‘Bearing the Burden': Students on the Sandusky Scandal
On a sparse stage with only a few folding chairs as props, students in Charles Dumas’ Theatre 208 class set out to tell their sides of the story. In “We Are… A Student Perspective of The Sandusky Scandal,” Thursday at the Pavilion Theatre, students performed monologues, which they wrote, depicting student reactions to the events of the past year. Some scenes enacted portions of the grand jury testimony and public statements from Joe Paterno, Graham Spanier, and Sandusky himself.
Before an audience of students and community members, the actors, none of them theatre majors, talked about the “heartbreak” upon learning Joe Paterno was fired, dealing with the onslaught of opinions on social media, and feeling both “ashamed and empowered by our pride” at public gatherings like the Nov. 11 candlelight vigil.
In one powerful scene, actors wore white masks to portray Sandusky’s victims. The audience was silent as actors read graphic details from victims’ real testimonies as other masked actors tossed a football in the background. Slowly, a masked man in a Penn State windbreaker lead each actor backstage, throwing his arm around their shoulders and patting their backs as they walked.
A major theme in all of the monologues: the media’s unfair portrayal of Penn State students, especially after the Nov. 9 riot, in which a news van was tipped. A few scenes depicted students having to defend themselves after being labeled as supporters of Sandusky and child sexual abuse.
“We had to bear the burden of some of the most heinous acts in human history,” explained one actor. “But it made us become more of a family, and we’re moving closer to closure.”
Mary Murphy, associate editor