Organizations and movements, such as Rebels Against Sexual Assault and the It’s On Us campaign, help shed light and share information on the topic of sexual assault. Adding to the narrative is the student-run theatre organization Ghostlight Repertory Theatre.
Senior public policy leadership and theatre arts major John Brahan’s original play “IX” discusses the issues of consent, rape and the Title IX process. The show’s name comes from Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in any educational institution receiving federal funding.
The play features students’ views on an incident of sexual assault and their experiences with the Title IX office. Their stories are told in flashback as the characters recount the evening with their friends and search for the facts in their inebriated memories.
As part of his enrollment in the Honors College, Brahan had to write a thesis, and said his experiences on campus led him to this topic.
“Around my junior year, I decided to write a play, but I was really struggling with what to write it on,” Brahan said. “Through my experiences as vice president of standards of the Interfraternity Council and getting introduced to Title IX, I noticed the differing views of what consent is, according to policy and according to cultural perceptions. I knew then what to write my play on.”
Brahan, an alumnus of Sigma Chi Fraternity, was an active member during the Derby Days controversy in 2016. Several members of the fraternity had reportedly asked inappropriate questions and made crude comments in the interviews of sorority queen contestants during its annual philanthropy event.
Additionally, Clay Wooley, a senior mechanical engineering major who was president of Sigma Chi during the events, designed the show’s sets.
“This play is really a culmination of my experiences and the experiences of my friends here at Ole Miss in a lot of different facets,” Brahan said.
Junior theatre arts major Kaelee Albritton, who plays the female lead, Claire, attests to the idea of personal connection with the script.
“It’s interesting playing this character, because she’s so much like us,” Albritton said. “The things she’s gone through and some of the things she’s experienced are things I and others have gone through.”
Despite the character’s relatability, Albritton said she still finds her role challenging.
“It’s still hard sometimes to get in touch with those feelings because we tend to put up those walls when we’re on this topic,” she said. “I have to break those down and really reach the audience by re-experiencing those emotions.”
Scotty Givhan, a junior English major, plays Jake, the best friend of the person accused in the show.
“The lines between what consent is and what it isn’t are blurred in culture and law,” Givhan said. “In California, they just passed a law that if you have any sort of intoxication, it’s rape, but in other places, it’s up for debate. So it’s a real spectrum countrywide, and I think that’s an important discussion.”
Sexual assault on college campuses has been a recurring national discussion for the past few years, with cases like the settled lawsuit of a rape allegation against former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and the 2016 case of The People v. Brock Turner looming large in the news.
So far, there have been five reported cases of sexual assault on Ole Miss’ Oxford campus this semester. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), statistics show that only 20 percent of those assaulted file a report, suggesting that instances of sexual assault this semester may have been underreported on the Ole Miss campus.
This past September, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos did away with a government policy that concerned college sexual assault, saying that getting rid of the policy gives universities more liberty in deciding how to manage sexual assault cases and provides more rights to the accused students.
Conversations regarding issues with laws and processes are things Brahan wants to amplify through “IX.”
“The purpose of the play is to explore legal definitions of consent and incapacitation and the Title IX process,” Brahan said. “There’s a core policy component to the show. I want people to see what happens if you go through Title IX. They can see the effect, see what can happen when you have drunk sex with someone.”
Although the play integrates policy and process deeply into its writing, “IX” also intends to evoke emotion and provide insight some audiences may not have considered.
“It starts a lot of conversation that needs to be talked about,” Sabastian Burks, a sophomore theatre arts major who plays the Title IX coordinator, Mr. Williams, said. “Sexual assault is something happening often, and it should be discussed, I feel as though especially in Southern culture.”
Alexis Simon, a senior theatre arts major who plays Sydney in the show, said she hopes the play helps people understand sexual assault and how much work went into the creation of “IX.”
“I also want those who might be triggered by the play to know that there are people they can talk to and that people are there to support them,” Simon said.
The show runs Thursday through Sunday in the Meek Auditorium. Showtimes vary, and tickets are available for purchase on the Ghostlight Repertory Theatre website.
“In a nutshell, I want people to see the show and see themselves in it,” Brahan said. “I want them to check their actions.”