Students talk race, religion, gender, and class in one loaded courtroom drama – Defamation.
Defamation, a courtroom drama that explores themes of race, religion, gender, and class, came to Malvern on Monday, November 2.
In a coalition between the Association of Delaware Valley Independent Schools (ADVIS) and the Multicultural Resource Center (MCRC), Canamac Productions presented a showing of Defamation to a Duffy auditorium full of students from around the area.
Assistant Director of Admissions and Diversity Mr. Patrick Williams said students from 27 different schools in the area.
The plot of the play is a civil suit between a South Side African-American woman sues a Jewish North Shore real estate developer for defamation. The legal issue is whether or not she was falsely accused of stealing his watch and causing her financial harm, according to the website.
A unique aspect of the performance is that at the end, the judge turns to the audience to decide the verdict.
The judge conducts one initial vote asking the audience to vote either undecided, for the plaintiff, or for the defendant. Members of the audience are then given a chance to explain their reasoning for their decision in front of the rest of the audience. After, the Judge takes another poll asking for people to either rule for the plaintiff or the defendant.
The audience at Malvern ruled in favor of the African-American plaintiff.
According to the moderator of the play, after 205 performances of Defamation, 166 of the audiences have sided with the South Side African-American woman.
However, after 17 performances at Catholic schools, only one sided with the African-American woman. No Jewish schools have reached that verdict.
President of ADVIS Ms. Barbara Kraus-Blackney described the event as a great success.
“It was one of the more fulfilling days of my term at ADVIS,” Kraus-Blackney said. “It was great to see such a great student interaction. It covered several of topics in one dramatic play in a much more dramatic way than one speaker could.”
Senior and Diversity Awareness Club President Mike Flanagan shared similar thoughts as Kraus-Blackney.
“I feel like given the size of the room there were definitely kids out there that wanted to participate that didn’t,” Flanagan said. “That was kind of a negative, but the kids that did go up definitely enjoyed it and had something to say.”
Williams is still undecided.
“As far as getting a sense of the impact and how it was received is still to be determined, but I think ultimately the messages of the play were powerful and should stimulate some good conversation,” he said.
Malvern was given 40 free slots for students, so first spots were offered to the Diversity Awareness Club members. Then, Williams opened the invitation to the Upper School and acted on a first-come first-serve basis.
Williams said he wants to have Defamation back to perform for the 8th grade and upper school and another show at night for parents.
“I think it would be something to get some of these conversations discussed on a widespread basis with the student body,” Williams said.