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Imani Williams’ Blitzen is fed up with those who don’t believe victims of rape


The Eight: Reindeer Monologues plays on LabTV on three dates in December. As the title belies, this deliciously naughty show consists of a series of eight monologues given by Santa’s reindeer. One of the reindeer has accused jolly St. Nick of sexual assault, and now the elite eight are sharply divided on the propriety of the allegations. No, not whether they’re true or not. But, rather, whether the victim should just keep her mouth shut and fly quietly into the night rather than tarnish the reputation of Kris Kringle given all the good he has done for so many children and reindeer throughout the ages.

One reindeer who isn’t drinking the Kool Aid, though, is Blitzen, played by Imani Lee Williams. A feminist of the first magnitude, she lands squarely on Vixen’s side and is prepared to boycott Christmas until such time as Santa is brought to justice. After all, reindeer have rights, don’t they?

No, apparently not even at the North Pole!

“Why are we treated like a piece of venison?” Blitzen laments.

“When we don’t believe rape victims, we tell women they’re not people, they’re property,” writes Huffington Post contributor Danielle Campoamor in a 2017 opinion piece titled “What Happens When We Don’t Believe Rape Victims.” Campoamor goes on to liken a woman’s body to a 2007 Chevy carelessly parallel parked on the side of the road. “So what if her window is shattered and her innards are stolen? She should have known better.”

Acknowledging that some of the elite eight and the press corps question Vixen’s veracity, Blitzen issues a sound rejoinder.

“Why would she throw her career away? A prank? PMS?”

If they go public, survivors of sexual assault know that they’ll forfeit their right of privacy. Every past  relationship and every decision in every other aspect of their lives will be scrutinized – as was the case with Anita Hill, Christine Blasey Ford and E. Jean Carroll.

Women who publicly accuse a man of rape even risk being branded a liar and prosecuted for filing false information with the police. One such case was so egregious that it became  the subject of a 2019 eight-part dramatization called Unbelievable, which was based on a story by The Marshall Project and ProPublica that won the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2016.

As we’ve seen with Black Lives Matter, sexual assault is a crime where the victim must have led a perfect life for them to have any chance of being believed. Most of us have imperfect recollections about even the most important moments in our lives, yet we expect the survivors of sexual assault and rape to recount the details of their assault with pinpoint precision. There is a neurobiological basis for gaps in memory by people who’ve undergone life-threatening trauma, yet any discrepancy in their stories automatically lands them with the estimated 2 to 8 percent who lodge false sexual assault reports.

“We generalize women as manipulative, conniving and vindictive so that we may save ourselves the headache of actual reality,” argues Campoamor.

These are “rape myths,” pure and simple, “and one of those is that women excessively exaggerate as victims, that they make things up, that there are misinterpretations,” states Soraya Chemaly of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project.

“And so … [our] culture in general attributes lying to women who come forward.”

“No,” Blitzen counters vehemently. “A reindeer has a right to her own body. When a doe says no, it means no.”

And it doesn’t matter that she invited the overtures, flirted, teased or initially consented.

“When a doe says no, it means no,” Blitzen reiterates in no uncertain terms.

She even has the right to change her mind.

“Blitzen is the radical, hardline feminist in the play,” observes Director Brett Marston. “She’s [advancing] a broader message about injustice – not just what Santa Claus did to Vixen, but what Santa Claus and men do to women worldwide.”

“Blitzen is fed up with doubters of women’s rights, stories, spaces, and circumstances,” Imani asserts. “She is an unwavering ally of Vixen because it’s simply disastrous how effective, ‘She’s lying,’, ‘She’s PMS’ing’ can be in the justification of sexual assault – especially that of a high-profile criminal.”

To underscore that characteristic, Marston staged Blitzen at a rally, where she’s marshalling protestors to the cause of justice.

At first, Marston wanted Blitzen to come across as extremely angry. But Imani Williams had a different take.

“Imani always digs for the truth,” says Marston. “When you have good actors, sometime the director just has to get out of the way. She took it down a notch and made it more conversational in spots, and it was just so powerful.”

The rationale for amping down the rhetoric is simple.

“Blitzen speaks against sexual assault as it relates not only to Vixen, but to herself,” Imani sagely opines. “The conversational tone makes it safe for Blitzen to reveal her story honestly.”

She also uses humor to make her point.

“Blitzen is an innately funny reindeer who finds herself in a very serious situation,” Imani expounds. “She uses humor tactfully in order to ridicule a system of beliefs and injustices – and as a way to process tragedy.”

The latter observation is further evidence of Williams’ uncanny ability to analyze and understand her character’s emotions and motivations.

“Imani’s intelligence as an actor makes her a joy to work with,” Marston concludes. “She’s one of those actors we’re going to be hearing from a lot in the future. One, she’s beautiful. Two, she’s extraordinarily talented. She has those good things going her way.”

And as a member of the class of 2023 at the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, she’s only going to get better and better. In 2012, the program was named one of the top 25 drama schools in the world by The Hollywood Reporter (and #18 in 2019), and at last listing it was ranked 6th among MFA acting programs in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. Imani was one of only 13 students who were chosen this year (out of more than a thousand candidates who auditioned nationwide) to participate in the elite three-year program, which culminates in a Master of Fine Arts degree. But it’s the training, workshops and performance opportunities that will land Williams among the top actors in the world. We can only hope she favors those of us who knew her when by continuing to appear locally every now and then.

But you can see Imani as Blitzen on December 11, 19 and 20. Go here for times and ticket information.

You will find all of Imani’s stage and other credits here.


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