The #ACW2017 Blog Series
This is the third blog in a series written by community-engaged arts practitioners, thinkers, and change makers from a range of backgrounds. These blogs are meant to offer perspectives to provoke and inspire, to challenge, and to enrich the national conversation around art for social change (ASC).
We hope this series will seed thinking and discussion and give you an enticing sampler, avant goût, of the conversations leading up to, and during The Art of Changing the World (ACW) 2017, in Ottawa, November 3-5.
>>> See more details about our ACW 2017 gathering, registration, and the ACW 2017 program!
SExT: Sex Education by Theatre came together because of Shira Taylor, a PhD candidate out of the University of Toronto, deciding to focus her thesis on using the arts to give youth the tools, information and voices they need to educate themselves and each other on the various topics of Sex Ed. More importantly, SExT gave my community (Toronto’s Thorncliffe/ Flemingdon Park) the chance to decide what was important to us, and how we wanted to communicate those learnings back to our community.
Before SExT: Sex Education by Theatre, I was an immigrant whose only access to Sex Ed was via a volunteer opportunity I had to seek out. I wasn't informed of my rights. I wasn't informed of what consent constitutes or how complex it can be (e.g. when inebriation of any kind is thrown into the mix). I wasn't informed on how to stay safer.
I was young, in high school, and wanted to perform. It's all I've ever wanted to do: be on stage. I didn't have the prerequisites when I got to Canada to join grade 12 drama, so I settled for volunteering and engaging in as many opportunities as I could. Then, along came SExT - this incredible opportunity to perform and incorporate teaching folks all the things I had to work to learn. Joining was so easy and so obvious a choice to me!
I anticipated having fun and giving folks something to think about. What I didn't expect was the response: so many youth and adults had no idea about so much of our content, like the fact that there are 10 steps to putting on a condom, or that people can be in abusive relationships regardless of age, demographics, orientation and/or gender. It showed me that there is so much work to be done, and it showed me how incredible the arts were for facilitating that work.
On a more personal note, I learnt that I could write. I could make art out of my experiences and pain and use it to help others, and myself. I rewrote our original abusive relationships scene to reflect my own experience, and was even helped in creating a song and dance to it (watch “Tunnel Vision” below), to better tell my story as a survivor of domestic abuse. To watch crowd after crowd, adult after adult, and most touchingly, student after student open up to and relate to a piece I thought would never see the light of day? It makes me feel like some nightmares are designed to make your dreams bigger, and purposeful.
I'm stronger, and much more aware of myself and my life and my goals now, and it's in no small part thanks to projects like SExT. I’m very excited to participate, engage with and learn from this Art of Changing the World Gathering; in particular with the Reconciliation and Hope segment. I’m ready to learn what allyship can and should look like from a settler-perspective, and I’m thrilled to be able to do so!
Tunnel Vision - Mary Getachew & Elena Juatco
Mary Getachew is a George Brown College Social Service Worker graduate, a future University of Toronto Sexual Diversity Studies student and a current cast member of SExT. They are a singer, songwriter, actor and dancer, and go by they/them and she/her pronouns.
SExT: Sex Education by Theatre was created by ASC! research coordinator and doctoral candidate, Shira Taylor, to explore the use of theatre for sex education among youth in a community of Toronto where sexuality is a cultural taboo. Since 2014, SExT has performed for high schools, community events, and theatre festivals, including the 2016 Toronto Fringe and SummerWorks (4 stars & Critic’s pick - NOW Magazine; Outstanding Ensemble - The Torontoist) and for over 1000 high school students in May 2017. More at www.sexeducationbytheatre.com and on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter @SExTEdShow.
Photo by Dahlia Katz featuring Mary performing the original song, “Tunnel Vision,” about intimate partner violence, accompanied by Amen on guitar and featuring dancers, Saad and Michelle.