'Extremities' sheds light on Indy's sexual violence epidemic 

click to enlarge Actresses in Spotlight Players' 'Extremities.'
  • Actresses in Spotlight Players' 'Extremities.'

According to a 2010 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every five Indiana women has experienced rape at some point in her lifetime. 43.9 percent have experienced sexual violence other than rape. And Indiana ranks second in the nation for sexual violence against high school-aged girls.

Numbers like those have motivated a group of community theater vets to present the William Mastrosimone play Extremities at Beech Grove's Spotlight Theatre from April 19 through May 5. The play, which hit Broadway in the '80s with casts featuring Susan Sarandon and Ellen Barkin, tells the story of the attempted rape of a woman, Marjorie, in exploring attitudes toward sexual violence, law enforcement and vigilantism.

Extremities director Doug Powers, 43, resolved to get the play on stage after taking part in an informal reading of the play. "I don't direct often, so when I do I need something I'm passionate about to get me through," he says. "The whole idea of sexual violence is repulsive. It's not a women's issue or a men's issue, it's a human issue. It's a wider question of the prevailing culture that has let this thrive."

Powers thinks it an atypical production for a community theater; Spotlight made room for the play after two other theaters had rejected it. "There is a different way to do community theatre," he says. "You don't have to do a 17 productions of My Fair Lady; you can actually try to make a difference."

Extremities, which is being presented during National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, is in part a fundraiser for several organizations working against sexual violence, including the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Julian Center and ManKind Project Indiana. A silent auction will be held opening night and $2 from every ticket purchased during the play's run will be donated to the above organizations.

Erik Scheub, the director of media and public relations for the Indiana Coalition Against Sexual Assault, notes that the play is being staged at "the time to talk about sexual violence in Indiana. This is a violent epidemic, and we need to do something before it's too late. Unfortunately, sexual violence is the most underreported crime in the U.S. I think we'd all be shocked if we knew the actual numbers.

Apparently we're not doing such a great job. 80 percent of sexually violent attacks happen before age 25. It's mind boggling."

Powers and the cast are attempting to stage scenes such as the play's attempted rape in a manner consistent with real-life assaults. "There are a lot of challenges with the physicality of it," says Clay Mabbitt, who plays Raul, the attempted rapist. "It made me think about being a victim in ways I never have before. We get to see what goes on inside a victim's head." Powers says he has founds rehearsals to be "physically and emotionally draining. Even watching some of the scenes is difficult to do night after night."

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