Today Beyoncé taught me how to put on a condom, a penis-headed Cat in the Hat educated me on STDs, and I will never watch Frozen the same way again. This is SExT: Sex Education by Theatre, from the Moo With Me Collective, where it is the teens’ turn to talk at the Toronto Fringe Festival.
SExT began life as dissertation research for creator and director Shira Taylor’s doctorate, where she wanted to explore the use of theatre for sex education with the youth in Toronto’s Flemindgdon Park and Thorncliffe neighbourhoods; communities that were designated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas, immigration destinations and places where protests occurred during the recent sex education reform of the first Ontario curriculum update since 1998.
What followed were conversations and collaborations between local professional theatre artists and young people, facilitated by Taylor, where they safely discussed issues they have identified in their communities including consent, homophobia, racism and cyber bullying, and created an hour of educational, entertaining and thought-provoking sketches, songs, spoken word and dance.
And it is very funny. Captain Condom, the aforementioned penis-hatted Dr Seuss character, brought in his band of STIs to tell us the importance of protection. Consent was explained in the context of ‘Netflix and Chill’ where TV = sex; if a person falls asleep watching a TV show should you carry on watching? No. Finish the episode on your own in the shower. Even in a powerful poem about stereotyping there was a collective belly laugh from the audience.
The humour is balanced with seriousness, where a poem about mental illness, an awesome spoken word on the Sex Ed Bill and a heart-wrenching song with choreography on domestic abuse affected the audience, leaving us hanging on every word. Within the context of the history of the project, and knowing these are specific issues these teens want to share and discuss with their audiences, you are that more attentive and they resonate so much more than any textbook or PSA.
SExT isn’t children’s theatre as I have experienced it – people too old to be wearing unitards rapping to sixteen year olds about the importance of personal hygiene (though personal hygiene IS important, TTC patrons). But rather it is young people passionately and sincerely addressing the problems they notice and care about, and imploring the audience to be active with them in spreading and addressing their concerns. Their unity as a cast is strong and helps to convey their messages; I heard so many audience members saying how much they learned about sex ed from the show, myself included!
It is a fine example of using art and theatre to invoke discussion and hopefully change, and the young and especially the old should see it.
- SExT plays at the Annex Theatre. (736 Bathurst St)
- Tickets are $12 at the door and in advance. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Fringe Club at Honest Ed’s Alley, and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Content Warning: Mature Language.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible provided you arrive early (at least ~20 minutes) and notify the House Manager you require an accessible route.
- Wednesday June 29th, 08:45 pm
- Saturday July 2nd, 05:45 pm
- Sunday July 3rd, 12:30 pm
- Wednesday July 6th, 07:00 pm
- Thursday July 7th, 09:15 pm
- Saturday July 9th, 02:15 pm
- Sunday July 10th, 05:45 pm
Photo of the cast taken by Fiona Saunder