WASHINGTON, PA (Nov. 20, 2013)—Twelve years ago, “Carnival” opened at Washington & Jefferson College’s (W&J) Olin Fine Arts Center and tackled the sensitive topic of an alleged sexual assault on a college campus.
This week an updated version of that play, “The Spring Harvest,” will open on the same stage, challenging performers and audiences alike to face a topic that has received recent media attention following similar accusations at high schools and colleges.
“It’s a completely different experience this time around, but my feeling about the purpose of the play has not changed,” said Theater and Communications Professor T. Scott Frank, who wrote and is directing the play. “One of things I’m interested in is to begin a conversation about sexual violence on college campuses and how we address it.”
There is no age restriction for audience members, but because the play includes strong language and sensitive subject matter, it is not recommended for children.
“Carnival” was last performed at W&J in 2001 and was directed by Theater and Communications Professor William Cameron. Its reincarnation, “The Spring Harvest,” follows almost the same script, with some edits for time.
The play focuses on two young couples and their friends, and how the students are affected when freshman Angela (sophomore Xan Sayers of Brookville, Pa.) accuses senior Pete (senior Jake Nowe of Eighty-Four, Pa.) of sexually assaulting her after a party at the fictional McKinley College. Supporting cast members include freshman Adrian Elizondo from Fuentes del Valle, Mexico City as “Tony” and junior Carley Adams from McMurray, Pa. as “Katie.”
Frank said he chose the new title because he wanted a reader to wonder, ‘What is harvested in the spring?’ For college seniors, he said, spring is a time when the future is a pressing issue, and that creates an important dramatic pressure on the characters.
Because of media attention the issue has recently received, and because the original version of the play was written and is set prior to Sept. 11, 2001, Frank said he expects audiences to react differently compared to 12 years ago.
Laws for how colleges and universities address sexual assault issues have changed in the past decade, and Frank said now more than ever it’s time to consider and address the issue.
“The play lets the audience decide whose side they’re on,” Frank said. “I’m hoping that question of ‘Who do you believe?’ will lead to a further discussion of why you believe it, how sexual assault is defined, how colleges deal with the issue, and the part alcohol might play in it. These are all important questions for me.”
Frank said the young cast tackled the subject matter with maturity. He described the cast members as emotionally vibrant, and said the challenges they’ve worked through to address the topic heightened the performance level.
“This is not an easy play, and they haven’t taken it as such,” he said.
W&J senior Allyse Corbin, whose capstone project, “The Rhetoric of Rape Culture,” ties in with the play’s themes, will hold audience discussions after each performance.
“The Spring Harvest” opens Thursday, Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. and runs through Saturday, Nov. 23. Performance are at 7:30 p.m. each evening, with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Nov. 23. Tickets are free.