THE DEFAMATION EXPERIENCE is a unique interactive diversity program comprised of three components; the play which explores the highly charged issues of race, class, religion, gender, and the law with a twist: the audience is the jury. Through deliberations and post show discussions, audiences engage in civil discourse that challenges preconceived notions.
"Whether we like it or not, we still have major divides in this country. Most of us still go to bed at night in cities, communities and neighborhoods that are segregated by race, religion, ethnicity and/or class. I wanted to write a play that encourages open, honest conversation that leads to greater understanding and empathy to combat today's prevailing trends."
After the most dramatic testimony, the judge tells the audience they are going to be the jury. A first poll is taken. The choices are for the plaintiff, the defendant, or undecided. The tally is announced. Then for 15 minutes, the judge leads the deliberation. Jurors stand to explain and advocate their reasons for their vote. When a consensus of views have been heard, the judge polls the audience again with only the option to vote for either the plaintiff or the defendant, and this final vote decides the outcome of the trial.
DEFAMATION is an old-fashioned courtroom drama. The premise is a civil suit: A South Side African American female business owner sues a wealthy Jewish North Shore real estate developer for defamation. What follows is a 75-minute riveting trial that "holds the audience's own prejudices and assumptions under a powerful lens, and does not let go except by the way of an unsettling self-examination"
The Post Show Discussion
Immediately following the trial, a seasoned facilitator steps forward and invites the audience to stay for a post-show discussion. The purpose is not to re-litigate the case; the post-show is an opportunity for safe, open honest and meaningful conversations about race, class, religion, gender, and the law.
"Students and community members were compelled to grapple with both emotional and rational responses - learning about self and others in the dialogue. The conversation continued in the classroom and on social media. We return to the themes of the play as they ripple through our thoughts and our lives."
CLAUDIA GUZMAN AND WARREN SCHERER, INCLUSIVE EXCELLENCE CENTER, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE
It's an ideal Diversity Program appropriate for myriad audiences, including: