By Juan A. Ramirez, arts & entertainment editor
A new work of experimental theatre that seeks to ignite the conversation on sexuality has been born and bred at Northeastern University this summer. “The Sex Myth,” adapted from Rachel Hills’ nonfiction book, premiered on Wednesday, June 22.
“Rachel broke down a lot of assumptions I’d made about sex and the hookup culture around me,” Hanne Larsen, the rising senior theater major who adapted the book, said. “One in five college students have never actually hooked up at all. Hearing that statistic made me go, ‘Oh, not everyone is having sex around me.’”
Larsen, who also co-stars in the production, was interested in the book’s exploration of what is commonly called “hookup culture”–one that believes and encourages casual, uncommitted sex. After being awarded an Advanced Research/Creative Endeavor Provost’s Award from the university, Larsen decided to translate what fascinated her about the book into a devised theatre piece, meaning the script is developed by a creative team rather than an individual.
“The play is a little free-form and experimental but still deals with ideas from the book,” Larsen said. “I had the cast read the book before starting work on the play and everyone had so many moments of realization. For each person there was something a little more pertinent to them than to others.”
The production is mainly structured around monologues, all inspired by the cast members’ personal experiences but related to the original work by Hills. Working closely together since its inception, the cast collaborated on creating a piece that felt fresh and relevant to their college peers.
“It’s not like we’re all obsessed with sex, but it is an interesting topic for most people to explore in this way,” Connor O’Brien, a rising junior theater major, said. “The stigmas and stereotypes around sex don’t just affect the act itself but they affect your life in so many different ways. Advertising, parties, friendship–it all, one way or another, is impacted by sex in some way.”
Among other things, the two works challenge the common belief that everyone around them is engaging in more sexual activity than they are themselves, a misconception that can have a negative impact on young adults.
“What makes it super relevant is that it’s a piece by college students about college students and our experiences,” Monica Bhatia, a rising third-year sociology major, said. “I think there are a lot of people older than us who like to write about what they think millennials are doing and what they think hookup culture is. Because [the cast includes] so many different voices from so many different backgrounds, we show a lot of different sides of the actual experience.”
Personal experience plays a big role in the work, which in turn mirrors the one of attending the production itself. Every performance will be followed by an audience talkback where attendees are invited to discuss their own ideas, as well as their opinions of the experimental work.
“It’s all very personal and a little nerve-racking to perform in, but very rewarding when you can feel that you’re getting something out of it, that you’re making an impact in some way,” O’Brien said. “It’s come out very raw, but in a good way. It’s not like undercooked chicken, more like sushi–purposely raw.”
The Sex Myth, a devised theatre project co-directed by Larsen and The Huntington News’ former editor-in-chief and current business manager, Liam Hofmeister, will have performances until June 24 and may continue during the 2016 fall semester. The first performance took place at International Village, the second will be in the Curry Student Center and the third will be in the International Village basement lecture room.
Poster by David London