Updated: Nov 14, 2022
A “He Said, She Said” for Modern Times
by Dana Hammer
I recently cleaned out my garage. It was a daunting task, and a thankless one, and frankly, kind of gross and dirty. But in the middle of all this dust and garbage, I found a small treasure — my diary from senior year in high school/freshman year in college.
When I opened the diary to read it, I expected to see a lot of silliness and late-teen drama, mixed with some real pathos and learning experiences. I thought I would have a nice laugh and shake my head ruefully at Young Dana as she navigated early adulthood.
Instead, I had a panic attack. It turns out, I had forgotten a lot of things, and misremembered others. Reading my own words reminded me of things that were better left in the past, and frankly, I wish I’d never found the damned thing. After reading it, I was left raw, and ragged — old wounds ripped right back open.
This is the power of memory, and the power of the mind to obscure and filter the truth. And this is the power that fuels the play “Actually,” presented by The Wayward Artist.
“Actually,” written by Anna Ziegler, is the story of two college students reckoning with the aftermath of a sexual encounter. One says it was consensual, the other says it was not. There was alcohol involved, to further muddy the waters. It’s a classic case of “he said, she said” with a modern twist for our post-”me too” era. It deals with issues of consent, of course; but also race, and class, and how sexual assaults are handled on college campuses.
It also explores the fact that we often make decisions about guilt and innocence when we don’t really know all the facts. We do this based on our own biases and prejudices. According to director Sydney Fitzgerald —
“This play presents a deeply empathetic argument to both sides of the story…Ziegler gives us a very evenly weighed scale of two sides for us to take in all of the circumstances of the full story.”
This is a play that will challenge its viewers to consider perspectives other than their own, to see outside their own experiences, and to think about the events portrayed accordingly. It’s not a play for the intellectually faint-hearted.
Because this play deals with potentially triggering content, it might not be for all audiences. Still, it’s not overly explicit. According to Fitzgerald, “The play has explicit language, however is not visually graphic. It is appropriate for mature audiences with the discretion of language and sexual content.” She adds that this is a play for everyone, and that “there is something to gain for all points of views.” She says that specifically it should be seen by “college students and anyone who enjoys a good mind-puzzle.”
When it’s a matter of “he said, she said”, and there are no witnesses, and it’s not entirely obvious what happened, the Wheels of Justice have a difficult job to do. Is justice done in this play? Come see “Actually,” and decide for yourself.
Dana Hammer is a writer of plays, novels, short stories, and screenplays. She lives in Anaheim, where she makes bad decisions, like reading her old high school diaries.
The Wayward Artist, located at 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana California, 92701.
November 11 - 20, 2022
(657) 205-6273, www.thewaywardartist.org