Doors opened Tuesday, Sept. 8 to Harbach Theatre for the first performance of “Speak About It,” a performance-based event for freshmen about healthy relationships, consent and sexual assault.
Prior to this year, “Sex Signals” was performed for new student orientation to teach consent, but students’ desire for better sexual assault education initiatives prompted college administrators to reevaluate their consent workshops and performances.
Associate Dean of Students Laura Schnack worked with Title IX Coordinator Kim Schrader to find the new performance-based event. Schnack stated that the change is part of the college’s annual process to review and improve orientation week.
“Every year, we review our orientation programs to see if this is still the best model for us to use. Are these still the best programs? Are these still the best performances, companies, organizations to utilize,” Schnack said.
Schrader also noted that because of the growing need for sexual assault education on college campuses, there are now more options for performance-based presentations and workshops than ever before.
Senior Brya Johnson, who has attended every performance of “Sex Signals” for the past three years, thought “Speak About It” compared favorably.
“In my opinion, ‘Sex Signals’ kinda set the bar really low. I think it used humor way too much, and a lot of serious topics got glazed over. In comparison, ‘Speak About It’ actually spoke about more issues, and I like that they used real stories. I think it’s going to prompt a lot more dialogue.”
Co-Director of the Center for Intercultural Life Tiana Cervantez compared the portrayal of single or multiple scenarios and perspectives as one of the main differences between the two performances. The greater diversity of stories in “Speak About It” resulted in more positive responses.
“While [‘Speak About It’] was reminiscent of ‘Sex Signals,’ I think they were able to portray more scenarios. I think they were able to incorporate more gender identities,” Cervantez said.
To do this, the actors of “Speak About It” read real stories and accounts submitted by college students around the country.
Each of the actors read from notecards, even if some stories were already memorized from countless readings, to show that the performance wasn’t improvisational or fake. The stories touched on virginity, learning about one’s sexuality, long-distance relationships, hook-ups and rape.
“I think, personally, the monologues bring a sense of reality to the students,” actor Arthur Gomez voiced. “The students understand that this is an actual person, and that this is an actual story, and this is out there in the world, and they’re not alone in their experience.”
The monologues not only added more diversity to the event, something that the student body greatly requested, they also allowed for the performance to be structured in a way that eased freshmen into the conversation about sexual assault.
While the initial monologues were about healthy relationships and sex positivity, the last ones were about assault and abuse. The actors prefaced the last monologues by warning the audience that it was going to be harder to hear, but very important to understand.
“The fact that they started on sex positive conversations before they went to sexual assault also kind of helped show that there were so many different ways to have healthy and positive sex, and I think that that’s, as a community, something we’re trying to move towards,” Cervantez added.
“Speak About It” ended by talking about the healing process of survivors, sexual assault prevention and the idea that the conversations about healthy relationships and consent doesn’t end when the doors close.
“One thing that we’re advocates of is continuing dialogue. We hope that this show could reach a few [students], hopefully more than a few, and that it could inspire a future conversation,” actress Misha Lambert voiced.
Senior Rachael Morrissey is “cautiously hopeful” about the improvement of sexual assault initiatives on campus, but she also stated that “Speak About It” showed a step in the right direction.
After the performance, Morrissey went up to the stage to thank the actors for their work.
“We come to the front lines of the issue, but the student leaders and the students are the ones on the ground and sort of like in the trenches, so to speak,” actor Daniel Blackwell stated. “It’s like we bring them everything we can, and it’s up to them to continue it. We have a lot of respect for the students who are here every day.”