The storyline seems simple enough: Tony and Theresa are set up on a blind date by a mutual friend. Naturally, complete awkwardness ensues over a casual beer as the two exchange college stories. Not pinning her hopes on their meeting, Theresa is much less interested in Tony, but after he persists, she agrees to a second date the next weekend.
From there, Tony’s pursuance escalates. Quickly. From flowers on her desk every morning to voicemail messages, Tony just doesn’t let up, even after some very definitive instructions and negative answers. However, it only gets worse as Tony begins to stalk Theresa – following her to and from work and sending graphic and explicit letters to her house.
[set] These scenes are the basis of “Boy Gets Girl,” a play performed last weekend in MSU’s Arena Theatre. Unfortunately, the scenes played out are not a drama reserved just for the stage, or even a made-for-T.V. movie. It’s also disturbingly real.
According to Bonnie Nicholas, social work master’s student and Safe Place intern, eight percent of all women in this country will fall victim to stalking. Additionally, MSU Safe Place statistics report that 25-30 percent of the college population has experienced battering in dating relationships.
Theatre senior Meredith Tierney discovered contemporary writer Rebecca Gilman’s play while on study abroad in London last summer and was intrigued by the idea of producing and directing it. After examining several different works, Tierney thought combining the theme and subject matter of “Boy Gets Girl” with the educational properties of the theater was a great idea that hits close to home for many students.
“I thought, ‘Here’s a good chance to educate the people using something I love,’” Tierney said.
In order to prepare her cast for the serious subject matter of the play, Tierney turned to Safe Place, MSU’s on-campus shelter specializing in helping stalked and battered women, as a resource. Additionally, Tierney contacted staff members at The Listening Ear, a free and confidential crisis center in East Lansing. In turn, each cast member had their own methods of preparing for their particular roles. While psychology senior Derek Dubuque did more mental preparation for the role of Tony, theatre senior Sarah Dunn sought out legal cases involving stalking to learn more about what Theresa was going through.
“It was really shocking,” Dunn said of her research. “The important thing to remember is that there are places to go, and there are standard procedures to help people.”
[rehearsal] The play also did a great job of illustrating how stalking and violence can permeate all aspects of a victim’s life. In “Boy Gets Girl,” most of Theresa’s interactions are with her co-workers, on whom she came to rely for support. Mathematics senior Jared Shirkey played the role of fellow writer Mercer Stevens and English junior John Mallory was the editor at the magazine where Theresa worked. While the two help Theresa cope with her situation, they also have small vignettes throughout the play that examine the culture they’ve been raised in and the point at which a break-up becomes unhealthy.
Theatre senior Laura Dieterle played Detective Madeline Beck, the woman who helps Theresa sort through her crisis and obtain her personal protection order against Tony. Although the detective is a good resource for Theresa, she is also an example of how victims of stalking are often treated. Throughout their scenes together, Beck insinuates that Theresa may have done something to lead Tony on and tells Theresa the majority of the responsibility rests on her: she has to move out of her apartment and take different routes to work. The detective even says changing her name would be a good idea.
Nicholas agreed, while troubling, each of the portrayals was an accurate example of real-life incidents. She reminds people, while the police are very good resources and it is very important to contact them, shelters and counseling centers should never be left out. She also mentioned that the Personal Protection Order division of the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety works closely with organizations like Safe Place and The Listening Ear so that victims are given the most specialized and effective care possible.
[safe2]After each show, the cast members and a Safe Place representative took the stage to answer questions from the audience. During the talk-back session on Thursday’s opening night, Nicholas reminded the audience that the staff at Safe Place can help in a number of different ways, including advising people on healthy versus unhealthy relationships and providing victims with guidance to navigate the legal system, assistance in obtaining personal protection orders and setting them up with support groups.
“Boy Gets Girl” was not just another production of the theatre department, but was a social statement concerning a real-life issue, as well. In the case of “Boy Gets Girl,” art was used to imitate one of the uglier aspects of life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *