When Marisa Emma Smith began planning for Alley Theatre’s workshop production of #whatnow (a live documentary creation in response to #metoo) running July 18 to 27 at the ANNEX, she knew she wanted to engage audiences differently than she’d ever done before.
She started by reaching out to friend and former Alley Theatre board member Tanille Geib, who works as a sex educator and “consent captain” in Victoria. “Tanille and I talked about how to make sure the audience feels supported and able to respond when we bring up stories that could be potentially triggering,” says Smith. “We started brainstorming and soon it was clear that she should come on board as our official post-performance facilitator.”
The performance portion of the evening will be less than an hour in order to give audiences the chance to engage with the question “what now?” after the performance. Alley Theatre also feels that it’s important that audience members can respond in whatever way feels best for them. “Maybe it’s writing a message to one of the survivors whose story was shared in the performance. Maybe it’s sharing their perspective in a talking circle. Or maybe it’s just sitting quietly with one of our emotional support workers. Whatever it is, we want the atmosphere to be warm, inviting, and inclusive.”
Another element that provides specific support for audiences, are “gender-specific” performances. On July 25, the show will be presented for a female-identifying audience only, and on July 26 for a male-identifying audience only (both shows are inclusive of cis, trans, non-binary, and two-spirit audience members).
This idea came to Marisa after feeling the vulnerability of female-identifying survivors who might encounter the performance and appreciate an all-female environment. “I also noticed that it seems quite hard for men to engage with this subject without feeling like they might say the wrong thing, take up too much space, or be condemned if they admit to harm they might have done in the past. So I wanted to create a space for them to feel included and supported in the conversation, too. If I’ve learned anything from the interviews I’ve been doing over the past year, it’s that we can’t move forward unless we include all genders in this conversation. And sometimes that means providing a safer space for them to engage.”
Alley Theatre’s evening for male-identifying audience members will be facilitated by David Hatfield. David has explored male identity and masculinity issues with over 20,000 men and boys nationally and internationally since 1998. He is the Canadian Coordinator for International Men’s Day, and is the founder of Vancouver’s ongoing workshops for men, Manology: Exploring 21st Century Masculinity.
In addition to post-show engagement, Alley Theatre is also presenting two community workshops in tandem with #whatnow on July 22 and 23. Hosted by Good Night Out Vancouver and Tanille Geib, the workshops entitled “Bystander Intervention” and “Cultivating Connection and Pleasure through Enthusiastic Consent,” take a hands-on, proactive approach to forwarding the #metoo conversation free of judgement. Find more info on Facebook.