How to Defend Yourself Liliana Padilla, Ayad Akhtar

Yale Drama Series
Publication date:
27 Oct 2020
Yale University Press
160 pages: 229 x 140 x 11mm
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A Yale Drama Series-winning play about self-defense, desire, and healing in the aftermath of a college rape

Seven college students gather for a DIY self-defense workshop after a sorority sister is raped. They practice using their bodies as weapons. They wrestle with their desires. They learn the limits of self-defense.
This new play by writer, director, actor, and community builder Liliana Padilla explores the intersection of sex, community, and what it means to heal in a violent world. Padilla shows how learning self-defense becomes a channel for these college students’ rage, anxiety, confusion, trauma, and desire. The play examines what one wants, how to ask for it, and the ways rape culture threatens one’s body and sense of belonging.
It is the thirteenth winner of the Yale Drama Series prize and the second one chosen by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Ayad Akhtar.

Liliana Padilla makes stories about belonging, healing, and transformation. How to Defend Yourself premiered at the Humana Festival and Victory Gardens Theatre and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. Liliana received an MFA in playwriting from UC San Diego.

“Padilla outlines the mysterious absences that rule our inner lives, give shape to our fantasies, and serve as the troubled conundrums around which our very identities come into being.”—Ayad Akhtar, from the Foreword

"How To Defend Yourself is a fierce, blazingly honest, deeply original play. It asks what it means to live in a culture saturated with violence, and what it means to heal." —Naomi Iizuka, Playwright

“Liliana is one of the most thoughtful and penetrating new voices I’ve encountered, and How to Defend Yourself took my breath away. It scratches at the edges of race, class, and gender, and does so with wild intelligence and heart. I love it, and can’t wait to read what they write next.”—Rachel Chavkin, Director