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Provocative play tackles gender and sexual assault in Jamaica

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It’s a whole new perspective!

The reading of a 15-year-old play tackles the question of sexual assault against men. In the staged reading of “Against His Will,” at The New Vibe in Rockville Centre on Feb. 17, award-winning playwright and actor David Heron addresses the question of whether an erection suggests consent. He was initially inspired to write the play after randomly pondering a question regarding the matter.

“One day I bolted up in bed and asked myself ‘Can a woman rape a man?’” said Heron. “Those were the exact words that came to me and I just poured it out onto paper.”

The story follows a 29-year-old married and expecting father Daniel Bryan, who is accusing his female boss of rape and takes the case to court. Set in present day Jamaica, the legal drama focuses on how the case challenges the norm of Jamaican judicial system and societal attitudes.

The story is fictional and not based on any true events, but Heron said it is something he is given a lot of thought about.

“This is just my imagination, but what would happen if a Jamaican man was to take a Jamaican woman to court for sexual assault?” he asked.

When he wrote the play more than a decade ago reflecting Jamaica at that time, there was no record of a court case involving a male accuser bringing a sexual assault case against a woman. And that fact still stands true today, according to Heron.

“At the time this was written, a Jamaican had never taken a woman to court for rape, and 17 years later that is still the case,” he said.

At the height of #MeToo last year, Heron decided to revive the story for American audiences. Despite a few minor revisions, he was surprised that most of the play — aside from the use of Jamaican patois — did not need much modifying.

“When I decided that I was going to look at the play again and make it more accessible to the American market, I only changed some parts in patois,” he said. “But what stunned me was how little I had to do because it’s still a very relevant subject.”

The impact of the #MeToo movement has greatly impacted U.S. and Jamaica, but because of a few differences, it had also impacted who the victims coming forward are.

The actor playing the character of Daniel said he felt passionate about the story because it approaches the often rare, and stigmatized issue of sexual assault against men in a country, with no record of the issue being raised.

“This is a very important topic to touch on because although a man taking a woman to court happens all the time here — this will open people’s eyes to how other cultures deal with it even if it’s common here,” said James Duke Walker.

Walker says the play highlights the issue and forces people to see how it can affect men.

“A lot of men who are victims feel like they can’t speak up or they feel powerless and stripped of power and authority,” he says. “This kind of gives a voice to the voiceless, and it even empowers women because it gives them a voice and shows how this is not right or accepted on any level, and wrongdoers should be held accountable.”

Heron says he wants people to experience the tense drama a case of the sort could cause in Jamaica, and use it as a learning opportunity.

“A large part of this drama is the furor it created in Jamaican society because it’s a man coming forward to accuse a woman,” said Heron. “I think this play is the perfect embodiment of education and entertainment, because a lot of people don’t know the difference between rape and sex assault and they get to learn about the Jamaica judicial system.”

After the reading, an audience-led discussion about consent will take place.

“Against His Will” at The New Vibe Lounge [60 N. Park Ave. between College Place and Front Street in Rockville Centre, (516) 208-6590, www.thenewvibelounge.com]. Feb. 17 at 7 pm. $30.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.
Updated 10:25 am, February 5, 2019
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