Stares and Stairs


Stares and Stairs group


Stares and Stairs was a performance activism group formed in January of 2016 by Morgan Grady-Benson ‘18, Chi Chi Chang ‘18, Nell Sather ‘19, and Liz Dunn ‘18. After taking Lida Winfield’s J-term class, “Radical Humanity: Performance and Social Activism,” this group of students decided to challenge the culture of sexual assault on Middlebury’s campus through performance activism. Their estimated 10-12 performances between winter 2016 and spring 2018 took place in active party spaces; Atwater Suites, Social Houses, the Spring Concert, and an attempted performance at the Rites of Spring [An invite-only party held every spring by Middlebury’s secret societies/fraternities]. During performances four “performers” would stand spread out on a flight of stairs, in various states of undress, handprints in purple paint on their skin, not engaging verbally with those passing by and holding signs that read “I’m not asking for it,” “I’m still not asking for it,” and “Sexual assault leaves a mark.” Accompanying the “performers” were the “bodyguards” who engaged with audience members, managed their reactions in order to maintain a safe environment, and passed out slips of paper that gave information about the group, educational materials, and the date and time of their routine post-performance debrief and reflection discussion.

Collection Items

Pictures of Attempted Performance at Rites of Spring
These are pictures of the Stares on Stairs group outside of the alpaca farm that was hosting Rites of Spring [An invite-only party held every spring by Middlebury’s secret societies/fraternities]. The group attempted to perform at this event and were…

Poster for Stares on Stairs Art Exhibit, "The Little Things."
This is a poster for "The Little Things," a collaborative exhibit at M Gallery created by Stares and Stairs. This event was an attempt to bring awareness to the parts of a survivor's experience that often go unacknowledged and create a space for…

General Script for "Bodyguards" During Performances
This is a general script for the "bodyguards" in the Stares and Stairs instillation. This instruction was part of a training that all participants did before performing.

Informational Slips for Stares and Stairs Performances
These slips were passed out by the "bodyguards" during all Stares and Stairs instillations. They contain information about the group, useful recourses, and the date/time of their routine post-performance discussion.

Campus Article: "Performance Art Piece Raises Awareness of Sexual Assault"
This is a news article published in the Middlebury Campus on May 12, 2016 and written by Elizabeth Zhou. This article discusses the goals and impacts of Stares on Stairs, which was still relatively new at the time.

Stares and Stairs Facebook Page
This is a link to the Stares and Stairs Facebook page. The group used this page to share information, photos, and reflections about their performances.

Stares and Stairs Official Website
Want to understand the goals behind Stares and Stairs and the experience of performing? Want to hear about the reactions of students walking by? This is a link to the Stares and Stairs website. This website includes performer accounts and…

Stares And Stairs Blog Post: "The Atwater Staircase: Performance Activism"
This was the first blog post Stares and Stairs posted to their website on February 2, 2016. This post lays out the origin and goals of the group.

Stares And Stairs Blog Post: "The Guy Who Raped Me Saw Me Half-Naked (and I liked it)*"
This blog post lays out the experience and reflections of an anonymous performer who came face to face with her rapist while performing outside of the Spring Concert. Stares and Stairs posted this to their website on April 11, 2016.

Stares And Stairs Blog Post: "Photos from Past Performances"
This blog post includes photos from multiple instillations, and depicts the way that performers were dressed, spread out on the stairs, and paired with "bodyguards." Stares and Stairs posted this to their website on April 11, 2016.
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