What It Feels Like To Be In a Play Called "SLUT" Jennifer Romolini

Last fall, a group of teenage girls and their director-mentors presented SLUT: The Play at the New York Fringe Festival. Audiences and local media took notice of the small production – which sheds light on the realities of teen sexual assault, slut-shaming and victim blaming – immediately. The play (and the girls) received rave reviews. They added performances. Those performances sold out. Gloria Steinem went to see the play. She called it “truthful, raw, and immediate.” The Daily Beast wrote a story about SLUT: The Play. They titled it Gloria Steinem’s Favorite New Play. New York Magazine and MSNBC interviewed SLUT: The Play cast members. They were, as they say, blowing up.

It’s now seven months later and the positive buzz and momentum around SLUT: The Play shows no sign of slowing down. Starting this weekend, the play begins its first national run, with several performances in Los Angeles. After that, the cast travels to Fargo, North Dakota for three nights and, upon their return, will launch a series of new dates in New York. Performances in DC and Boston are in the works. Later this year, SLUT: A Play and Guidebook for Combating Sexism and Sexual Violence will be published by the Feminist Press. The group has also spearheaded a campaign called the StopSlut Movement, which is bringing awareness, support and a safe space for teenagers to talk about sexual pressures and abuse within their schools. The crusade against slut-shaming is having an important moment.

The plot of SLUT goes like this: Joey Del Marco, a fictional student at a Manhattan prep school and a member of a dance troupe that playfully calls themselves “the Slut Squad,” is out one night with a group of guy friends. After some early, heavy drinking, they all get into the back of a cab where Joey is held down and sexually assaulted. In an eerie foreshadowing of the Steubenville rape case (SLUT was written before the Steubenville story broke), Joey discovers the details of her assault as it’s documented on various social media channels. After she comes forward with her story, many of her classmates and friends – and their parents – turn against her. She’s called a slut and a whore, she’s shamed and her voice is not heard.

The cast spent a year and a half developing SLUT in workshops at the Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company (founders Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney directed the play). It’s based on the girls’ own high school experiences and journal entries and, because of this, the language throughout is racy and honest and alive, the way real girls talk to each other. The play was workshopped for months before Cappiello and McInerney completed the script.

We caught up with the all-female cast and the directors to see how the unexpected success of their play – and it’s emotionally wrought and graphic subject matter – has impacted their lives.

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How SLUT: The Play was born:

Vikki Eugenis, 16: We were in class, just spending hours talking, and we realized one of the main issues affecting teenage girls was beliefs about sluts and slut shaming and we started talking about, “Who has the right to call someone a slut?” We wanted to take the word out of everyday conversation.

Alice Stewart, 15: We all had the general consensus that this was important, it was happening to all of us, we needed to talk about it.

Bella Danieli, 13: The themes in the play were so familiar to me and my life, they were things I was seeing at school and with my friends, especially in the last year.

Eliza Price, 16:  I was in 8th grade when we first started talking about the play and I felt worried like, “I can’t relate to this, I haven’t been called a slut,” but then my part in the play is actually about giving a boy a voice. I have a little brother and I see that [slut-shaming culture] is not easy for boys either and that’s something that gets overlooked.

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