Raw Matter Project takes on new Ontario sex ed. curriculum on stage in Toronto.
This morning, I unfolded the program from the Idle Lessons workshop at lemonTree Studios last night. It’s handwritten in purple pen on looseleaf paper, contains… most of the information I need to write my review, and is folded into the sort of intricate packet that was our only reference point for “information security” back in Grade 7. The program perfectly epitomizes the workshop itself: clever, bold, frolicsome, a bit uneven, and—while not fully cooked—quite promising.
Raw Matter Project is a performance collective of young theatremakers from Toronto, and their inaugural production Idle Lessons has taken on no less a topic than the controversy surrounding the new Ontario sex education curriculum. Because of their early-20s age cluster, they’re all young enough to still have some recent memory of their education under the 1998 version of the curriculum, but also old enough to have had at least a few sexual encounters, er, under their belts, making this production an excellent exercise in starting with what you know.
Never boring and quite obviously honestly felt, the piece skipped along through the ages at which benchmarks have been set for things like naming body parts, introduction to LGBT families, STI prevention, contraception, and so forth.
My favourite parts of the performative section of the performance (bear with me) were the moments when each of the characters, in turn, addressed the audience regarding some concern or difficulty in their sexual development, and how they felt the old curriculum had failed them (therefore contributing to or causing that issue). If I were their dramaturg, I probably would have encouraged them to also talk about some of their joys and pleasures in sex and sexual discovery, and express how those things could be incorporated into the curriculum as well, but that might be as much me in my parent and sex educator hat as me in my theatre reviewer hat.
The entire collective is Nicole DeAngelis, Eric Rich, Elyssia Sasaki, Spencer Schunk , Rebecca Hooton, Wes Reibeling, Alanna Dunlop. The program, though adorable, fails to specify who did what and so all I cam tell you is that some of those people did the performative part, and some the non-performative part.
In the non-performative part, a narrator/facilitator gave us some context, which I mostly could have lived without, and some instruction about consent, which I really enjoyed. The show contained a few methods for explicitly giving consent to see things or participate in various ways, which mostly felt like great modelling. I would have preferred to make an informed choice about seeing/not seeing naked people when I chose my seat—mid-show, with no empty seats anywhere, it was just too awkward to manage. That said, the idea that theatre could be made with a choice to NOT see the naked person if one didn’t care to was really quite excellent.
There were some bumps and missteps along the way, certainly, and some of the complexity of the situation got smoothed over or leeched out in a way that’s understandable but could have been better. But naked bums and drag queen mums and The Goddess Clitoris all in one hour meant that I sure wasn’t bored.
I’ll be interested to see what Raw Matter manages in the future. Their high-energy, generative method seems perfect for taking on timely social issues. Half of me hopes they refine this work and show it again, while the other half hopes they show it for the week and then make something new about…something new. Check these youngsters out.
- Idle Lessons plays at lemonTree studios, 58 Stewart Street, until May 9th
- Shows are 8pm each night, with a 2pm matinee on Saturday.
- Tickets are Pay What You Can, and may be purchased can be purchased at http://idlelessons.brownpapertickets.com/ or by calling 647-999-6863.
Photo provided by the company