Rowan Lab Theatre’s ‘It’s Happening at Home’ tackles big issues with power and poignancy

Sophomore writing arts major Dina Folgia with the rest of "The Boys" perform a choreographed number to "Gaims" by KAMAU on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 in Bunce Hall. -Staff Photo/Scott Buzby

Rowan’s Lab Theatre is known for addressing hard issues through their performances like violence, abuse, sexual assault and harassment. However, very rarely do we see all of those topics in one play — much less in a half hour time frame.

All were seen in the Lab Theatre’s production of “It’s Happening at Home,” written and directed by Molly Jo Gifford and choreographed by Hailey Hubbs. This piece combined the aesthetic of a play and a musical, with 15 songs, poems and text excerpts to paint a larger, more eye-opening picture.

Taking place in a high school environment, the behavioral “clicks” of each student is attributed to an issue our society is faced with today. Hence the name of the play, which references the link between a child’s idiosyncrasies and how their feelings and emotions are handled at home. Each of the characters are called by their respective actor’s name, which made remembering who was who much easier.

Two of the most prominent themes were sexual assault and harassment and gun violence. Four of the nine parts of the play addressed guns, while the rest tackled harassment, rape and emotional abuse of children by their parents.

The parts titled “Gun Play” and “Guns for Hands” cut like razors at the gun violence epidemic. Part one, featuring Nick Flagg as “Nick,” showed the audience a child’s own thoughts about what he could do with a gun. Part eight, which featured Matthew Zupancic as “Matt” in the leading role, focused more heavily on how guns are being used in society at large. This came in the form of a brooding dance number set to “Guns for Hands” by Twenty One Pilots.

Senior theater arts major Matthew Basen portrays “Matty B” on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018 in Bunce Hall. -Staff Photo/Scott Buzby

Part four, “Pee Hand”, featuring Olivia Matko as “Olivia,” sheds a light on sexual assault and violence. Olivia tells her story to “Elizabeth” and “Dina,” respectively played by Elizabeth Darrell and Dina Folgia, about an encounter at a party where a boy drunkenly forced her into the back seat of a car and attempted to rape her. She escaped by peeing on the attacker, but not before being slapped and degraded.

The purpose of this production was to illustrate to the audience that, though the setting was in the classroom, the fears and insecurities demonstrated by the characters needed to be addressed in the home first. Parents need to believe that they are responsible for the actions of their children, mainly by instilling healthy values and reassuring their children that it’s okay to express their emotions. We’re all in this struggle together. Creating a safe world to live in is everybody’s responsibility. When tragedy befalls one of us, it’s a reflection of the shortcoming of all of us, a message “It’s Happening at Home” conveyed with power and poignancy. 

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