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‘NSFW’ aims to open up dialogue about female objectification in the media

Performers+rehearse+for+the+Spectrum+Theatre+Company%E2%80%99s+fall+mainstage+production.+%E2%80%9CNSFW%E2%80%9D+opens+Oct.+20+in+Shanley+Pavilion.
Performers rehearse for the Spectrum Theatre Company’s fall mainstage production. “NSFW” opens Oct. 20 in Shanley Pavilion.

Performers rehearse for the Spectrum Theatre Company’s fall mainstage production. “NSFW” opens Oct. 20 in Shanley Pavilion.

Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Performers rehearse for the Spectrum Theatre Company’s fall mainstage production. “NSFW” opens Oct. 20 in Shanley Pavilion.

Catherine Kim, Reporter

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When she picked up the script for “NSFW,” director Isabel Perry said she never imagined how relevant it would become.

Amid preparation for the show, the Washington Post leaked footage from 2005 of Donald Trump making lewd comments about women, an October surprise amplified by the series of sexual assault allegations that followed.

“We did not know how much rape culture would play into this election, which it very clearly has,” said Perry, a Communication sophomore. “This play is an outlet for people to reflect on that and be inspired by it.”

Spectrum Theatre Company’s fall mainstage production, which opens Oct. 20 in Shanley Pavilion, explores sexism in the media. In the show, the pursuit of success comes at the cost of promoting female objectification.

What’s striking in the discussion, though, is how both media consumers and producers are involved in perpetuating an ongoing rape culture, Perry said.

“(The play) looks at how women are portrayed in the media and who is complicit in the attacks of feminism in contrast to those who are actually reflecting on society,” she said.

“NSFW” tells the story of two London magazine companies, in which one promotes a misogynistic work environment, while the other is “for women, by women,” Perry said. Feminist themes will take center stage in the play, which discusses topics such as sexual consent and the representation of women’s bodies.

Experiencing live performances inspires people to engage more fully in their communities and reflect on social issues more actively, Perry said, saying she hopes the play will help the Northwestern audience reflect on their role in media production and consumption.

“One of the biggest themes is that there are really very few people who are only champions of positive representation,” producer Gustavo Berrizbeitia said. “If you’re a consumer (or) if you’re in the industry, everyone sort of has this role to play in this bad thing that happens.”

Perry said her intention is for the audience to be able to self-reflect without being told what to think. She will have succeeded if she can create empathy on the stage, she added.

Spectrum’s mission statement notes that the theater board is dedicated to “raising awareness, inspiring dialogue, and affecting change” through socially and politically aware productions.

“There’s nothing wrong with buying a magazine, but you have to think about what action you play in what the magazine is putting out in the world,” Perry said.

Communication sophomore Samantha Casesa, plays Miranda, the editor of the women’s magazine Electra. Casesa said she hopes people learn about the complex nature behind the play’s overlapping issue of sexism in the media, as she portrays a character who contradicts her magazine’s pro-feminism beliefs.

In certain scenes of “NSFW,” Casesa said her character fails to be an archetype of the women or the feminist views Miranda might vouch for.

“(Miranda) is not as good of a feminist as she preaches to be,” Casesa said. “She is a reflection of how even women can be critical of other women in a way that’s unhealthy.”

To support the dialogue of sexual consent and objectification of women the play brings on, Spectrum has partnering with Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators, a student organization that organizes open dialogue events on sexual health and sexual assault. SHAPE and Spectrum co-hosted a presentation on rape culture present in the media sphere last Tuesday.

“We’re not pretending to know the solution … or specifically how to talk about this in a way that doesn’t make people really uncomfortable,” said Berrizbeitia, a Weinberg senior. “That’s why we like working with SHAPE. We are giving them a platform to tell a message that’s really important.”

Email: catherinekim2020@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @ck_525

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