It was a packed house as hundreds of active-duty, civilian-Marines and other base personnel crammed into the Base Theater aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany for the first-ever improv show on sexual assault, April 16. Social theater group, Pure Praxis, tackled a real-world scenario on sexual assault topic: retaliation for victims who report a sexual assault.
“Yeah, it was outside of the box, it was enjoyable. It also had meaning to it,” Gunnery Sgt. Jason Haskill, arms, ammunition and explosive officer, Logistics Support Division, MCLB Albany, remarked.
Haskill was one of many who attended the unique performance.
“The goal is to create a skit or a narrative that reflects something that’s going within the community that they can watch and talk about,” Willie Fortes, Pure Praxis Facilitator, explained.
Pure Praxis is a professional performance group that promotes social change by using high-energy, improvisational and socially-adaptive theater. Using highly-trained facilitators and actors, the program provides a safe space for audiences to observe and practice personal engagement techniques for real life resolution. Most importantly, every show is guided by the audience’s participation.
“The stories you see up here are taking from interviews and confidential reports from Sailors and Marines so we’re able to incorporate them into our show,” Fortes added. “Which is why a lot of feedback we get is ‘hey, these are the exact conversations I hear, this is a scenario I’ve seen before.’”
For Tuesday’s show, there were five characters: Danielle, Brad, Alana, Sheno and Anthony. A Sailor, Danielle, was sexually assaulted by another Sailor, Brad. Danielle reported the incident, and as result, Brad was shipped to another duty station so he never appeared on stage. Another Sailor, Sheno, who was close friends with Brad began to retaliate towards Danielle because he was upset Brad was moved. Alana, a Sailor and long-time friend of Danielle’s, was afraid of the reputation she would develop by association to Danielle and slowly followed the lead of all the other characters and distanced herself from Danielle. Anthony, the last character and Sailor, saw the harassment and though it’s wrong but he doesn’t quite have the courage or the skills to step in and do something about it.
“And that’s really the character we want the audience to eventually replace. We want the audience to think about Anthony and what they would do (if they were) in Anthony’s position,” Fortes explained.
Haskill was of several participants who hopped on stage to say things that may discourage men, and in this case, Anthony, from reporting sexual assault incidents.
“Basically, men don’t whine or cry and do any of this stuff,” Haskill remarked.
The audience was also asked to think about what they would do if placed in Danielle and Anthony’s positions.
“The audience participation here at (both) shows was fantastic. This was a very unique show in that it was a 50/50 split of military and civilian. It was great to hear from the different perspectives of how to handle situations,” Fortes added.
“They kept it light and got the crowd involved, so a lot people got to participate,” Haskill said.
“But what was great was that a lot of people were focusing on support at this command. A lot of times it’s easier for people to say ‘oh well I want to talk to the aggressive characters and get in their face.’” Fortes explained. “But a lot of what we heard was ‘oh I would want to pull Danielle aside and find out what’s going on with her.’”