Though most of Arts-on-the-Green was given over to light entertainment, Stop-Gap, a drama therapy group, had a deeply serious message to convey. It offered the public a look at its short play about acquaintance, or date, rape.
"When No Means No" has been presented in Southland high schools for two years as part of a rape prevention program funded by the California Office of Criminal Justice Planning.
In Robert Knapp's drama, Susan finds herself reliving the night when she was 16 and raped by her date, Frank. Her feelings of anger and guilt have been locked away for 10 years.
The stage is bare but for two stepladders and a bench. Under Don Laffoon's direction, two young men, a young woman and an older woman present the play in a straightforward, non-threatening way. There is no depiction of the rape. Instead, we hear what Susan and Frank are thinking.
Frank is convinced that no means yes, that Susan is leading him on and that he'll look like a wimp if he backs off. Susan is confused and frightened. She struggles, but can't bring herself to scream. After all, she did kiss him. Who would believe she was forced after that?
The brief play ends after bringing up several issues: Susan's feelings of guilt at not fighting harder, at thinking the clothes she wore that night were too sexy, her inability to tell anyone what happened, fearing blame, and Frank's feelings of inadequacy, of trying to live up to macho messages he had received from media and peers.
In a classroom situation, the play is presented in conjunction with on-campus counseling by a community rape clinic. A discussion and some improvisation using students' comments follow the performance. The group plans more than 100 performances of the play in Southern California high schools in the coming year.
After Sunday's performance, adults in the audience, hesitant at first about asking questions of Laffoon and the actors, were loathe to stop, once started.
With statistics showing that in 80% of all rapes, the victim is acquainted with the rapist, the Stop-Gap group provides a much-needed community preventive service and does it with simple effectiveness.