A stern, sharp featured woman stepped onto the stage. She made it clear she wasn’t going to put up with any disorder in her court when she demanded the audience remain seated, silence their phones and even refrain from throat clearing.
This woman was Judge Adrian Barnes; she was portrayed by Jeanne T. Arrigo.
On Nov. 3, Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) welcomed Canamac Productions to campus for a production of “Defamation,” a courtroom drama with a twist: the audience gets to be the jury.
“Defamation” follows a fictitious civil suit. An African- American woman is accused by a Jewish North Shore real estate developer of stealing a family heirloom watch. The real estate developer claims she did not steal it and sues him for defamation, or damaging her reputation.
The 70-minute trial is followed by a 15-minute audience deliberation. It’s up to the audience to decide whether or not she was falsely accused.
The play is geared toward generating a conversation about difficult issues like race, class,
religion, gender, diversity, social justice and the law.
“Diversity is a big umbrella term for a lot of different things a lot of different areas of interest and focus we’re constantly thinking about and advocating for in our office,” said Kayla Page of SNHU’s Office of Diversity.
“College students are trying to make sense out of [their] own beliefs and own core values so [“Defamation”] presents an opportunity for students to make some sense out of personal beliefs.”
The play saw an impressive turnout. It brought in SNHU students as well as many members of the general public. The diverse and enthusiastic audience made for an enriching deliberation.
“The hope is to have students grapple with some concepts, particularly after a scenario in which [they] have some emotional response,” said Page.
Once the verdict was given, the cast broke character and engaged in a discussion with the audience. The general consensus was that the twisty and turn-filled trial gave people a new perspective on these important issues.