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.
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