‘#RewindBlurredLines’ from the director’s point of view

Leah Hardgrove | Staff Writer

This year, Wash.U. alumna and Career Development Coordinator Phoebe Richards served as the new director for “#RewindBlurredLines,” the interactive performance about sexual assault shown to all first-year students. Previously directed by Professor Annamaria Pileggi, this performance seeks to educate and open a dialogue about relationships, sexual assault and consent.

“We hoped, with this performance, to create a dialogue between folks who are at different stages of learning about consent and learning about relationship and sexual violence,” Richards said. “Speaking anecdotally, most of the feedback has been positive. Students think that the format is different than anything they’ve seen before, or what they normally see, and they appreciate the conversation happening. But there’s always places to learn and grow.”

For Richards, growth is about improving facilitation, “With teaching, with facilitating, I don’t think there’s ever a time of hitting the peak or learning how to do it perfectly. With something like this, every audience is different, every year of first year students is new, so that’s always something to be adjusting and accommodating to as well,” Richards said. “Every audience is different, every single time. I thought overall audience participation was great. There were times when different viewpoints were brought up, or for people to say stop and intervene. There were times when it took a while for anyone to yell stop and step in. But to me, that’s an opportunity. If they don’t intervene, it’s a chance to ask ‘What’s keeping us from intervening?’”

One suggested improvement from students has been smaller audiences for future productions. Richards agreed, saying it is difficult to have everyone’s voices and opinions be heard in a crowd of 500+ people. However, Richards and the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center work with Residential Life, and they know how busy the students are. It would be difficult to organize, but Richards hopes to see smaller audiences in the future as to improve conversation.

As well as directing, Richards also led the audience dialogue at each performance, sharing her experience: “A lot of the directing process isn’t so dissimilar from facilitating the ultimate event, because I’m constantly trying to be in dialogue with my actors, because we’re trying to create the play. The play needs to come from them, not just from me. The actors are students, just like the audience members. However, the group is a lot larger and more varied when facilitating.” With the actors, they all shared the same passion for this issue. When facilitating, Richards had to be aware of how different each student in the audience was, whether that be their level understanding the topic or their personal relationship with the Wash.U. community.

For students who felt too shy to say anything in such a large audience, Richards reminds them that this show “is not meant to be the end all be all of your education and advocacy. If you had wished to say something then, certainly say it now. Start a conversation with your peers or educate yourself further on your own.” This show was meant to be a starting place; just because someone didn’t speak during the show doesn’t mean they completely missed the opportunity to speak up about sexual assault, consent and relationship violence. As well, Richards stressed that nobody should have felt hesitant in replying because of who they are; the purpose of “#RewindBlurredLines’s” format was to hear voices from every community, whatever the identity.

Richards stressed just how important continuing this conversation is. “#RewindBlurredLines” was only meant to be a starting place, and she hopes her work will continue to inspire more dialogue about such pressing issues. The show was an “opportunity to practice how to talk about this a little more, practice how to empathize with someone who holds a different opinion than you. Or who has the same opinion as you. It’s valuable to practice listening to each other and to articulate how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.” For Richards, those skills are the most important things to be taken away from this event because they help continue the greater conversation.

“#RewindBlurredLines” every year is adjusted to fit its new audience. The best way to improve is from audience responses. “We love to hear feedback from students,” says Richards, “This work is meant to be organic, evolving and responsive to the people it’s for. We’re not afraid to shake things up.”

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