PORTLAND — Sex is a part of college life. Speak About It, a Portland-based theater company, is inspiring important conversations on campuses across the country.
Starting in 2009 at Bowdoin College, Speak About it brings a custom performance to each college. Issues addressed by the show pertain to sexual assault, but in a way that the college audience can relate to.
“This isn’t ‘here’s how you put a condom on a banana,'” said program producer, writer, and director Shana Natelson. “Everyone’s talking about sex but a lot of the education is outdated from high school. Or people get their ideas about sex from porn. We just want people to be responsible. We want people to talk about it in a healthy way. We want to have a conversation about having a conversation about having sex.”
The show’s content prepares incoming freshmen by presenting situations that they may find themselves in and offering healthy advice on how to navigate them. Subjects include sexual consent, waiting for marriage, how to intervene on behalf of a friend, and pickup lines.
The one-hour performance is a combination of skits, dialogue, and monologues with the material based on true stories solicited from actual students. Each show is tailored to the location, incorporating knowledge of food haunts, late night hangouts and culture from the area.
Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine has trained the performers, most of whom are peer educators. There are five roles that have been filled by 12-15 different actors. The current cast is Ellen Amirol, of Boston; Shana Natelson and Benjamin Row, both of Portland; and Amanda Blaicher and Joe McLeod, both of Scarborough.
The show is well-suited to college fall orientations but Natelson said they can perform it year-round. This year’s tour will bring them as far as the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. and as near as the University of Southern Maine.
Natelson also expressed the desire to modify the content for outgoing high school seniors sometime in the future.
Speak About It will perform an open dress rehearsal 8 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, at Bard Coffee, 185 Middle St., Portland. There is a suggested donation of $5.
The cast of Speak About It during rehersal.
Shana Natelson, Speak About It producer, writer and actor