Shana clicks off her phone and greets me as I pull up a chair. We’ve intended to have a lunch date, but as fate would have it we aren’t huge fans of the menu that day. Shana Weiss is a sophomore education student here at Oswego, and we’ve met today to discuss her upcoming role in a staged reading of “Not Someone Like Me” directed by Mya Brown, a professor at the college.
The show is structured as a series of monologues about survivors of trauma and assault within a group therapy session. The play, written by Susan Rice, features survivors of varying ages and backgrounds. Weiss plays Pam, a woman from a lower-middle class background whose mother’s dream for her is to pursue her education, but this dream gets harder after she is assaulted. Shana is no stranger to staged readings; she participated in one for a senior’s capstone last year called the Laramie Project, a show about the bullying and subsequent murder of a young gay man. “It’s different because I’ve never had this intimate of a look into someone else’s life. Laramie was intense, but this takes it to another level.”
The cast of five went through auditions in mid-March, got casted, and went straight to work. Weiss notes that this is a quick turnaround even in theatre, but also mentions that the cast got to spend two hours of alone time with the director, Brown, to develop their characters. “It’s been a very insightful experience. I’ve worked with a lot of different directors and directing styles, and it’s very important to her that you have a very good background on the character. It’s very important that you have a feeling with the character. She very much knows what she wants out of you and has this way of drawing it out of you without feeling like she’s controlling what you do as an actor. It’s very nice.”
In the wake of #MeToo, a national online movement where people who have experienced being sexually assaulted and harassed have shared their stories, this show that was originally selected in the spring of 2017 seems more timely than ever, and that isn’t something that has escaped Shana’s mind. “I feel like it lines up very well with the timing of the #MeToo movement. I feel that it’s very important that we’re having this show, especially around a time where when there’s all these allegations coming out, where there are all these issues… It was talked about before, but now its started to really pick up.”
Event co-sponsors include Artswego and It’s On Oz, an organization dedicated to the education and prevention of sexual and interpersonal violence. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. These statistics are alarming and bring up the issue that inspired an Academy Award nominated film The Hunting Ground. However, this show encompasses an array of experiences, and the production provides resources within their programs for anyone who may need to seek help. It is noted that the “detailed, vivid imagery” within the script that helped prepare Weiss for her portrayal may affect audience members sensitive to this type of content.
The event will take place in the Sheldon Ballroom on April 30th at 7:00 P.M. When prodded as to why people should come, Shana answers earnestly. “It is so important as to what is going on even though some of these stories have taken place 50-60 years ago. The fact that it’s still relevant and it’s still happening is why you should come see this show.”