New play “The Interference” introduced to Women’s Literature curriculum

Play discusses sexual assault on college campuses

Women’s Literature teacher Jan Willis introduced the play “The Interference” to her class’s curriculum. This play, written by Lynda Radley, was originally presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe by Pepperdine University’s Scotland Exchange Program on Aug. 3, 2016, and won the Scotsman Fringe First award.

“We were told that the play deals with potentially sensitive content and counselors are provided to help us work through any emotions or feelings that might come up while reading,” wrote senior Alyssa Ludwig to the Talon. “I am glad my class has the opportunity to read about and discuss a topic that is so prevalent today.”

The play follows the story of a female student accusing a male student athlete of sexual assault, focusing on the reaction and attitude of their peers in response to the accusation, while calling attention to sexual assaults that take place on college campuses. It weaves dialogue in between the commentary of several characters watching the events unfold on stage, either on the television or through rumors, each voicing their opinion on the matter.

“I was first told the play was about college rape and I only thought that of it until I decided to open it up and I realized it addresses many issues that are still going on today and it deserves to be heard,” senior Justin Ferrante wrote to the Talon.

Willis saw the play in 2017 at Pepperdine, where her husband works as a professor of religion and philosophy.

“I was looking for something new to do with Women’s Lit. that’s really relevant and I thought that play would be a great addition to the curriculum and it’s super relevant to [the students’] lives,” Willis said. “I thought it was an important topic and I think it’s something that can really speak to the students.”

In preparation for reading the play, Willis encouraged her class go see the play, and as a class they viewed several films on the topic.

“Mrs. Willis has worked very hard in making sure we gain a general sense of the topic beforehand through the Pepperdine presentations, counselor presentations, and daily class discussions,” Ludwig wrote.

Willis brought in representatives from Pepperdine University Oct. 18 to discuss sexual assault on college campuses with her Women’s Literature class.

“I really loved their presentations. I was able to learn so much new information and probably didn’t know half of the things they talked about so it’s important we got educated on it. I believe teachers should start making kids more aware of Title IX, especially in their senior year,” senior Natalie Saida wrote to the Talon. “I am now more aware of the topic and I know that if something does happen to me there is someone I can always go to at my college to help me with the situation.”

Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 is a federal law that protects a student’s right to participate in any educational program regardless of their gender, sexual identity or sexual orientation. In 2011, this expanded in meaning to also include fair treatment in matters of sexual harassment, discrimination based on sex, sexual assault, pregnancy and parenting.

Mark Davis, the Dean of Students at Pepperdine and one of the representatives, elaborated on what he would like to see in the future regarding this matter.

“I would like to see more of peers getting involved in programs like at Pepperdine called Step-Up, where they are the ones out there saying, ‘Hey, enough is enough,’” Davis said. “We know these things are going on and we know they are underreported. Let’s encourage each other to report and let’s also step up and get involved to prevent or assist.”

Step-Up is a program for bystander intervention measures, where if a student sees a situation beginning to escalate, they intervene to prevent something from happening. Pepperdine has several prevention measures in place such as a rideshare app called LiveSafe, which is an escort program on Pepperdine’s campus run by the student service officers where students provide rides for other students if they do not feel safe walking home alone after a night class.

Ludwig wrote that studying “The Interference” helps to make students more aware of sexual assault cases and the resources available to address these incidents.

“I hope to obtain a better awareness and thoroughly gain a better understanding through this piece of literature,” Ludwig wrote. “I can only speak for myself, but studying this in class, I think it opened up a lot of eyes to the gravity of the subject and how frequently it does happen.”