Protect Yourself as Needed: ArtsEmerson Presents”Julia”

Presented by ArtsEmerson 
Director: Christiane Jatahy
Adaptation of Miss Julie by August Strindberg
Performed by: Julia Bernat and Rodrigo de Odé
Performed in the film: Tatiana Tiburcio
Music: Rodrigo Marçal
Photography: David Pacheco
Camera Live: Paulo Camacho
Video Technician: Felipe Norkus
In Portuguese with English subtitles

Virtual Event – On-Demand Viewing
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Critique by Kitty Drexel

Ages 18+, Performance contains mature content, nudity, and intense sexual situations with an implied minor

This is the warning under an arrow on ArtsEmerson’s Julia page

“We understand that certain types of content could trigger past traumatic experiences for some viewers. Please be aware that this production contains scenes depicting sexual violence, racialized verbal abuse, racial slurs, allusions to suicide, and animal cruelty.”

This warning should not be hidden to the side. It should be somewhere obvious so no one will miss it. 

ON-DEMAND  — I’ve been recovering from PTSD triggered by Julia since watching ArtsEmerson’s premiere on Tuesday. Actions in the play depict violent sexual relations between two consenting individuals. I am a survivor of sexual violence, but I’ve never been triggered by a theatrical production to a degree like this before. I thought I was okay to watch Julia. I was wrong. Survivors, please protect yourself. 

I’m not special; many women are survivors of violence. We must factor potential violence into our everyday decisions to protect ourselves from further harm. We never know if we’re being too cautious or not cautious enough. We learn from a young age – through the malevolent actions of others or by making irrevocable mistakes – that we must take special care not to be caught off guard. Julia is the visual, multimedia story of a young woman as she learns this lesson the hard way. 

Julia is an adaptation of Miss Julie by August Strindberg. Julia is an underage minor; Jean is the manservant of Julia’s rich papa. They hide from other servants in Jean’s room. Gender and class issues are examined. 

Jatahy uses live camera footage, a live camera person (Paulo Camacho), and two large screens to supplement the onstage action of the actors. She is investigating public and private spaces and perspectives by adding an impartial eye to the events unfolding onscreen. This camera work is similar to the work of MIT’s Jay Scheib

Julia Bernat and Rodrigo de Odé in “Julia.” Paulo Camacho is the cameraman. (Courtesy Marcelo Lipiani)

We occasionally forget about the cameraman. Jatahy reminds us with quick exclamations of “Cut!” and “Action!” Camacho isn’t a cast member; he is the camera guy with a couple of lines. His role doesn’t carry any weight in the production aside from his usefulness. Actors Julia Bernat and Rodrigo de Odé do all of the heavy and necessary storytelling. If they are the heroes of their own stories, then Camacho is an accessory to bad choices. He didn’t take part but he didn’t intercede. He’s a paparazzo in their #FreeBritney moment. 

An intimacy director wasn’t used in this production. According to Jatahy’s website, Julia was birthed in 2011. It was recorded in 2017. The public hivemind wasn’t keen on intimacy direction until 2018. Jatahy couldn’t have anticipated the existence of this movement. 

There is nothing to stop Jatahy from hiring an intimacy director now. An ID advocates for cast members and steward’s a production’s storytelling. It also communicates to an audience that the cast’s care and safety were a priority during rehearsals and before performances. 

A newly recorded talkback is part of ArtsEmerson’s streaming of Julia. An ID could have been hired to speak before the talkback or to write a missive before streaming. More theatremakers require IDs in their contracts. ArtsEmerson could require an ID to participate in productions with explicit sexual content. ArtsEmerson could connect with one of the many crisis centers in New England at the very least. Julia was a missed opportunity to show Boston-area survivors that they are seen. 

On Tuesday, I was unaware of my vulnerability. I made the wrong choice, but I am slowly inching towards stability. As an adult woman with resources, I am informed and get to choose whether and/or how to hurt myself. I am responsible for my actions. 

Minors don’t have informed consent. Adults that abuse should face strict consequences in the legal system and in their communities. A minor isn’t capable of consent to sex with an adult no matter how mature they appear. No exceptions made for men with bright futures ahead of them or a strong work ethic. They burned that bridge when they decided to commit assault. 

I do not hold ArtsEmerson, Christiane Jatahy, or Julia’s other artists responsible for the resurgence of my PTSD. A perfect storm of psychological boondoggle from my personal life was the wellspring of my pain. Julia was the catalyst. If there’s anyone to blame, it’s my rapist (may his nethers splinter into a million disparate pieces). 

There are many organizations that assist survivors. I love The Network/La Red. Please donate if you can.

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