September 21, 2018

Wasted, a play at Baltimore’s Center Stage through tomorrow, strikes a current chord of controversy and thrusts sharp questions into our complacency about consent in relationships. It raises new uncertainties in an increasing muddied arena.

When I bought tickets to this play, I had a feeling that it would be unlike any other stage performance I had seen. First of all, the audience arrived and walked onto the stage where we ordered and paid for drinks from a bar that was part of the set, and meandered talking with other audience members in a disco atmosphere of music and moving spotlights.

At 7:30, the audience was still on the stage when the play began with two characters making an entrance into the “bar” and beginning their dialogue. When the “bar” closed, everyone was told to leave and go home, at which point the audience went down a few steps and watched the rest of the performance from the seats.

Will Hearle plays Oli and Serena Jennings plays Emma in the play written and directed by Kat Woods. They also skillfully play other characters in the narrative such as friends, Oli’s mother and officials involved with rape investigation. Stage setting is minimalist, as well as costumes. The strength in the production is the script, directing and acting. It is definitely worth seeing.

This play is especially relevant considering the #metoo movement and accusations of sexual misconduct (perhaps attempted rape) at a teenage party several decades ago made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Jurist Kavanaugh’s boyhood friend Mark Judge writes about their social teen life of drunken parties. Kavanaugh and Judge deny Ford’s allegations.

But back to Wasted, where two young people get wasted with booze that leads them to dark places with consequences that can affect them for years. The next morning, Emma can’t remember what happened but has a bad feeling. Her friend suggests that Oli had sex with her without her consent while she was passed out. Then things go down the rabbit hole.

Like the purported Kavanaugh teen party, both of these stories begin with alcohol—way too much. Things happen, some of which players do not remember. Emma blames herself and Oli is shocked when it is suggested that he had raped someone. Kavanaugh alleges that it never happened and that he doesn’t remember the party. Ford says she remembers being held down, hands pulling at her clothes and a hand over her mouth, and these memories have remained with her across decades, even while trying to forget.

Playwright Woods does not judge but, rather, presents the story from different perspectives. The audience holds empathy for both characters because truth is sometimes murky. She leaves it up to the audience to come up with their own answers.

The big question is how to define consent and this was addressed after the play in a Q&A between the audience, cast members, playwright and Katie Wicklund a legal advocate from the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

When I was growing up, there was no sex education in schools, but this has gradually changed. Wicklund says sex education is evolving into consent education, eventually to be taught age-appropriately to kindergarten through college.

We’ve come a long way and now understand that we need to define consent and communicate this to young people. There have been too many lives wasted because no one knows the definition.

Feet or Brains?

A few thoughts...

Close crop of a news photo. Instead of balancing on their toes all day, men walk in comfort.

Before 1920, we women could not vote. Slowly we are gaining ground at many levels, including the political arena, but not enough and not fast enough. "Over the course of our nation's history, we have had nearly two thousand men in the Senate--but only fifty women!" [Nevertheless She Persisted by Senator Amy Klobuchar] Despite progress in female political representation, a woman has yet to be elected to the highest office

A hundred years ago, many men believed "women shouldn't worry their pretty little heads about politics." The best option for our gender to gain power used to be through the men we "caught" and married. In those times, surface impressions were especially important for a woman's climb upward but today, in the 21st century, women seem to continue to seek power through outward appearances. 

I am talking especially about women's feet. We torture ourselves with our footwear choices. Why? Studies have shown that women get more positive attention from men when wearing stilettos.* This helps our self-esteem. We feel sexier because of how high heels make our legs look longer and how these shoes force our hips to move in an alluring way. There is also the additional height that brings us closer to eye-to-eye contact with men.

But this is at a cost to our spines and the health of our feet. Is it really worth it? Perhaps, instead of accepting what has long been the norm, we should work on changing universal perceptions.

Think about this. What man would go through this type of pain to attract attention? What man would sacrifice his feet for power? What man would wear stilettos and accept that it is necessary to be successful?

We women are at least as smart as men but our choices do not always show it. When it comes to raising ourselves up, stilettos only accomplish this on a superficial level.  It's about time we used our brains instead of our feet!

* For a much better perspective on this topic, readers should check out an informative and balanced article by Stacey Hutson.

(Like all females, Bonnie Schupp once coveted very high heels as a teenager, looking forward to the sophistication and status associated with this footwear. After a short time, however, she concluded that she was not a masochist and does not own high heeled shoes. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Liberal Arts and a Doctor of Communication Design. Her feet are happy.)

Other articles you might want to explore: 

"Some female festival-goers were barred from the red carpet for wearing flat shoes. Mais naturellement – because in order to be truly chic, a woman should be hobbled and in physical pain from her footwear."   

The Most Unfeminist Clothing in History. 

The Fate of Women.