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Arts programming helps students ‘CounterAct’ sexual violence

April 2, 2018

ASU’s new arts-based sexual violence prevention programming, CounterAct, started with the aim to change our communities and relationships.

Students devising “With Each Other”

The programming was first explored with the play “With Each Other,” presented to 500 freshmen during Welcome Week in the Fall of 2017.

“With Each Other” was devised by students in collaboration with guest artists and facilitators Nik Zaleski and Elizabeth Johnson. Zaleski and Johnson, who specialize in sexual education theater, traveled in from across the country to participate in the design and implementation of the program.

Actors worked together for one week using improvisational theater, movement storytelling and other creative activities to create relatable metaphors about sex and consent, as strategies to help prevent sexual assault on campus and survivor support.

One thing that Zaleski commonly used to describe the creative process was “throwing noodles on the wall and seeing what sticks.”  

Zaleski used the ideas generated from the devising process to write the 35-minute play.

The production was staged at the Nelson Fine Arts Center on ASU’s Tempe campus, with workshops following the show where the audience discussed some of the issues brought up in the show.

“With Each Other” will make a reappearance during Welcome Week Fall 2018 with a performance for the Class of 2022. Auditions will be held from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 5 at the ASU Art Museum. Interested students can sign up for an audition slot online.

With the positive support and feedback the show received, they decided to dream even bigger, by fully diving into CounterAct as a program. It will make its debut at the CounterAct Convening from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 4 at the Memorial Union on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Here ASU students, faculty and staff can join in at any part of the day to partake in creative exploration of trauma response, sexual violence prevention, healthy relationships and consent, as well as art as a tool for cultural change.

The gathering hopes to catalyze 880 creative, collaborative actions against sexual violence to counter the 880 acts of sexual violence that happen every day in the U.S.

The Convening also is a site for students to receive seed-grants for small-scale sexual violence prevention creative actions from $200 to $1,200, taking what’s envisioned and created from the event to fruition.

Zaleski described the importance of using arts in combating issues like sexual violence.

“Cultural problems demand cultural solutions,” she said. “Highly public and well-crafted arts experiences build empathy and understanding of complex problems and move individuals to action.”

Students interested in participating in the Convening can RSVP online.

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