While working at a newspaper in Denver, Colorado in 2004, David Holthouse published an article about being raped as a 7-year-old boy. Holthouse — a native of Alaska — like many victims of rape, kept the episode to himself for many many years. Finally, as an adult, he wrote an article about his experience. This article is the major inspiration of an upcoming play that will be put on by the Theater Department at UAA entitled “Stalking the Bogeyman.”
A play adaptation of Holthouse’s story first ran as an off Broadway production starting in 2013. The current adaptation is being worked by UAA professor Brian Cook, and will begin April 1 and run through the 24 with shows every Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. All performances will be in the Harper Studio Theater.
Cook is the play’s director, and though this is his first year at UAA, he has a lot of experience directing plays about sexual violence. Cook says that he hopes the play “sparks a community discussion about the issue,” a sentiment echoed by everyone that is working on this production.
Cook will be directing six actors from the UAA theater department who are set to tackle this play about one of the more unpleasant truths in the world. The actors, on top of their training for their performances, are also getting help from a few of UAA’s Psychology grad students to ensure that they feel comfortable answering any questions that audience and community members may have about the production.
From the very early stages of “Stalking the Bogeyman,” now over a year in the working, Dr. Claudia Lampman, director and professor of the department of psychology at UAA, was asked if the psychology department could lend a hand. Lampman appointed Rebecca Robinson, assistant professor and graduate of UAA, to head up the project.
Robinson is leading a team of graduate students who will be providing assistance to the cast and audience members. At least one of the students, or Robinson herself, has been present during each of the production rehearsals, and several will be available each night of the production to offer support to anyone that may need it. The play offers a lot of critical insight into sexual violence and several projects are being done by psychology students, including doctoral dissertations.
The team that is collaborating on the production extends beyond UAA. Standing Together Against Rape, Alaska Children’s Trust and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium are all pitching in with their experience to provide resources that will be available to the public during and after the production.
Due to the heavy themes in the play, a talk back session will be held at the end of each showing that will discuss the play and open up a dialog to the audience. Cook, and either Robinson or a representative will be present to help facilitate questions that may arise. The actors will also be joining the talk back, so the audience can hear their insight into the characters that they will be portraying on stage. Those audience member that wish to participate are invited to stay after the production and add their voice to the group.
In addition to the talk back session at the end of each performance, “Stalking the Bogeyman” will be offering artistic outlets to the viewers to help to keep the conversation going. There will be a web outside the theater where the audience can add comments or experiences, and there are plans to have mini zen gardens outside the theater as well, to help relax those that may need a little calming down after the play.
One particular art project involves the audience participation in the creation of lanterns that contain thoughts, feelings and maybe even experiences surrounding sexual violence. Each program given out to the audience will contain a piece of a lantern for the audience to add their insight to. The lanterns will be pieced together and become a part of the production. The team plans to carry the lanterns with them during the tour starting this coming May.
The art projects are meant to give everyone a way to express themselves. Those that might normally keep silent may find adding their voice to the conversation through artistic expression a preferred method of contribution. Robinson said that the art projects and the talk back sessions after the show are intended to provide the audience with “multiple ways to express their emotions verbally or creatively.” With all the different ways to add ones voice to the community dialog about sexual violence, the entire team feels that they will help to validate others experiences of sexual violence, especially those that would normally remain silent.
Once the performances end at UAA, the journey of “Stalking the Bogeyman” will continue. The team has shows planned in Palmer this May, as well as a production during The Last Frontier Theater Conference in Valdez this coming June. After these shows the team is hoping to continue touring with the play with plans to visit Homer, Seward, and Fairbanks. The purpose of this tour is to show the play to a wider audience, and get the conversation about sexual violence started all over the state.
The issues of sexual violence and rape are not foreign to community discussion, especially in Alaska, which has the largest percent of domestic violence of any of the states in the U.S. The play is not addressing a new issue, but rather approaching it from a different angle.
Robinson expressed her hopes for the play saying, “We aim to turn up the volume in the community about sexual violence.”
Cook believes that they can do just that, thanks to what he calls, “a great team of faculty, staff, and community members.”
Tickets for “Stalking the Bogeyman” are available at uaatix.com.