Indiana State University Newsroom

Student-produced play to address sexual assault April 1-2

March 23, 2017

When given the chance to do important and challenging work, junior Maverick Schmit couldn't be more grateful Indiana State University's theater department didn't back down.

That's not only because it will provide for his classmates thought-provoking work about the aftermath for sexual assault survivors, but also because the theater major from Danville, Ill., hopes the play will help jostle the audience into a serious discussion on the topic.

"It's a really dark and sinister play that I've been formulating for about two years," Schmit said. "I had wanted to get into a story that was about displaying the psychology of a broken character, but I hadn't thought much more about it until the fall of 2015 when I took Arthur Feinsod's playwriting class and we did an exercise that was a springboard for ‘Hers is the Head of a Wolf.'"

A one-act play, "Hers is the Head of a Wolf" explores the emotional repercussions of sexual assault through the eyes of the main character, Elise, once a confident and radiant woman until she is raped in her mid-20s. The piece is not based on a particular person and uses non-linear storytelling to help the audience see the story through Elise's eyes.

"It makes it very uncomfortable. I would be lying if I said there wasn't a part of me that wants the audience to be scared, because the point of this is to really understand and just feel Elise's pain and fear," Schmit said. "I want (the audience) to understand the real trauma of sexual assault and start a dialogue."

Schmit allowed his playwriting class and others read the play, including survivors of sexual assault.

"I've sent this to a couple of sexual assault survivors that I know, and they were pretty receptive to it and down with me addressing the subject," he said. "That reassured me going forward with it because, even with the greatest of intentions, you can still get it wrong if it's not approached in the right way and I wanted to make sure I was approaching the issue honestly."

It is the job of junior theater major Caleb Clark to bring the play to life.

"It's going to be an exciting piece with the challenge being that there are a lot of worldly elements that will be heavily influenced by sound effects and several lighting cues," Clark said of the sixth show he will direct at Indiana State. "For me, the play is a representation of Elise's fractured worldview, so I want to give it a state of inconsistency and uncertainty, which is symbolic of her decreasing mental health."

Clark and junior theater major Ally Miles, who plays Elise, spoke with sexual assault survivors in preparation for the performance.

"(Clark's) vision for the show is extremely specific, so we will be doing a lot of character work and research. It will be very intense, difficult and uncomfortable at times, but that is what is necessary to put a piece like this together," said Miles. "Though ‘Wolf' is an exaggeration of the possible consequences of assault, it does show that when someone is raped, the victim's world and life crumbles around them. It really gives the audience an insight to the fractured world of someone who has not recovered from an assault."

Faculty in the psychology department will conduct a discussion with the audience after the performance.

"I want the play to be a true testament of what sexual assault survivors go through, so this will surely be a play unlike anything most people have seen before," Clark said. "I hope it starts a dialogue about sexual violence in our society."

The cast also includes Cal Hart as Dr. Hamilton, Elise's therapist, and junior theater major Riley Leonard as Danny, a mysterious and haunting figure from Elise's past.

"Hers is the Head of a Wolf" will be performed at 7 p.m. April 1 and 2 in Dreiser Theater on the Indiana State campus. Tickets are general admission and free of charge. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Photos: - Indiana State University students prepare their makeup before a rehearsal for "Hers is the Head of a Wolf" on March 22. "Hers is the Head of a Wolf" will be performed at 7 p.m. April 1 and 2 in Dreiser Theater on the Indiana State campus. Tickets are general admission and free of charge. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or