Deep End APO, the student-run theater group on campus, is presenting their first production of the year this weekend. Titled “Extremities,” the play was written by William Mastrosimone and is directed by Denzel Belin ’15.
The story follows Marjorie, a woman who faces an attempted rape in her own home. Marjorie escapes the man’s grasp and ties him up before moving him into her fireplace and threatening to wound him in an act of revenge. Her roommates, Terry and Patricia, return to their home and, upon assessing the scene, must figure out who victimized whom.
After seeing three classmates perform an excerpt from “Extremities” in his Introduction to Acting class, Belin said he was struck by the scene’s realistic language. He then read the show for a final project in Theater 180: Text and Performance and remembered feeling the need to discuss it with others.
What ultimately led him to pitch “Extremities” to the Deep End APO board, however, was the Sexual Assault Resource Network SARN’s rape language campaign last year.
“There were all these posters from high-profile celebrities’ Twitters where they made rape jokes,” Belin said. “It really struck me that language is such a strong part of rape culture. In this piece, it’s all about the language and how it’s used as a power tool.”
Language and other control tactics are very prevalent in “Extremities,” as each character tries to wield power over the others by any means possible. The rapist, for example, asserts his dominance almost immediately after the show begins.
“He’s just looking for some kind of control,” said Gabe Bertoluzzi ’14, who portrays the man, unnamed until near the end of the show. “From the second my character steps on stage, he knows how it’s going to go down. There’s a specific moment where I clamp down on [Marjorie’s] leg and tell her to scream. She screams, and it’s pure fear and shock.”
“This show hits you hard in the face,” said Shannon Brick ’16, who takes on the role of Marjorie. “It’s a strange, cathartic experience. You think you’re going to get used to it, and you never do.”
Perhaps the most unsettling part of the production is its venue. Belin chose to hold the show in Hoyme Hall’s lower lounge, partly because it has a fireplace but mostly because it’s a location where the events of the show could occur in real life.
“It’s not in the safety of a theater . . . This is a place where people live,” Belin said.
The unconventional location of “Extremities” makes for a disconcertingly intimate experience. The opening scene, which includes the attempted rape, is especially unsettling because it happens right in front of the audience’s eyes, less than 20 feet away. The profanity and violence is shocking. And the realization that this exact scene could be taking place in any number of homes at that moment begins to set in.
“There are very few rapes reported, and you know many more go unreported,” Brick said. “This show is a comment on rape culture and how difficult it is to have that experience and to be able to come out of it still feeling like a whole person.”
Belin and his cast believe that even though rape is a delicate subject, it should not be tiptoed around as a topic of discussion. In fact, conversations about it can benefit St. Olaf as a whole.
“We don’t have enough types of conversations like that. Especially in a small environment like this, we should be willing to talk,” Belin said.
“It’s a learning experience,” Bertoluzzi said. “You’re not happy with this new information, but you’re better for it.”
“Extremities” is scheduled for Nov. 1 and 2 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. in the Hoyme Hall lower lounge. SARN will host a debrief session following the Nov. 3 performance. Tickets are $1 and were sold through Oct. 31 in front of Stav Hall. Rush tickets may be purchased at the door until sold out.
Photo Credit: HANNAH RECTOR/MANITOU MESSENGER