SExT is thrilled to be partnering with Ophea to deliver FREE theatre performances created and performed by youth for youth for GTA secondary schools connecting to H&PE, Drama and Language studies! Performances run May 10 – 26 at the Factory Theatre and a stipend is available to support transportation costs.
Limited spots still available! Sign your school group up now: https://www.ophea.net/node/6846
Nearly three years ago, I walked into one of Toronto’s most diverse and populated high schools with the crazy idea of making sex education more comprehensive, relevant, and impactful, by finding a group of youth willing to sing and dance about it. Last month, I sat next to the Premier of Ontario as we watched a group of the bravest and most dedicated humans I know sing and dance a packed house through everything from periods to chlamydia and homophobia to multiculturalism, eliciting belly laughs and quiet tears.
It is challenging to adequately articulate what the experience of creating and sharing SExT: Sex Education by Theatre has meant to me and the youth involved.
I could tell you about my first visit to Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute, located in an immigration destination of Toronto. How I asked a young male student what he thought of my idea and how he responded that no girl in this religious community would be willing to talk about sex. How his comment led me to a girls’ gym class where a young girl interrupted my spiel by shooting her hand up to say that she wanted in. How her enthusiasm spread throughout the class and how I filled every scrap of paper in my purse with the contact information of young women craving a space to talk openly about these issues, and maybe even sing about them. I could try to describe the feeling of seeing that same girl lighting up the stage three years later, confidently and poetically speaking her truths on mental health, racism, and challenging stereotypes.
I could tell you about the first application I read, written by a girl who spoke of an intense passion for dance, but a lack of access to training - a common issue in the community. How she wrote of teaching herself to dance and offering free dance lessons to other youth at the library. I could describe the joy in the room this summer, when a dancer from the Toronto Raptors came in as a guest artist. How that same girl took the lead on choreographing a cultural dance scene, created to showcase the beauty of diversity and the struggle of identity.
I could tell you how in one of our first workshops, I made the mistake of giving the teens free reign to create a scene on pregnancy options. How this error led me to develop a new, more structured drama exercise, challenging the youth to put themselves in the shoes of a pregnant teen, her mom, and boyfriend. How one charismatic boy volunteered to play the pregnant girl. How after that exercise, the students expressed new understandings and empathy for the perspectives of teen mothers and their parents.
I could tell you about the day every student insisted on staying late to ask as many questions as they could of the opposite gender. How I laughed to myself as I recalled the resistance I had encountered in insisting this program be open to all genders.
I could tell you about that week back in July 2014 when we pulled together our first performance. How I had been advised to expect a high drop-out rate and to accept 15 students into the program if I wanted a cast of 10. How I finished the school-year 19 students strong. How half of youth participants got full time jobs or enrolled in summer school, but not one dropped out. How one group would rehearse from 9 to 5, and the other group would come straight from a full day of work/school to rehearse into the late hours of the evening. How some students chose to stay for 12 hour days. How many of the youth were fasting at this time in observing Ramadan. How we lacked access to rehearsal space over the weekend, so the youth insisted on meeting in valleys and parking lots to rehearse, even in the pouring rain.
I could tell you about the message I received during frosh week from a young man saying that he “didn’t get laid” because of our consent scene. How his experience developing that scene gave him pause when it came to an encounter with a girl too intoxicated to consent. How the program played a role in helping another cast member leave a dangerous situation. How that same cast member insisted on courageously and safely channeling her experience into a song that, when performed at her high school, led another young girl in the audience to come forward to her teacher about an abusive situation.
I could tell you that I secretly shared the youth performers’ insecurities regarding how our performance would be received at their high school, among peers who didn’t choose to attend. How I watched as an audience of high school students laughed hysterically as Captain Condom and Hipster Herpes took the stage, muttered with recognition as a scene on homophobia at home was performed partially in Urdu, and debated passionately after a court case scene tackling consent was left open-ended. How a number of youth reported that this performance changed their views on gay and trans people and sexual assault. How all of this took place steps away from the hub of the protests opposing sex education reform in the wake of the first curriculum update in Ontario since 1998.
I could tell you about the feeling of having our show accepted into the Toronto Fringe and SummerWorks, two of Canada’s largest performance festivals. About finding out that I had been selected to receive a TD Michaëlle Jean Foundation Bursary to continue this work. How we received project funding from the Toronto and Ontario Arts Councils. How this funding provided the opportunity to expose the youth to a number of guest artists to enrich their development. How our little show took the big festival stage by storm, receiving rave reviews from established theatre critics (4 stars, Critic’s Pick, Best Ensemble - NOW Magazine; Exceptional Ensemble - The Torontoist) and was commended for bringing diversity to the Toronto stage and showing what young people are capable of. How the youth eloquently shared intimate insights into their personal challenges and triumphs with entire audiences in our post-performance question and answer periods. How a number of audience members reached out to express that the show “restored their faith in humanity” and “gave them hope” at a difficult time in our world. How one guy in the cast texted me to say thank you for “helping me do something that I am actually proud of.”
I could tell you how even after all of these experiences, our post-show celebration after the Premier’s attendance last month turned into an impromptu workshop. How one cast member hugged another as she described the homophobia she faces at home. How one-by-one, cast members at the table opened up about insecurities and romantic struggles. How each person’s story was met with support and advice from members of the SExT family we have now become, thanks to the power of art and open minds.
I could describe all of these experiences in detail. Maybe one day I’ll write a book…or better yet, actually write my PhD dissertation. But for now, I will leave you with this selfie of an inspired and empowered group of young people with Kathleen Wynne, the Premier of Ontario, taken seconds after our youngest cast member almost knocked the Premier over with her condom hat, and minutes after the Premier addressed the entire audience, exclaiming through tears that she agrees every student should experience this.
- Post by Shira Taylor, SExT Creator and Director
*This post was originally posted on Art For Social Change.
Before this show debuted at the Toronto Fringe, SExT had a few semi-private shows for the youth at Flemingdon Park. The scene that resonated the most with audiences was one about domestic violence, performed and created by Mary Getachew, Saad Ilyas, and Michelle Nyamekye. After one of these performances, a young audience member approached a teacher about that scene in particular and asked for help. I’d like to think there were more who also did the same.
The scene was originally performed with the song "How To Save a Life" by The Fray, which Mary sang and Saad and Michelle danced to. I spent some time with Mary breaking down the song and was inspired by how much she had to say. She was clearly connected to the song and as we dissected every line, I grew to realize how personal the topic of Healthy Relationships was to her.
In preparation for Fringe and Summerworks, Shira asked me if I knew how to obtain the rights to certain music that was used in the show, particularly "How to Save a Life". I thought, why give ourselves the headache? Why don't I write a song for Mary to sing - it would be an original song for the show and it would reflect her reality.
I approached Mary with the idea. I had no idea if she even felt comfortable talking to me, a stranger, about this topic that was very personal to her. I asked if she wanted to meet and just chat so I could ask her questions about what she wanted to say. "Do you write?" I asked in an email. "I have a feeling you must. Poetry, thoughts, essays ... I'd love to read what you are willing to share with me."
She wrote back and told me that she did in fact write and that she would send me some of her thoughts over the next few days. That weekend I received a page of free-flowing ideas about what it took to realize what an unhealthy relationship was. She described it as standing with your back against the wall and staring at your partner, facing away from everything you know and love and having that space form the reality you both rely on. At the bottom of this was another page of beautiful lyrics that I read over and over again. Here I was, thinking that I would have to extract a few of her ideas and come up with something when there was a song inside of her this whole time. It was powerful. I sat down with my guitar, created a melody, and showed it to her the next day.
How Mary interprets the song is something you must witness. This is her song and I wrote it for her voice. If you’ve seen the show, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Until we can get Mary in a proper recording studio, here’s a version of it with me singing (click the play button on the image below). I recorded it in my parents’ closet while I was at home visiting in Vancouver. Who knew that’s the best place to record at home?
One of the reasons why I think SExT is important is because kids need to recognize what healthy relationships and healthy expression of sex are. When they understand this, they are able to recognize when they are in a dangerous situation and feel empowered enough to ask for help. What I learned about the process of making "Tunnel Vision" was that if you give a young person the opportunity to speak, she will surprise you and she will teach you. Young people are not scared to talk about sex. WE are. It is our fault when youth are misinformed about what their rights are because we were too afraid to talk. Their perspective is powerful. All we need to do is ask and listen.
There are 4 shows left of SExT at the Toronto Fringe, including one tonight! See "Tunnel Vision" performed live along with other incredible original scenes created by this talented cast.
TORONTO FRINGE FESTIVAL
Annex Theatre - 730 Bathurst Street
July 6th at 7:00 PM
July 7th at 9:15 PM
July 9th at 2:15 PM
July 10th at 5:45 PM
- Post by Elena Juatco - Actor & SExT Creative Facilitator
SExT opens in two more days at the Toronto Fringe Festival! And just to whet your appetite, here's a brand new trailer! If you are curious as to what the "10 steps to putting a condom on" are, come see our show at the Annex Theatre and Beyoncé will give you the low down! Happy Fringe-ing everyone!
*Special thanks to Jacqueline Andrade for creating this awesome video!
Can we get a "HELL YA!" to all the female directors, writers and creators at this year's Fringe Festival?!
Thank you to Alysa Pires, Polynomials, and Derrick Chua for counting the 81 shows at this year's Fringe Festival written, created, directed, and choreographed by over 138 women!
Why is it important that we keep track of this? Last year the Globe and Mail cited under 35% of women in key creative roles in Canadian theatre with only 22% of female playwrights with productions in the previous season. Women account for less than 25% of Canada's produced playwrights even thought they form half the membership of Playwrights Guild of Canada.
And while the female voice is under-represented, women still form the majority of theatre-school graduates, support workers and audience members. Women are not the ones in control of their stories.
This is why the #FringeFemmeTO list is important. And I am proud to say that "SExT" is ON THAT LIST!
Here's a run down of the women with key creative and production titles in our show:
Our cast of 13 has 8 women of which 7 are also of a visible minority. The cast has also created this show with Shira Taylor, meaning these women are also writers and choreographers.
I've been directed by two women in my theatre career. I am actively looking for more women to work with because I can tell the difference when there is no female voice in the rehearsal hall. I have been shut down in rehearsals for "thinking about it too much" when I asked a question and then reassured with "the purpose of your character is to serve [male character's name here]'s storyline." I've read scripts that have offended me as a woman, particularly as a woman belonging to a visible minority. I've also experienced sexual harassment at work because a male director wanted me to understand "who this woman is". There was not a single woman on the creative team when this happened and nobody else made a complaint except me. I felt alone and quite frankly, powerless.
WE NEED MORE FEMALE DIRECTORS. WRITERS. CREATORS. It is my goal to prioritize all the shows on the #FemmeTO list ... it should be yours too! So take a look at the list below (as compiled by Derrick Chua) and Happy Fringe-ing!
A Bitter Shrew (late addition, replaces Soul’s Retrograde on p. 21). By Gillian English
A Good Death (p. 18). By Shelley Hobbs
A Lover Improper (p. 62). By Arianne Shaffer
A Thousand Kindnesses (p. 18). By Rachel Jury
All KIDding Aside (p. 18). By Christel Bartelse
Alpha Delta 86 (p. 50). By Kiva Murphy and Filipa Mendes
Angels & Aliens (p. 60). Co-written by Sydney Hayduk
Asiansploitation: Be More Pacific (p. 58). Co-written by Tiffany Kwan, Ellie Posadas
Birthday Cake (p. 62). By Sarah Marchand
Bright Lights (p. 14). By Kat Sandler
Cam Baby (p. 66). By Jessica Moss
Candy & Shelley Go to the Desert (p. 52). By Paula Cizmar
Common Ground (p. 54). By Susan Magerman and Michelle Brightman
Curious Contagious (p. 66). By Chloe Ziner and Jessica Gabriel
Damn Tank (p. 66). Co-written by Maaor Ziv
Dance Animal: Toronto (p. 14). With monologues by Robin Henderson, Kat Letwin, Allison Price, Carol Zoccoli. Created and choreographed by Robin Henderson.
Dario et la Diablesse: A Caribbean Musical (p. 24). Written by Sasky Louison
Daughters of Feminists (p. 74). Created / songs by Barbara Johnston, Suzy Wilde, Anika Johnson, Nancy White
Denmarked (p. 50). Adapted by Carina Gaspar
Downtown Jay (p. 11). By Joan Jamieson
Eraser (p. 74). Co-written by Christol Bryan, Deanna Galati, Victoria Gubiani
Everything Else Is Sold Out (p. 54). Co-written by Claire Farmer, Jessica Greco, Shannon Lahaie
Evolution / Mr. Truth (p. 26). Evolution choreographed by Angela Blumberg. Mr. Truth written by Lauren Gillis and Alaine Hutton
Exterminating Angel (p. 24). Choreographed by Alysa Pires
Falling Awake (p. 18). Co-written by Nayana Fielkov
False Start (p. 52). By Nicole Hrgetic
Far Away (p. 60). By Caryl Churchill, choreographed by Patricia Allison
For the Record (p. 72). By Shari Hollett
Fractals (p. 62). By Krista White
Game 7 (p. 58). Co-written by Magdalena BB
Getting Odd (p. 68). By Holly Wyder and Allison Harris
God of Carnage (p. 55). By Yasmina Reza
Happiness™ (p. 61). Co-written by Madeleine Boyes-Manseau
How May I Mate You? (p. 61). By Jenna Naulls, Kelsey Wilkinson and Kelsey Johnston
I Want to Be (p. 11). Book by Alex Karolyi. Music & Lyrics co-written by Lisa Sonshine
In Gods We Trust (p. 24). Co-written by Satinder Besrai, Kerri Salata, with further material co-written by Diane Baker Mason
(in)decision (p. 26). Co-written by Tamlynn Bryson
lza the Brave (p. 11). Co-written by Amaka Umeh, Jada Rifkin, Micaela Comeau, Maiza Dubhé, Samantha Chaulk, Sarah Marchand
Knots (p. 67). Co-written by Lucy Meanwell
Life After (p. 61). By Britta Johnson
Like a Fly in Amber (p. 15). By Karen Kelm
Little Fires (p. 67). Choreographed by Karíssa Fyrrar, Lucy Rupert
Little Pricks (p. 54). By Denise Norman
Lyricas Presents: Creature Slaying... (p. 55). Co-written by Elisha DiFabio
Man & Son: Ladies First (p. 55). By Felicity Penman and Carolyn Williamson
#MannequinGirl: The Musical (p. 50). By Eliza Blue Musselwhite in collaboration with Alyssa Minichillo
My silly yum! (p. 11). By Alexandra Montagnese and Gabriela Petrov
Perk up, pianist! (p. 20). By Sarah Hagen
Persephone (p. 55). Co-collectively created by Claren Grosz, Jacklyn Francis, Laura Hayes, Sydney Herauf, Keshia Palm, Sheree Spencer
Pirates Don't Babysit! (p. 12). By Barb Scheffler
Plays In Cates (p. 73). Co-written by Alex Karolyi, Sheila Toller
Promise and Promiscuity: A New Musical (p. 26). By Jane Austen and Penny Ashton
Rated R (p. 26). Choreographed by Aria Evans
Saor (Free) (p. 19). By Carlyn Rhamey
#scarecrow (p. 59). By Chantel McDonald
Scenes from Plays I Never Wrote (p. 61). By Greta Papageorgiu
Self-Exile p. 21). By Nisha Coleman
SExT (p. 51). Created by Shira Taylor
Shecky's Yoga Sequel (p. 72). Co-written by Shana Sandler
Silk Bath (p. 15). Co-written by Bessie Chang, Gloria Mok
Songbuster ·An Improvised Musical (p. 27). Co-created by Stephanie Malek, Ashley Comeau, Tricia Black, Alexandra Hurley
That Joyce Girl (p. 67). By Kate Cattell-Daniels
The End (p. 51). By Miriam Drysdale
The Fence (p. 27). By Anika Johnson, Barbara Johnston, Suzy Wilde, choreographed by Honey Frid, Danielle Devereaux
The Funky Punckies (p. 12). By Stavria Thalassi & Katarina Lazic
The Stage Manager's Guide to Dating Assholes (p. 15). By Scarlett Larry
The Unending - 3 short plays (p. 73). Co-written by Julie Tepperman
To Jane With Love (p. 25). By Deon Denton
Tonight's Cancelled (p. 51). Co-written by Stacey McGunnigle
True Blue (late addition, replaces Mieux Vaut Mourir Heureux on page 59). Co-created / improvised by Amy Matysio, Aurora Browne, Paloma Nuñez, Shanda Bezic, Jocelyn Geddie
(un)boxed (p. 51). Created by Jannine Saarinen, featuring the work of Jen Hum, Lisa Quaning, Jamee Valin
Waiting For Waiting For Godot (p. 25). Co-written by Molly McGregor
Wasteland (p. 27). Co-written by Kaitlin Morrow
Water Wonders (p. 75). By Cheryl McNamara
We Are XX (p. 63). By Rafia Salam, Anne Vo and Samay Arcentales
What?! You're A Medium?! (p. 53). By Carolyn Molnar
Wild/Society (p. 15). By Mika Laulainen
Wireless Connection (p. 25). Choreographed by Amy Adams, Kylie Thompson
Women (p. 51). By Chiara Atik
YellowZoned (p. 63). By Alia Ettienne
"Ze". queer as f*ck! (p. 21). By Michelle Lunicke
- Post by Elena Juatco - Actor & Creative Facilitator
Bo is a literal ray of sunshine. She made me feel as though I am this phenomenal undiscovered contemporary dancer. She was open to suggestions and fed off of some of the ideas we gave her for moves. Working with an amazing dancer who makes you feel good enough to be dancing her beautifully choreographed piece means more than words can properly express.
“Young people’s energy inspires me, revitalizes me, and reminds me of why I started doing the work that I love.” – Bo
If you're ever looking for a ray of sunshine who is an incredible dancer and an even more incredible
person, Bo is that person, and this is how I feel after just two days of working with her.
Thanks Bo, for bringing out the inner dance star in us!
- Post by Michelle Nyamekye, SExT Cast Member & Assistant Stage Manager
“Young people inspire me, challenge me, and continue to make me curious. This particular young cast are particularly inspiring since they are taking risks to share hot-button issues in an often funny, but always open-hearted way.” - Debora Joy
Debora Joy, (award-winning Toronto voice, singing and executive coach, who has taught the likes of Rachel. McAdams.), sat in on a mini-show we put on just before rehearsals last week, and provided us with an hour-and- a-half of incredible, incredible vocal work! Of the things she taught us in that session, here are three of the (many) things that jumped out to me:
1. Box Breathing for Nerves: Now this is a form of controlled breathing designed to calm your body’s natural response (the “Fight-or- flight” response). As someone with anxiety, I know this very well; as a performer, it never occurred to me that those breathing exercises could actually be the calming-push I need to get over the pre-show nerves. The more you know, right?
2. “Instant Forgiveness”: I’m a perfectionist, and this lesson is one I constantly forget. I was so grateful to be reminded that getting out of your head onstage is the only way to stay in the moment. Fumble a line? Forgive, and keep on! Miss a cue? Forgive and keep on! The show must go on, and the only way that happens is if the actors keep going on too.
3. “You’ve got what it takes”: This was a lesson gifted by way of a particularly powerful exercise that Deb ran with the group. As we all stood in a circle (after doing a variety of on-and- off-the-floor breathing exercises), she had everyone pick one of their own lines, and had us each say them to her. Without skipping a beat, she provided us all personalised feedback on how to deliver our lines better, and walked us through our lines again using that feedback. The take-away? We all definitely had everything we needed to deliver with a bang – we just didn’t know it (until the wondrous Deb highlighted it for us!)!
I’m always so appreciative of everyone who takes the time out of their schedules and lives in general to come and share their expertise and wisdom with us. Thank you so much, Deb; here’s hoping we see you soon (breathing in and out in the moment as we always should)!
- Post by Mary Getachew, SExT Cast Member & Assistant Social Media Coordinator
Wow. A mini-version of SExT was just performed at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute (MGCI) today (in light of Sexual Assault Awareness Week), and ya, pre-show nerves are natural and they’re nothing a good breathing exercise won’t cut through, but today? Today was something else. I don’t know where to begin to explain how important, re-inspiring and just plain successful today was. So here it goes:
We are a collective who are taking the stories and opinions and truths of our community and putting it out for the world to see, as we have intermittently these past two years. We advocate and essentially stand for our community, and much more: our peers. We do what we do because, ultimately, we want the information and messages we convey to be digestible. To be welcomed into schools, like ours.
For many of us in the cast, MGCI was at some point (for some still is) a stomping ground; it’s our high school. For others still, the neighbouring surroundings are home. One thing’s for certain: it’s a lot of familiar faces and people I’ve definitely crossed paths with (even just shoulder-checked in my rush to class).
So when you’re faced with putting on a show for the very people you are representing AND ALSO trying to reach your message to? Well, that puts a different kind of nerves in you. Will they like it? Will they laugh? Will they get us? Are we readable? Have we been doing our peers justice? On a personal level, my anxiety was through the roof. And yet, when I entered that library, and saw those familiar faces, I was nothing less than ready: ready to see our new cast members dip their feet into our well-acquainted waters, and ready to show my pseudo-home what I’d been doing for the last two years with this project.
As an original-and-ongoing cast member, I can’t explain to you how moving and exciting it was to see our recently-inducted cast not just shine, but become family in the oh-my-goodness-we-did-it high that comes after every show. But I wasn’t just stoked at their incredible performance; I was blown away by our reception. There were easily 50+ students and faculty present, and every single one of them were engaged and in the moment with us (our talk-back even consisted of healthy, heated debate around consent). All of our cultural markers resonated even deeper, and that rush of community came flooding back in a wash of nostalgia and just gratitude.
On top of that: Shira had chosen MGCI to be the home-base for her PhD, and for the first time, she was able to show her work’s worth within school walls; we, the former and current students and humans of the community, were able to show what the arts can do when combined with passion and a will to teach.
There’s something to be said about coming full circle, and, though I still can’t put words to it, I can safely say we did just that today.
Fringe and Summerworks? Get ready for us. This ball’s still rolling and we’ve just picked up some fresh steam.
Follow us @SExTEdShow / #SExTEd
- Post by Mary Getachew, SExT Cast Member & Assistant Social Media Coordinator
Rehearsals are well into swing and the cast is now preparing for their upcoming show at Marc Garneau Collegiate for Sexual Violence Awareness Week. From time to time, we have guest artists come in to teach some workshops and this past Friday it was all about Improv with Second City's Josh Murray.
"Honestly I find today's youth hilarious. They've only been exposed to a new world that is so rapidly changing and their views on life are refreshing and often downright funny." - Josh Murray.
Eye Contact. Be Engaging. Focus.
Three things the cast will be applying to their work and to their lives.
Thanks Josh for coming to visit SExT and for telling us to jump in, to try something new, and to listen to each other. And thanks again for the laughs!
- Post by Elena Juatco, SExT Creative Facilitator
Welcome to the SExT blog!
This is where we share our insights and stories about sex, healthy relationships, and getting our show from the rehearsal hall to opening night. Contributors include SExT collaborators and cast members.
We want YOU to contribute!
Have a great idea for a blog post? We want to hear from you! Email us here!