The Black Hills Playhouse returns this week with a sensitive look at a serious subject.
"Whisper at the Top of Your Lungs" by Matt Stoffel will have a staged reading at 7 p.m. Sunday at The Seed Theater. Stoffel will be available for a talkback afterward.
The play concerns a college freshman who, after being sexually assaulted by her boyfriend, seeks acknowledgement through the system. A zealous young reporter runs a story on the incident as the story looks at the reporter, the victim, her ex-boyfriend and their friends as they try to handle what's being said about them on campus.
"I came to this from a journalism angle," said Stoffel, who triple-majored in English, Journalism and Theater at Augustana University. "I saw the effects of the law that protects victims from having their names run in print and thought about how that intersected with the problem of rape being underreported."
The show was workshopped at Augustana in October 2014, and the second draft is being produced by the Black Hills Playhouse. The funds from the show will benefit Working Against Violence, Inc. (WAVI).
"I'm looking forward to the reading, because the show continues to evolve," Stoffel said. "I want to hear feedback, and it's wonderful that it'll help raise funds for WAVI."
Stoffel said that several victims spoke to him confidentially about their experiences, and that he used aspects of what they said to craft the play's story and dialogue.
"When I started I thought maybe I had something to say about the subject that might illuminate it," Stoffel said. "It became clear I didn't know a heck of a lot more than anybody else, and I learned how complex the issue was."
Stoffel noted that while there have been advances in protection of women in recent years as institutions earned more criticism for handling sexual assault poorly, there was still a significant problem on campuses.
"There's an assumption by a lot of people when women come forward and say what happen that they're lying," Stoffel said. "Nobody does that with other crimes, like, 'Are you sure someone stole that from you?' There's a long way to go."
It's something that Stoffel hopes his work and others' can shine light on.
"I want enough attention on this issue so that someone smarter than me can come along and figure out how to fix it," Stoffel said. "And I want to honor the victims I had the opportunity to speak to."