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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Documentary ‘Roleplay’ Debuts on Campus

A+still+from+the+documentary+Roleplay
Courtesy of Paavo Hanninen
A still from the documentary “Roleplay”

Exploring themes of sex and consent for college students, the “Roleplay” documentary’s first public screening took place in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center’s Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre on Thursday, March 28.

Directed by Katie Mathews and produced by Darcy McKinnon, the film follows a group of college students at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, along their process of writing the script for a play about sexual assault and sexuality on college campuses.

The students vary in race, sexual orientation and experiences with sex and consent, using their stories and emotions to drive the development of the script forward. The students made rewrites and alterations throughout the process to feel better represented in the play.

During filming, the students faced difficult questions about relationships and identity with each other, and some were reminded of their past sexual experiences during rehearsal of certain scenes. Many of them were also processing their own traumas or difficult conversations during the play’s production, which pushed the realism the cast wanted to emphasize.

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Mathews originally polled Tulane University about sexual assault on campus, which sparked the idea for the play. The results indicated that 40% of students had experienced sexual assault of some kind at the university. 

This documentary was meant as a way for students to voice their experiences and be honest, as Mathews saw a lot of her own experiences in these college students and wanted to bring awareness to this issue. 

McKinnon is a documentary filmmaker who joined the production of “Roleplay” after filming had started. While in attendance at the screening, McKinnon gave a talk about the film and the play itself to highlight what production was like and how this film sparks conversation.

“I think everybody, when those statistics come out, whenever it happens – whether it’s a particularly newsworthy terrible incident or whether it’s people really starting to understand how pervasive sexual violence can be – the impulses are always to do something about it,” McKinnon said.

 In reference to these impulses, McKinnon said, “I think to tell kids how to act, like, ‘Don’t drink. Don’t go out late,’ or tell women how to act, and there’s a desire to do something, and I think it’s a really difficult problem to solve.”

Because this is a problem within our interpersonal relationships and culture, McKinnon said, the medium of a play is effective because theater and acting are about interpersonal relationships and making things feel more human and raw. Sexual assault is a topic brought up on many campuses, and the film’s goal is to open the door to discussing it to bring about change in the culture around it.

“Roleplay” is currently available for licensing and is in production in high schools and colleges around the country.

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