On college campuses, the issue of sexual assault often hides in plain sight. And when students’ stories are scattered by people in positions of power, objective truth can fall between the cracks.
Theatre UCF’s production of Lynda Radley’s The Interference boosts those silenced voices by illustrating the issue through one woman’s story. Directed by Associate Professor David Reed, the play will run in the UCF Black Box from Sept. 22 through Oct. 2.
In 2019, 13% of undergraduate and graduate students nationally indicated they experienced nonconsensual sexual contact by physical force or inability to consent, according to an Association of American Universities survey of nearly 182,000 participants. Female college students (25.9%) and college students who identify as gay, transgender or nonbinary (22.8%) were among the survey’s highest rates for unwanted sexual contact, including assault.
Not every survivor of sexual assault reports their experience, but The Interference follows the story of one who does. Karen Henshaw bravely reports the actions of a beloved athlete at her university. However, Karen soon finds her voice buried by an uproar of conflicting commentary and distorted information from her peers, the media and her university.
Reading the script for the first time, Caroline Hull says she was in tears because of how much the story resonated with her. Hull, who is earning a master’s degree in theatre studies, served as dramaturg for The Interference, working with the cast and creative team to bring the script’s central themes to life.
“I was grateful to have come across a piece of theatre that went out of its way to amplify the voices of college students who have experienced the harm of a culturally patriarchal society,” Hull says.
With a cast of 12 UCF students playing 41 characters, each actor performs in multiple roles, apart from the lead. The play is set up in an ensemble format, with each character remaining on stage throughout the entire duration of the play.
According to acting student Aubree Williams, these staging decisions all add to the play’s central themes.
“The ensemble being present on stage the whole time creates a unique theatrical experience and tells the story in an unexpected yet powerful way,” Williams says. “It breaks the bonds of what an audience may expect a theatrical performance to be and raises important questions about ourselves as humans, advocates and our place in the media.”
Cory Kennedy, associate artistic director of The Interference, explains this unique choice in formatting.
“We are not hiding anything from the audience. There’s enough hiding happening in the text. If we’re switching costumes, it’s happening on stage, so we see that transformation from actor to character,” Kennedy says. “But also, so that the audience is not looking at one character the whole time and defining them as the bad guy of the show.”
For Kennedy, it was important to ensure the story conveyed these issues without preaching to the audience.
“We tell our cast not to cast judgment on these characters but portray them in these moments,” Kennedy says. “Because that’s what becomes the difference between preaching to an audience and portraying a reflection of society and seeing how it affects our main characters’ agency.”
Hull believes that The Interference has the potential to inspire students, faculty and parents to respond better in situations like Karen’s.
“I think the issues spoken of in The Interference are important not just for UCF students, but the faculty and family members of students as well,” she says. “The Interference does an incredible job of showing just how much of an effect outsiders can have on the recovery process, and I feel it will encourage audience members to respond better in these difficult situations.”
“The Interference” kicks off Theatre UCF’s 2022-23 season which will feature productions that investigate the relationship between individuals and institutions, exploring themes of power structures, corruption and social systems, as well as lighter moments of comedy and love.
The show opens on Thursday, Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for general admission and $10 for students with ID from any school. The full show schedule and registration are available here.
Let’s Be Clear: UCF stands against sexual and relationship violence. Victims who want to report a crime can start by calling UCFPD’s non-emergency line at 407-823-5555. In case of emergency, call 911. UCF Victim Services provides confidential advocacy and support to the UCF Community, 24/7. If you or someone you know has been impacted by crime, violence, or abuse, call a confidential victim advocate at 407-823-1200 or text 407-823-6868.