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September 21, 2023

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Play promoted bystander intervention

Approximately 1,100 incoming freshmen flooded the Union Ballroom Saturday afternoon to participate in an interactive play, which taught students when it is necessary to intervene in certain situations.

A collaboration between the Wellness Center, the Opening Weekend committee and the Humanities Group hosted an interactive play called “What Could You Do?” showing students how to step in to help during situations.

The turnout was so large people had to be turned away, said Michael Ellison, an associate professor in Theatre and Film department and director and adviser for the Humanities Group.

“We hoped for this kind of turn out, but certainly wasn’t expecting to fill up the room,” Ellison said.

The play was presented to the audience twice: the first time was an uninterrupted run-through and the second time the audience could intervene when they saw an issue and give suggestions on how to fix the problem.

Then the actors would take those suggestions and re-act the scene with them. The play consisted of issues students may go through such as alcohol poisoning, sexual assault and depression.

“We want students to understand that they are not helpless, but they can make a difference depending on how they handle a situation,” Ellison said.

For freshman Arianna Dyer, the message was crystal clear.

“[The play] highlighted a lot of issues that students can relate to, so I think now I understand the affects a decision has when you don’t do anything,” Dyer said. “I feel like I will become more responsible instead of standing around.”

Faith Yingling, director of Wellness, brought attention to the subject “bystander intervention,” after she saw a video on YouTube.

“A house was on fire and everyone who watched it happen got their phones out to videotape it, but no one thought to call 911 because they all thought someone would do it,” she said. “They had lots of footage to show the cops, but no one called. It absolutely amazes me that no one called.”

The theme “bystander intervention” promotes stepping up to help when people are in need, as opposed to standing around doing nothing.

“As bystanders, we feel like we can’t do something but we want too,” Ellison said. “This play was to help raise questions and strategies on how to help those in need.”

The organizations began working on the play when Yingling suggested the idea this past year to Ellison.

A “pilot play” was shown to students this past year around the same time, which received positive feedback that was a determining factor to continue working on the play for this year, Yingling said.

Before the play on Saturday, the actors participated in the Late Night at the Field House Friday night where they acted out “tid-bits” or segments of the play. Students who participated with the actors were given a T-Shirt that had the message, ‘Step Up and Step In’ on it, Yingling said. If students wore their T-Shirt to the play, they were entered in a raffle to win a pair of Beats Headphones.

“We wanted to make the play more interactive with students, and received a greater turnout than last year,” Yingling said. “I think allowing students to put themselves in a situation really helped get our message across.”

Actor Sarah Maxwell said she thought letting the audience members participate was a great idea.

“I am so interested in how to use theater to change the world and how it can affect lives, so I really hope today’s play sent that message,” said Maxwell, a senior.

Even though the actors didn’t get through all of the scenes in the play, Ellison said he thinks the message was received and people will start to step up.

“I am more than pleased with how many students participated during the interactive part,” he said. “We accomplished what we wanted: making people aware.”

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