By Andre Bennett
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A South Philadelphia theater company is taking a dramatic stand against a serious issue facing women today.
“Dude, we need to do a show on street harassment.”
That began a conversation between Alyson Rodriguez Orenstein and Amanda Sylvester of theater company Touch Me Philly Productions. The pair decided to use their experiences with harassment to inspire their newest project, “Reasonable Fear,” taking place April 16-25 at South Philadelphia’s Luna Theater.
“It’s a two-week series exploring street harassment and rape culture, and the prevalence of these issues in the lives of everyday citizens, especially women,” says Orenstein. “We have a main stage production that runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00 p.m. That show consists of eight plays that were taken from our open submission call.”
According to a study by the organization Stop Street Harassment, 65 percent of women in America experience what they define as not only catcalling, but also groping, following someone, and even sexual assault. For Touch Me Philly, the idea to approach it on stage was long in brewing.
“Alyson brought up the idea of bridging this topic over the past six months,” says Sylvester. “Even before that, it’s definitely something we’ve always talked about.”
Selecting the plays to be performed was no easy task.
“We had about fifty pieces submitted. It took us two months just to comb through everything,” remembers Sylvester. “Also, before that we had a little bit of a focus group, because there was so much to street harassment that we needed to find a way to narrow it down to one evening of theater.”
They narrowed it down to eight plays: “Smile, Baby!” by Josh Carpenter, “Hey Girl” by Jessica Farr, “Jack Pork” by Donna Hoke, “I Dream Before I Take the Stand” by Arlene Hutton, “He Said/She Said” by Donna Latham, “Afterwards” by Alex Broun, “After the Beep” by Cubby Altobelli, and “Who is Jack” by Matthew Macca.
In addition to the plays, they have a lighter look at the subject matter on Saturdays, entitled “Catcall Me Maybe.”
“On Saturday afternoons, we’ll be hosting a comedy and film event hosted by Hannah Harkness, Vickie Fernandez and Rachel Fogletto, all local comedians, April 18th and 25th at 4:00 p.m,” says Orenstein.
In addition, there will be other presentations and events, including a free workshop from Project SAFE on Sunday, April 19th at 3:00 p.m.
Ultimately, Alyson and Amanda want to use “Reasonable Fear” to inspire more discussion, and even action. Says Orenstein, “My hope is that this event or series will give people more information to feel the support they need to turn their negative experiences into positive actions and to help people take that journey from victim to survivor.”
For more information, go to TouchMePhilly.com.