Campus play focuses on sexual assault

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It's a sobering statistic: 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted at some point during their college career. That's the focus of the play 'Catalyst' at Augustana College. It looks at how a school newspaper handles the issue of sexual assault among students while it's written, directed and performed by students themselves.

"I sought to tell a story that looks at that and makes us think about something that we usually just brush away," Writer Matthew Stoffel said.

Talking about any kind of sexual assault is not easy -- for anyone. But six college students are on-stage to face the issue.

"It's geared at speaking out about how we deal with rape. How do people react to it? Asking: 'what is rape?' Those are all very important questions that the play can look at, and hopefully spark a discussion, so we can come up with definitions and learning more about it," Director Jenna Hyde said.

'Catalyst' Director Jenna Hyde says maintaining the seriousness of the bigger issue on-stage is crucial to its success.

"I'm not just acting; this isn't a comedy play. Being here at a college campus, in front of peers, some people may have gone through this and it means a lot to a lot of people. Holding that responsibility and being able to hold that and run with it, carry it on your shoulders," Actor Dakota Driver said. "From freshmen to seniors, everyone a part of it, is handling it with the respect it deserves but finding that line between at the end of the day, we are acting, this is a play and we still need to be ourselves and not let it mentally bring us down."

This is Hyde's first play as the Director. While challenging, she says, it's been worth every moment.

"I want to leave people with the feeling that this is real. It's a real situation that a lot of people go through and we have to take it seriously. Hopefully, these characters are real and life-like so when people leave they feel like they know these six students," Hyde said.

The performance, Catalyst, runs Thursday through Saturday at Augustana College's Mary Harum Hart Acting Studio in the Edith Mortenson Center. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.