A look Down There

ASUS Equity and Diversity tackles social issues in a hilarious and serious show

Georgia O’Keefe’s Black Iris VI. 
Credit: 
Supplied by Ron Cogswell via Flickr

As I walked into the H’art Centre, I was greeted by posters of hand-drawn flowers and butterflies, one with “pussy” written in immaculate cursive and another encouraging me to “feel your feelings”. I’d arrived at Down There. 

Down There is an annual performance of stories covering a range of topics, spinning off The Vagina Monologues. This year’s cast performed pieces varying among invisible disabilities, suicide, eating disorders, gender and sexuality. 

The lights went down and the feeling began. The show is primarily short monologues, interspersed with appearances by the talented and satirical “spoof sisters”, who perform parodies of songs, played by Kate Neweduk, ArtSci ’18, Ruth Oketch, ArtSci ’18, and Sarah Skelding, PheKin ’17. The show is bookended by a song, written and performed by the entire cast that also weaves its way throughout the show. 

Pieces like “Femininity, In a Word”— written by Anastasia Szymanski, ArtSci ’17 and performed by Megan Vahabi, ArtSci ’17 — are witty, inviting the audience to laugh at the ridiculous and restrictive nature of many social ideals. This piece comments on our discomfort with saying “pussy” in a loud and comical manner, while bringing real heart and emotion to a word that many associate with vulgarity. 

The purpose of the show was really brought to light in pieces like “Please and Thank you”— written and performed by the eloquent Tiffany Ledesma, ArtSci ’18 — which recounts the details of a sexual assault. 

This piece is brave in its truthfulness about the pain and reality of sexual assault that I’ve heard far too many times from friends and strangers and which comes up again in Neweduk’s equally powerful and moving piece “Consent Doesn’t Kill Passion, Sexual Assault Does”. 

Down There is a place to tell stories and talk about deeply personal and emotionally wearing feelings that often aren’t given a space in the mainstream. 

The piece “My Disease” — written by Bessie Cassidy and performed by Jess Moniere — elaborated on the poster that greeted me at the door, reminding me that it’s okay to be emotional and to be vulnerable. 

Another piece I found particularly striking was Vanessa Ajagu’s “Sirens” which deals with police brutality and the killing of unarmed Black people. The powerful piece ends with Ajagu holding up a sign that reads “#Justice4____”, bringing into focus the severity of a systemic and violent reality. 

Down There is willing to open up discussions rarely acknowledged anywhere else on Queen’s campus. Its writers and performers are doing the brave and important work of finding ways to tell their stories and make space for these topics on a campus that often pretends these issues don’t exist. 

I left the show feeling all of my feelings and particularly feeling grateful for those who’re willing to take us down there.  

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