PITTSFIELD — During the second week of April, and six other Pittsfield High School students and I opened a one-act performance of Arlene Hutton's, "I Dream Before I Take The Stand." The piece about a woman, "She," played by senior Makailey M. Cookis, who is cross-examined by a defense lawyer, "He," played by junior Aiden Chalfonte, who tries to twist her story, and victim-blame the woman who has been sexually assaulted on a walk through the park.
We spent two months rehearsing the piece, doing different exercises and having discussions about the topic of the piece. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, we wanted to figure out what we could do to educate ourselves on the topic, and also to spread the message to audiences alike. We chose a piece that meant something, and specifically now. There is no point in creating art if there is no risk of stirring the pot.
We understand that the #MeToo movement is something that affects everyone, and not just Hollywood elites. We know of our friends and peers within our high school that have gone through trauma similar to the experience in the show, and so we performed the show during the school day for students that wished to attend.
Theater is a universal art form that exists within every society on our planet. It is a tool that we have created as a species to discover more about what it means to be humans. It is William Shakespeare who wrote, "to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure." Nothing about the current state of the world feels natural at the moment, so where am I as a director supposed to tilt my mirror in the direction of? I decided to tilt it toward the most unnatural form, which is at art itself.
On the floor of the stage in picture frames read the sentence, "Is This Art?" We discussed throughout the rehearsal process the idea that art created about sexual assault has been very male-oriented since the beginning of time. There is a phenomenon of the "heroic rape," in which male artists paint the images of rape as a sort of expression of male power. On the other side of this phenomenon is the art created by women about rape and sexual assault, which usually shows the aftermath of the moment, it is an image of a woman overcoming rape and sexual assault, not of being overcome by it.
"I Dream Before I Take The Stand," is a piece written by a woman, that is about those moments after. I think that this piece proves the importance of representation in our industry. We need to be telling women's stories, written from the perspective of women. If we are going to try to hold a mirror up to nature, we must find the natural source of these important subjects to get the clearest picture.
The author, Noah Lewis Bailey, is a senior at Pittsfield High School. He has been a part of many regional productions in the Berkshires. This his first time directing a play. Bailey will be studying theater at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst starting in the fall.