“Price of an Education,” which replaced “Sex Signals” from previous years, was eagerly awaited by freshmen, welcome week leaders and residence life staff alike. When everyone filed into Stansbury Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 11, attendees were expecting a show that would be an “entertaining, yet informative series of comedic and dramatic scenes woven together with factual information,” as described by the welcome week schedule.
While the show was meant to be comedic and educate first-years about experiences they may encounter during their years at college, few laughed during the presentation and many students had to leave because they were so uncomfortable. The show was not appropriate for Lawrence because it failed to meaningfully educate the audience about the topics they presented and because the examples they used in their skits were too black and white.
The scenarios dealt with topics of drug use, rape, alcohol, depression, safe sex and eating disorders. They were presented in a narrative given by an actor describing their experience, while the other three actors faced away from the audience. Rather than explaining how students can help themselves or their peers get through each struggle, an actor explained what it felt like to be in their situation.
“Watching someone on stage mimic putting a gun to their head and scream about pulling the trigger and how someday they’ll ‘prove to their friends that they’ll actually do it’ is not at all how we should be discussing suicide,” said Taylor Dodson, head Residence Life Advisor in Colman Hall.
“There was no discussion of how to help someone through such a difficult time, or of what resources can be acknowledged in a situation like that,” she explained. By witnessing an actor describing what it is like to go through depression, the room felt uncomfortable and did not leave equipped with the right tools to resolve that discomfort.
During much of the presentation, scare tactics were used rather than educating students about making smart choices. One of the skits presented a woman who had sex with her partner using a condom, but became pregnant anyway, causing her partner to leave her.
The example was followed up with another actor explaining that there is “no such thing as safe sex, only safer sex,” and presented a statistic about condom effectiveness that included the misuse of condoms rather than educating students how to use contraceptive measures correctly.
In a college setting where most of the students are legal adults and able to make their own smart, educated decisions about sex, the use of scare tactics and preaching for abstinence was not only inappropriate but laughable. The skit did not present any information about making smart choices, and made it hard to take their presentation seriously.
The skit that dealt with rape was problematic because it did not address any discussions relating to consent, and it potentially scared students with an extreme example of rape. It was incredibly troubling to hear the actress describe a situation in which she was taken advantage of by an aggressive pursuer even though she had said “no,” without any discussion about consent.
In addition, the rape and alcohol skit were tied together, almost as though they were putting some of the blame on the victim for being in a setting where alcohol was involved. Presenting this type of scenario without having a discussion about what consent is, that only a “yes” counts as consent and that consent cannot be given when intoxicated was completely unacceptable.
Most victims of rape have been pursued by a person that they know, and giving the audience a black and white example of what it means to be raped could potentially prevent students from seeking help if they felt they had been in an unsafe situation.
At the end of “Price of an Education,” the playwright gave audience members a chance to speak up and offer any questions or comments they had. No one had any questions, since they were in a hurry to leave the uncomfortable aura in the room.
I felt incredibly saddened for anyone who had personally struggled through situations related to the ones presented, and what they must feel like reliving them while they were being shown on stage. While the actors and playwright had good intentions, the lack of information provided in the skits was unsettling.
Next year, I would much rather see “Sex Signals,” or any other alternative, during Welcome Week. The show addressed topics that are beneficial for incoming freshman to be knowledgeable and aware of, but the dark display of these topics is not suited for students adjusting to a new environment and learning about the social climate of Lawrence.