad R Henwood, Emily Henwood
Bottom: Sarah Tynan, Camberra Clinger, Emma Rose Jackson, Melody English
Sam Freeman uses Scarlet to talk about the current climate for women’s sexual expression.Specifically addressing the double standards between women’s sexuality and men’s sexuality. However, it goes much deeper than that. The story brings attention to the difficulty of being able to report sexual assault. It considers the judgement women face from friends/family, the loss of personal image, and the way our society can cast blame onto the wrong person. Scarlet takes this difficult journey in front of our eyes and is eventually given the courage, and most importantly the support, to speak out against her abusers and face her past.
For this production I wanted to make that journey the center of attention. The quick dismissiveness of Scarlet’s friends brings her to a place she cannot always vocalize. Since the show takes place within Scarlet’s mind, I want to take that confusion and distrust and create it physically in the space. This will not only be accomplished through lights and sound but also through moments of dance. Dance is such an expressive form of theatre and using it to not only express the true thoughts of Scarlet but also the theme of sexuality in the play will benefit the production greatly.
This production aims to serve the university as a whole. While each student is trained on how to report Sexual Assault when they come to Southern Utah University, we rarely discuss the resources the college has for the victims past enrollment. I would like to discuss a partnership with the Title IX department and the CAPS program to help provide those resources and possibly find a mentor who can conduct a talk-back or training after/before some of the performances. Overall, the production aims to provide a safe place to view the effects of Sexual Assault and provide resources and outreach to victims on campus. I hope this helps further the discussion Sexual Assault and provides a vision for those who might not understand the trials of the victims.