It began as a day job.
Nearly three years ago a friend sent me a job posting from Planned Parenthood Ottawa. They were looking for someone with a background in theatre and sexual health to take over as the co-ordinator of a youth-focused program called Insight Theatre. I had just left my job as a vibe peddler/workshop facilitator at Venus Envy, so I was in need of a new gig. The job description was an almost eerie amalgamation of my very specific skill set. It definitely felt like one of those universe-sending-me-a-message type moments and so I updated my resume, carefully crafted a cover letter and submitted my application.
Happily, I was granted an interview. Then I almost missed said interview when I blew out a bike tire on my way downtown. I arrived sweaty, frazzled and nearly an hour late. Lucky for me the powers that be at PPO appreciate adorkable, because despite my ruffled first impression they offered me the job. The best job I have ever had.
Insight Theatre, in a nutshell works like this:
Every summer, high school youth from across Ottawa audition to be part of Insight Theatre’s new season. Those who are accepted join our training program where they receive a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education from some of the best community facilitators in the city. They also receive top of the line drama coaching (our current coach is none other than Evolution Theatre Head Honcho, Chris Bedford).
By the end of the summer the new troupe members have evolved into fledgling sexpert thespians, who have channeled their knowledge into a series of theatrical scenes about topics which include: healthy relationships, communication, sexual orientation, abstinence, sexually transmitted infections, consent, sexual violence, gender identity, pregnancy options, safer sex and more!
Once the school year begins the youth attend rehearsals multiple times a week. They take the scenes they’ve created during the summer and use them as the basis for a production. They fine tune their work, honing in on what they feel will be the most relevant lessons for their peers. By November, they’ve made a show. They’re very own show of which they are the writer, producers and stars.
From November to May, the Insight troupe tours, performing and sharing the information they’ve acquired with students in senior elementary and high schools around the city. And me? A lot of my job involves sitting in the back of an auditorium feeling proud. I watch the audiences. Teens don’t always listen to their parents, their teachers or even their doctors when it comes to information about sex. But they listen to each other. The youth at Insight shows listen to our performers…because they’re youth too. They are creative, committed, intelligent, open-minded, open-hearted, generous people. Their passion for education never fail to inspire me. I’d probably be wise to exercise some professional detachment. But these kids are too awesome. I’ve loved every one I’ve worked with over the past three years. Every spring when the season ends, I cry.
But the tears can wait this year. Insight Theatre is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary and before we say good-bye, there’s going to be a big fundraising party to say “thank you” to the many, many, MANY people who have been part of this program over the years. If you’re in the Ottawa area, you should come – eat some food, get your dance on and see a show the like of which ye have never seen!
It began as my day job. Now teaching people about sex is what I do. And I learned how from the extraordinary, incomparable youth of Insight Theatre.
Insight Gala tickets are $50 ($20 for students and lower income guests). For more information check out the writing beside this cool dude in the hoodie!