“No Zebras, No Excuses,” a play regarding sexual violence, will be performed for all incoming freshmen for the fourth year in a row next fall.
The play focuses on bystanders of sexual violence and consists of a series of short vignettes where different types of sexual violence occur.
In some of the scenes bystanders do the right thing, and in some they do not.
Forrest Seymour, the producer of the play as well coordinator of sexual violence prevention and education at KSC, said, “They’re [the scenes] sort of [are] the worst moment. We don’t get any backstory; we just get that worst moment where something happens.”
PeggyRae Johnson, the play’s director, called the subject matter “extremely difficult,” and said, “There’s some groping, and there’s’ plenty of ugly language and to put that on stage for other people to watch you do that, it is pretty inhibiting. It’s tough, it’s very difficult work. I always want to go home and take a shower; it’s ugly stuff.”
“No Zebras” originated at a university in Illinois about a decade ago. KSC started performing it three years ago after the orientation format changed from small groups of students in the summer to all incoming freshmen going through it the week before fall classes start.
Seymour said he saw it as a great opportunity to give all students a common understanding of what sexual violence looks like and what they can do to stop it.
The play’s title comes from the way zebras behave in the wild.
When a herd of zebras is stalked by a larger animal such as a lion, all the zebras run away, but once the lion is victorious in mauling one zebra the others stop running.
They think, “Glad that’s not me,” but don’t try to help their fallen friend, even though the zebras are far greater in numbers.
The play points out how humans can act the same way when it comes to sexual violence and what we can do to change it.
Seymour said a lot of research has been conducted as to why the zebra mentality occurs.
Some people might feel that it’s not their responsibility, others might fear being hurt themselves or fear looking like a fool and being embarrassed.
He also said the more personally connected you feel to the victim the greater chance there is of you standing up and saying something.
“Another strange thing is that people are less likely to speak up when they’re in larger groups,” Seymour said.
“It’s like the larger the group of bystanders, the harder it is to be the one who steps up and says, ‘Wait a minute, this is wrong.’ So that’s a part of the skill we’re trying to teach. It’s really a leadership skill,” he said.
According to Seymour, there have been studies done in Illinois which showed that after viewing the play students were less likely to accept rape myths.
Rape myths include ideas such as if the women didn’t fight then she really wanted it, the women’s clothing plays a role in the situation, and all rapes are perpetrated by strangers, among others.
According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) approximately two thirds of all sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows, and 38 percent of rapists are a friend or acquaintance of the victim.
Seymour said he rewrote the script with the help of lots of students and people from around campus in order to have it be more relatable to KSC. Every year they go in and make some changes, as they will be doing again very soon.
With next fall being the fourth year, every student on campus who went to their orientation will have seen this play.
During orientation students fill out evaluations of programs, and the response to “No Zebras” has been very positive.
Matthew Kohler, who has performed in the play in past years, said after overhearing freshmen’s conversations while they entered and exited the play, he noticed a dramatic mood change after they had seen the performance.
The county attorney’s office said after the first year the play was performed at KSC, the number of sexual violence cases dropped quite a bit.
“So, you know, I can’t say cause and effect there, but I can say maybe it had some impact,” Seymour said.
Auditions for this year’s production were held recently, and 12 students were selected.
The cast is a mix of newcomers and students who have performed in the play in past years.
Johnson said they will have some rehearsing in April, so they can have enough familiarity with the script to hit the ground running in August.
The cast will come back a week before classes start so that they can rehearse intensely on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
Then they will perform the play the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of orientation.
Eric Walker can be contacted at