Documentary follow up to ‘Roleplay’ in post production

Ori Tsameret, Intersections Editor

Roleplay cast photo
Courtesy of Roleplay’s Instagram, @roleplaytu

Last fall, “Roleplay,” a theatrical production borne out of a collaboration between the Tulane Department of Theater and Dance and Goat in the Road Productions, took the campus by storm. 

The play follows an ensemble of college students dealing with identity, the mental and emotional burdens of undergraduate life, and sexual assault. The production culminated in two successful weekends of showings at nearly full capacity. 

Throughout the production, a documentary crew documented the cast and crew as they devised the play. Now with the film in its post-production stages, it awaits release as the next installation of “Roleplay.”

The project came into existence as a response to evidence of the heavy rape culture at Tulane. “I did a project [following the 2017 climate survey] called Project IX that was a bunch of interviews with students from all walks of life on campus about their experiences with sexual assault and rape culture on campus,” Katie Mathews, the “Roleplay” documentary director, said. “So much of what I saw in my research was students isolated and alone at Tulane; they didn’t really have anyone to talk to about the trauma they went through and all the things connected to that, power, inequity, and so, we conceived of a space where students use their own experiences to create a play and that we would document that process for a film.” 

In addition to the theatrical production, creators being followed around by the documentary crew, a certain degree of crossover between the two groups seems to have occurred. According to “Roleplay” actor Lucy Sartor, the two projects share a producer, Jenny Mercein, and Mathews even helped with blocking for “Roleplay.”

A key factor in the impact of “Roleplay” appears to stem from its relatability to college students. “Every scene is tied to what college is like,” actor Ross Brill said. “It is a show without hyperbole.”

The creative process through which “Roleplay” was conceived, which involved the actors improvising scenes based on their own experiences, created organic dialogue that resonated with the audience.

“My mom actually came to opening night, and she actually went to LSU,” actor Alex Elam said. “And she was telling me ‘I can see myself in this play, I can see my college self in this play. I’ve definitely lived this narrative or seen it play out.’” 

With the documentary set to come out in late 2021 to early 2022, the real-world application of “Roleplay” is imminently pertinent considering the current realpolitik. With the global pandemic taking the forefront of campus concerns, other issues may be overlooked, and “[the documentary] is a way for us to have a bookmark of where we are at in regards to dealing with some of these issues that face Tulane’s campus and college campuses across the U.S.,” actor Aaron Avidon said. 

The problems addressed in “Roleplay” are not only still prevalent during the pandemic, they may have gotten worse. Mathews further elaborates on this, bringing up U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ rolling back of Title IX protections for students reporting abuse, and saying that the harm students inflict upon one another has not gotten better since Mathews was in college more than 10 years ago. 

Readers interested in learning more about the project, contacting individuals involved or viewing the documentary trailer can visit the project’s website. “Roleplay” is in post-production stages and still fundraising, and interested donors can donate here.

The article was updated on Oct. 22, 2020, at 5:24 PM to more accurately describe the timeline of the “Roleplay” documentary release, give readers a more up-to-date donation link, and name the producer shared between the “Roleplay” stage production and documentary.