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Plenary Session 15th International Conference of the Arts in Society: Charlotte McIvor

Towards Efficacy and Beyond: Understanding the Impact of the Active Consent Programme’s "The Kinds of Sex You Might Have in College"

Media embedded June 24, 2020

This presentation engages the Active Consent programme team’s inaugural Irish national university theatre tour of their original play, The Kinds of Sex You Might Have in College, co-created with college students and in development since 2014. The Active Consent Programme works with young people to shine light on grey areas regarding sexual consent and provide practical skills through interactive workshops, engagement with multimedia materials, and ongoing research into sexual attitudes and behaviours across Ireland.

The Kinds of Sex You Might Have in College turns the Active Consent Programme’s core messages into a live theatrical event aimed at college-age audiences and toured throughout Ireland in 2019-2020. It is a play about what you want, how you want it, if you want it and what happens when you don’t. Performed by an energetic ensemble of actors who play multiple roles, this theatrical performance brings audiences through a range of sketches that dramatize sexual scenarios and viewpoints that individuals may encounter during college life. Tackling experiences from across all genders, all relationships and all sexualities (or as many of them as we could fit into one hour), The Kinds of Sex You Might Have in College combines humour, satire and drama to share diverse experiences.

The Active Consent Programme’s use of live theatre as one of the project’s key interventions tests the efficacy of performance in expanding and changing audiences’ sexual attitudes and reported behaviour. This presentation will reflect on the learning and data collated from the 2019-2020, drawing on audience feedback forms and the acting company and creative team’s experiences on the road. Can a single artistic intervention exert enough force to contribute meaningfully to cultural attitude changes around consent, sexual assault and rape across all genders, all sexualities and all relationship? What analytical tools do we need to develop to answer that question, or are we missing the point? And how might theatre’s ancient Greek origins as an act attempting a representational microcosm of democracy in process through the gathering of performers and audiences be a crucial touchstone for developing the kind of analytical tools necessary to assess this project and its impact on attitudes towards sexuality and sexual violence?

Charlotte McIvor, Lecturer, Drama and Theatre Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

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  • Alison Bennett
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