The destructive silence that surrounds sexual assault will be broken as Dael Orlandersmith performs her thought-provoking piece “Black n Blue Boys/ Broken Men” as part of the Cultural Conversations festival at 8 p.m. tonight in the Downtown Theatre Center .
Tickets are $3 and are only available immediately before the performance.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our community to hear an artistic conversation about assault in the male community,” said Susan Russell , artistic director of the festival.
Orlandersmith, a critically-acclaimed playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist, will be performing excerpts from her solo show in which she portrays men of different ages, races and classes who have been affected by sexual abuse, Russell said.
“Orlandersmith wanted to have a dialogue with our community about this problem,” Russell said. “She contacted the School of Theatre and asked to be a part of our recovery and redefinition.”
At the end of the performance, Orlandersmith will host a talk back with the audience during which a discussion about the issues addressed on stage can take place, she said.
Andrea Falzone , staff psychologist at the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services , will be on the panel of mental health and social service professionals following the performance.
Falzone, who runs both the Male Survivors and Sexual Assault Recovery groups at CAPS, said she hopes to provide information for students about resources available to them.
“Healing from sexual manipulation or abuse is facilitated by speaking about what happened and connecting with others with similar experiences,” said Falzone.
Orlandersmith will bring with her the knowledge she has gained working as a counselor with young men in runaway shelters.
“She is bringing her heart, her soul and the story of men told through the eyes of a woman,” Russell said.
The fact that the performance features a woman telling the abuse stories of men shows the “ultimate compassion,” Russell said.
“Women may not have always been visible politically in the scope of history, but they have always held the secrets that cultures don’t necessarily want to be told,” Russell said. “Many of those secrets are about sexual assault and violence.”
Breaking the silence surrounding sexual abuse is essential in helping those affected by it, said Jody Althouse , director of outreach and communications for the Centre County Women’s Resource Center .
“For a victim to come forward, they need to feel safe,” Althouse said. “One of the ways for a community to feel safe is for that community to not be afraid to speak about an issue that has either happened or is happening.”
It is essential for those affected by sexual abuse to get a sense that a community is not blaming the person affected for what has happened to them, Althouse said.
As the Penn State community works to heal and rebuild, it is important to realize that its response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case can have global ramifications, Russell said.
“The eyes of the world are on us,” Russell said. “As we open ourselves up to conversation, we will set a template for communities all across the planet for making places safe for kids.”
Russell hopes that Orlandersmith’s performance and the discussion that will follow will allow people to find answers to their questions and help in moving forward.
“Our greatest mission is to bring this community together in a strategy of recovery and prevention of child sexual assault,” Russell said. “You come and are filled with art, and you leave and are filled with strategies, hope and ways to survive.”