The Defamation Experience, an interactive production focused on creating a dialogue about prejudice and diversity, was presented at Arcadia by the Office of Institutional Diversity on Oct. 19.
The event centers around Todd Logan’s play “DEFAMATION,” which involves a fictional civil court case between the plaintiff, an African American business owner named Ms. Wade, and the defendant, a successful Jewish investor named Mr. Golden. Wade claims that Golden falsely accused her of theft, causing her to lose a major business opportunity. Wade sues Golden for defamation of character, while Golden insists that Wade stole his precious family watch during a business meeting. The play ends without disclosing whether Wade stole the watch—that is for the audience to decide.
The event was segmented into three parts: the play, which detailed testimonies and evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense; a deliberation, where audience members became the trial jury; and a post-show discussion, wherein audience members were asked to speak about their own lived experiences, identity, and biases.
Many audience members came to opposing verdicts, resulting in a spirited debate about the evidence, theories, and prejudices brought to light during the performance.
“The event invoked important discussions between people in our community and helped us understand the abstract issue of race and classism through a specific, staged example,” said Psychology major Kaitlyn Jones ’20. “However, my opinion on the verdict was very different from many of my peers. I was one of the only women in the audience who didn’t vote in favor of Ms. Wade. I thought that many of the theories against Mr. Golden were mostly based on emotions and pure speculation.”
Biology major Tierra Tobin ’20, meanwhile, came to a different conclusion.
“I found for Ms. Wade, because while neither side presented the best evidence, I just did not think that she would go into a man's house that she had never met before and steal his watch,” said Tobin. “But overall, the content of The Defamation Experience was very real and necessary to discuss the climate of Arcadia and the world-at-large right now. It was interesting to be so aware of the biases that my peers and I possess, and to think about actively tackling them together.”