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Daily Egyptian

Courtroom drama asks SIU audience to examine social issues, prejudices

(File photo)

(File photo)

By Marnie Leonard

Audience members can serve as jury members for an interactive courtroom drama fraught with highly charged social issues that is designed to put prejudice under the spotlight.

“Defamation” is about an African-American woman accused of stealing a watch from a Jewish businessman. The woman responds by suing the businessman for defamation of character.

The play will show at 6 p.m. Friday in the Student Center ballrooms.

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Playwright Todd Logan was inspired to write the play because he wanted to open honest dialogue about the societal problems of today, according to the production’s website.

“Whether we like it or not, we still have major divides in this country,” Logan said in an email.  

As the civil suit unfolds before the audience, viewers decide the fate of the case while discussing key issues about race, gender, class, religion and the law.

Nathan Stephens, director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence, said the interactive play is designed to make the audience work together to overcome inherent biases.

“We see things through a particular lens and that is based on how we were all socialized,” Stephens said. “The trick will be that as an audience, we have all these divergent perspectives.”

Following the trial, audience members participate in a 15-minute deliberation directed by the judge. The judge polls the members twice: once before and once after this discussion.

Once the verdict is reached, a post-show discussion is held between the cast, director and audience to further wrestle with the powerful themes the production brings to light.

Stephens said bringing this show to campus took a collaborative effort from several departments, including New Student Programs, Student Affairs and the University Honors Program.

“I’m excited about it because it lends itself to a variety of other issues on campus,” Stephens said. “If we can come together as an audience for this, we can come together for SIU.”

Staff writer Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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