Arts and Culture / Magazine Feature

Play focuses on the lasting effects of sexual assault

On Sept. 6, an auditorium full of incoming first-year students watched a simulation of a DU student being sexually assaulted onstage. The scene was part of Untitled, a play based on the real-life experiences of four former DU students. 

Untitled tells the story of a girl who, throughout her childhood, has been sexually assaulted by an older cousin. She is afraid to tell her family members because she believes they will be disappointed in her. 

During her sophomore year at college, she is raped. After the rape, the girl begins to speak about the lasting mental and physical effects of being sexually assaulted. She and the narrator clean up pieces of clothing scattered around the stage, symbolically picking up the pieces of her life. The play includes several simulated sex acts, but the actors remain fully clothed. Audience members were allowed to leave at any time if they felt uncomfortable with the performance.

After the 20-minute performance, students were invited to ask questions and make observations. According to Lisa Ingarfield, sexual assault response and prevention coordinator, overall response from students was positive. 

“I’ve had many male students come up to me and ask to get involved with the program,” she says. “Sexual assault is both a men’s and women’s issue.”

The play was shown to incoming students as a part of Discoveries Week, an orientation program welcoming students to the University of Denver community. The play took place during a session called Community Cornerstones, which was designed to teach new students about citizenship and community standards at the University. Other information provided to students included safety, sexual assault awareness and helpful resources on campus.

Untitled was written by former DU student Jana Curtis (BA ’00).  It began as a creative writing project involving Curtis and three other students. Lawnmadonna performance company has performed Untitled in several venues since 1998 when Curtis, Brian Cook, (BA ’00) and Emily Fifer (BA ’02) formed the group at DU.

In 2000, the play was performed at the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival Region V conference. The Sept. 6 performance was the first time it has been performed as part of DU’s Discoveries Week.

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