Weaving through campus on a cool and quiet night, what might one feel? A sense of serenity or a feeling of lighthearted ease might come to mind. Others aren’t so lucky to have that peace of mind.
Instead, a walk through campus can bring about feelings of victimization, fear and vulnerability that come with torturous memories of sexual assault. Campus officials all across the country claim to have safety programs and security procedures that make college a safe space. While the intention is there, absolute safety is unfortunately not the case. Worst of all, administrations have the overarching power to whitewash this issue.
Blue Lights, a production to premiere this weekend, delves into the truth behind campus sexual experiences, especially in cases of sexual assault. The show expresses true stories through different forms of artwork like choreography, vignettes, slam poetry and monologues. A vast amount of the experiences relayed in the production come from NU students themselves, which may be a shocking revelation for some to grasp.
Inspired by the Blue Light system here on campus, and similar safety implementations at other U.S. colleges, director and writer Hayley Himmelman, Communication senior, decided it was time to take action in hopes of changing the Northwestern discourse on sexual assault.
“We want to point to that system as a symbol for a false sense of security. In reality, what do they really do for us?,” Himmelman asked.
While the image of the Blue Light system surrounds this production, Himmelman’s initial inspiration for her writing came in a vivid nightmare she experienced just a year ago that sparked her determination for change. The nightmare consisted of an atrocious scene of sexual assault, which Himmelman said left her with feelings of anguish and torment.
“This nightmare was the manifestation of being sexually assaulted. This is that nightmare. This is the fear that victims have to live with every day. That is what catapulted me into this artistic interpretation,” Himmelman said.
Himmelman said she and her producer, Annie Livingston, a SESP senior, felt passionately about obtaining diverse student interviews. With their team of around 20 students, Himmelman and Livingston conducted interviews coast to coast, at schools such as the University of Southern California to New York University. The goal was not only to refute Northwestern students’ misconceptions regarding the diversity of sexual experiences across the country but also to bring a unique perspective regarding the universal issue of college sexual assault, allowing a mass amount of voices to be finally heard.
“It is hard because Hayley and I are both white, Panhellenic sorority women, so it might seem like we are just focusing on that, and while sexual violence is more prevalent in the Greek community more than any community on college campuses … there’s more than just that voice being told,” Livingston said.
Producing alongside Sit & Spin Productions, Livingston and Himmelman highly encourage Northwestern students to come see the show, even if they aren’t one for the theater scene. Yes, the reality of the stories presented within the production is jarring, but the purpose is to to start an open discussion.
“What we want is for people not to be afraid to come to the show … there’s no specific target audience. We want to say this [sexual assault] happens here. What are we going to do about it here?” Livingston said.
While a majority of the production will focus on the stories themselves, an undertone addresses the failures of collegiate administrators to properly respond to cases of sexual assault on campus. When asked about possible repercussions regarding an undermining of the NU administration, Himmelman was poignant about her decision.
“It’s funny, my mom actually brought that up to me. ‘Aren’t you afraid of getting in trouble?’ Sadly, I think this won’t even reach the administration, and if it did, I would be happy. Let’s piss someone off. Let’s cause some changes,” Himmelman said.
Blue Lights will premiere Thursday, Feb. 4 at 8 P.M. and 10:30 P.M. in Shanley Pavilion. Other shows will be Friday, Feb. 5 at 7:30 P.M. and Saturday, Feb. 6 at 2 P.M. and 8 P.M. Tickets cost $5 for students.