Staged Reading of Whisper at the Top of Your Lungs

Monstrous Little Theatre Company presents a staged reading of Whisper at the Top of Your Lungs by Matthew Stoffel

Who do you turn to when your back is against the wall?

Growing up, I was never very good at asking for help. I was stubborn, I wanted to do it by myself, and I was entirely flustered when someone suggested I wasn’t capable of something.

It’s incredibly fortunate that being willing to ask for help is a skill you can learn over time, because I can’t imagine how I’d have handled the last couple years and these past few months without a squadron of great people to support me. I’m grateful to all of them, and I can’t fathom where I’d be without the help of others.

It’s that heavy fear of being alone that drove me to write what was once called Catalyst, and is now titled Whisper at the Top of Your Lungs. What does someone do when nobody can help them?

Some of my friends and classmates at Augustana were talking about the difficulty of addressing sexual assault allegations, and I started to realize it was a bigger problem than people wanted to say.

I started writing the script in hopes of providing an answer on how to deal with rape, and immediately found the answers beyond me.

Two weeks after I began writing, Vice President Joe Biden delivered the findings of a White House report saying as many as 1 in 5 college women deal with sexual assault. I can’t recall whether that was before or after Augie’s student theatre group, ACTS, green-lighted the script for a production in that fall, off a rough summary of act 1 and three sample scenes.

No pressure, right?

Now, I’ve spent two years working on this play, and I’d love to show you how it’s evolved since Joe Biden’s report, since the first staging at Augustana, and since I gutted over 90 minutes from a green playwright’s first rambling drafts. I’ve had a second chance to see the work performed as the first staged-reading of the Black Hills Playhouse fringe series. I’ve had the help and input of directors, trusted friends, theatre artists, and the communities that experienced the show.

Most importantly, I’ve been guided by the true accounts of women who had to figure out how to continue on after rape.

Whisper at the Top of Your Lungs is about sexual assault on a college campus, yes. But the people I’ve shared it with and I have slaved to make it go beyond that. A good friend once said they were relieved that this wasn’t some hastily-crafted issue play, but rather a story as complex and challenging as sexual assault.

This show is about the subjective nature of truth and about how we navigate a world of instantly accessible information and opinion. It is about the point in a person’s life when they pursue a future they aren’t certain they want. It is about the search for love, and the way a passing whisper immediately forgotten by the speaker can ring in the listener’s ear for decades.

I’m grateful to Monstrous Little Theatre Company for giving me another chance to put this script on its feet. Please, join us at 7:00 p.m., this Friday night (April 22) at the Artist’s Retreat at Pointer’s Ridge just north of Sioux Falls for a staged reading of Whisper at the Top of Your Lungs.

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