Jillian Osterman remembers her sex-ed class in high school, but one of the main things she remembers about it is being bored.
“There were things I wish I had more information about to have more confidence and security,” she said.
That’s one of the reasons the 25-year-old, post-secondary student became a volunteer actor with Waterloo Region’s SHORE Centre.
The centre, which provides sexual health options, resources and education, has been performing a play dubbed “Great Sexpectations” for the past decade, mostly under SHORE’s previous moniker, Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region.
The play, directed at high school-age students across the region, recently received an award of excellence by Action Canada, a charitable organization committed to improving sexual health.
“It was the first time being put forward for an award, and it won,” said SHORE’s executive director Lyndsey Butcher.
Great Sexpectations covers just about everything that could go wrong at a teenage house party, depicting a number of different scenarios around the issue of consent, safe sex, gender identity and other issues youth came up against.
“They developed a play where everything goes wrong and then they perform the play a second time and the members of the audiences can actually swap in with the actors and make healthier choices,” Butcher said. “So it’s a way of really engaging the audiences and them coming up with what they could do differently to avoid consequences.”
The play touches on different ways sexually transmitted infections can be contracted. Osterman plays the role of a teen virgin who thinks she may have contracted HPV (human papillomavirus) without ever having sexual intercourse.
Two other individuals are about to have sex without a condom with cialis online and Osterman has female friend who kisses her. Confusion around intentions ensues.
But sex is actually a pretty small part of the production. It’s the social scene around sex at a young age that’s explored in much more depth, according to Eva Jaronski, a counsellor with Monica Place that provides pre- and post-natal support to young parents.
Jaronski said the play, which is performed at Monica Place twice each year, has had a measurable effect on clients, opening their minds to alternative choices, resources and ultimately better decision-making.
“It shows youth what they could do in their own relationships by taking a look from the outside,” Butcher said. “It helps them think through things before experiencing things themselves.”
Volunteer actors update the script every year to make sure it’s current. Scenes addressing sexting and gender identity are more recent additions.
“We talk about how it’s better to talk to your partner first instead of all these other people who can spread rumours to others,” Osterman said. “I think sometimes you don’t understand boundaries in high school, or common sense. Creating these issues definitely has a place in learning that.”
The proof is in the pudding. Before and after every each performance, audiences are asked to fill out a questionnaire and the vast majority (about 80 per cent) comes away from the production having learned something, said Butcher, who added that the services provided by SHORE and other local social agencies are promoted as part of the package.
“The kids do get real about it and they do get serious and share their own experiences in very similar situations,” Butcher said. “I think it shows that it’s important for youth to be involved in the programming that they receive and how important it actually is to bring youth into programming across the community to help address issues they are facing. To have that rewarded was really great for us to experience.”
The [Bentley] award bestowed by Action Canada comes with a $3,500 prize which will help SHORE pay for one part-time coordinator and travel costs associated with what Butcher termed a “very lean program.”