The University of Memphis’ Department of Theatre & Dance collaborated with the Department of Architecture a few weeks ago in their production of “Shaming Jane Doe,” directed by Taylor St. John.
Architecture students in the department were asked to construct art installations that would reflect the main points of the play and in turn would reflect their personal outlooks of their future.
The architechture students worked with St. John to enhance the experience of the production so when the audience walks inside the theatre prior to the show, they are already exposed to the vibes of the play before the curtain rises.
Emon Safdari, one of the architects, wanted his work to be mysterious enough to lure the audience back after the show.
“Our installation was not meant to be understood at first glance,” Safdari said. “We wanted the audience to question, to contemplate and to dissect the piece for what it is. After the audience exits the play, the audience has a new understanding and can now interpret the installation in a new light.”
Both Safdari and another student were responsible for creating the piece that was hung on the wall in the theatre vestibule, the lobby next to the outer door of the building. He described in detail how much attention was put in their project.
Safdari said the construction of the installation was an iterative process by going back and forth from computational studies of the installation through Building Information Modeling programs to constructing the pieces with their studio to see it in reality. After finding the forms they wanted, the students analyzed their site to understand its characteristics so they could suspend the installation as intended.
Their material palette was very simple, striving to aim for minimal and inexpensive construct yet provocative. They used cardboard file boxes that were inverted to hide the labeling, a metal mesh screen molded on to a mannequin to create its form and zip ties as the structural connections between each box along with the wood-slatted wall.
“Shaming Jane Doe” involves a sensitive depiction of sexual assault on college campuses and the effects, results and consequences of it. The play revolves around a girl named Jane who is sexually assaulted while drunk at a fraternity party. This show is based on many infamous sexual assault trials that happen all across the American college campuses.
Mario Oliver, another architect involved in the installations, talked about how it was not difficult to construct the installation, but it was very time-consuming, given the amount of labor and material acquisition involved before the actual installation.
“Each installation is different,” Oliver said. “I enjoyed this installation because I was able to bring awareness to the pressuring issue of how we treat victims of sexual assault. I liked being able to take this issue and the play itself and distill it down into a single constructed installation. I hope that this piece, in coordination with the performance, brings this issue of victim blaming and shaming more in to the current social conversation.”