A large blue ribbon was painted on the black floor of an otherwise sparsely decorated stage Saturday night at the Downtown Theatre.
Community members performed “We Are Aware,” a play that featured a collection of viewpoints from community members regarding the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse case, as well as child sexual abuse in general.
Instead of actors portraying characters in a plot, the play featured snippets of conversations and dramatic representations — a decision that director Elaine Meder-Wilgus said, “a lot [of thought] went into.”
“There were no characters running through this entire show, so the scripts in hands, the abstract presentations and moving about the stage without scenery allows the audience to hear the words and the stories,” Meder-Wilgus said. “We wanted to get as many myriad voices into this as we could, so we made that choice.”
Pamela Monk, author of “We Are Aware,” said much of the conversation was based on contributed stories. She said one line repeated during the play, “the weight always falls on the innocent,” was taken from a forum discussion, which occurred at Webster’s Bookstore Café.
Saturday’s play was one of the final events in a weeklong festival called Cultural Conversations, which runs every year.
Susan Russell, artistic director for Cultural Conversations, said she has been surprised by the lack of attendance for this year’s festival in comparison to other years.
“This has been the most sparsely attended festival in the history of Cultural Conversations. For the past three years, I have sold out every show,” Russell said, adding that in years past, the festival has had lines of people out the door and down the street, waiting to be admitted. “That, to me, is very interesting. Did I find the conversation nobody wants to have yet?”
The play also included musical performances, as well as a projector, which showed multimedia elements, predominantly statistics regarding sexual abuse.
Monk said while the issue of sexual abuse is a complicated matter, great progress has been made in other areas, such as domestic violence, and that the same kind of progress can be made to prevent child sexual abuse.
In her introduction, Russell said the play was the “voices of adults in response to voices of young people.” The festival began Feb. 4 with plays written by Penn State students.
The final line in “We Are Aware” — “when children feel that their lives are valued more than a sports team, we will see real change” — left some audience members, such as Paulina Prieto feeling affected.
“I think that it was good to hear a different point of view because I had heard from my coaches and other students, but I hadn’t really talked to other adults that are parents,” Prieto (sophomore-human development and family studies) said. “Their children go to school here, so it’s definitely a different point of view.”