A phrase like, “Hey, beautiful” may appear complementary initially, yet when it’s yelled across the street, accompanied by honks, kissing noises, uncomfortable closeness, or grabs, this unsolicited comment is no longer innocent and becomes street harassment.

According to a 2,000 person survey commissioned by Stop Street Harassment, 65 percent of women have experienced street harassment, 23 percent have been sexually touched, 20 percent have been followed, and 9 percent were forced to do something sexual.

Actors in the play “Think Before You Holla” that showed at the Capital Fringe Festival in D.C. from July 15-23. (Photo by Angelisa Gillyard)

Ally Theatre Company’s, “Think Before You Holla,” a play featured in the 2017 D.C. Fringe Festival, brings attention to street harassment through anecdotes, news stories, statistics, and movement sequences.  The play is directed by Taylor Reynolds.

“I think it’s a less of a learning, more so of an awakening. I think that both men and women are aware that street harassment happens, but we’ve done so much as a society to either accept it or suppress it, that it’s not necessarily something we even find worth talking about,” Victoria Myrthil, one of the actors, told the AFRO.

Shedding light on concerns is key to Ally Theatre Company, as the goal is, “creating and producing shows to address systemic oppression in our country,” Tai Alexander, the company’s managing director, told the AFRO.

“There’s so many issues that need to be seen on stage.  There’s so many voices need to be heard on stage. There’s so many spaces that are not being seen that we want to illuminate and draw attention to,” Alexander said.

Ally partnered with Defend Yourself, a company that teaches skills for stopping harassment, abuse and assault, to offer “Bystander Intervention Trainings.

Some audience members said they believed the show should be featured in educational circles.

“Already, we’re in talks about using the show to bring awareness to the younger generation.  We’ve been approached a lot about school tours and university tours.  We’re actively pursuing that idea, so that’s one of the ways we hope this message continues to be heard in the community,” Alexander said.

Yet, it was not just audiences who took messages away. Members of the cast said they also learned a great deal.

“I think this is one of those iceberg topics, where you’re talking about catcalling, but end up delving into a whole network and system of misogyny, sexism, and gender based craziness, that I wasn’t prepared for in the beginning” said, Chelsea D. Harrison, an actor in the show, who was a part of the creative process from early in its inception, told the AFRO.

Much of the cast said they are more aware of the effects catcalling has on them.

“I think for me what I’ve noticed…I have more of a heightened sense of awareness, than I think I’ve ever had, about what people say to me. When I normally would…keep on moving, now I really take that moment and try to figure out what’s happening,” Jennean Farmer, another actor told the AFRO.

The dual perceptions of street harassment was illuminated in the show when actors Victoria Myrthil and Jehan O. Young, are side-by-side performing monologues.  Myrthil, playing a woman being catcalled, expresses how offended and uncomfortable she feels, while Young’s monologue is a man saying he simply “wanted to put a smile on her face.”

“It makes people sit there and process the other side of it…After the comment has been said, all the things that ripple through the person the comment was directed towards. It explodes this notion that it doesn’t matter,” Harrison said.