Inclusion through comedy: Existere welcomes frosh with sex jokes

Students introduced to Queen’s with annual sketch show

Existere cast performing at Grant Hall ahead of the annual Frosh Week performance.
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Sexism, peer pressure, casual sex and mental health—no topic is off limits for Existere’s 24th annual Frosh Week performance. 

First year students gathered in Grant Hall on Sept. 2 to watch the orientation staple, where cast members try to recreate the thrill they experienced seeing the show as frosh.

“I loved Existere because I came in, sat down, and didn’t have to do anything except enjoy seeing myself represented up onstage,” cast member Lily Casey, ConEd ’21, told The Journal.

“If we could make one first year feel that way, that’s all you could ask for.”

Alongside three cast members, Existere director Marlisa Hows, ArtSci ’20, and co-director Paul Smith, ArtSci ’20, sat down with The Journal to discuss how Existere tries to include every student. 

They explained the cast members performed scenes that have been used in the past, but were adjust to fit this year’s vision.  

Every year, Existere performs sexual comedy that hits on the bold and unexpected aspects of their humour. Their Vertical Beds scene involves one, two or three actors standing behind a white sheet. 

They wriggle around behind the sheets, frantically moaning and screaming to create the over-the-top sex scenes that highlight every year’s performance. 

“Usually, Existere is funny because we talk about sex and first years are 

always so surprised that the University is running something like this,” Hows told The Journal. 

While in past years, the over-the-top sexual nature of the show was intended to make students feel comfortable expressing themselves, Hows and Smith wanted it to go further this year. 

It was on display in the show’s bed scene. As cast members made their normal extravagant sex performances, one peeked out and made it clear she was alone. 

This entire scene exposes students to the realities of the world byrepresenting members of various sexual identities,  orientations and preferences, including abstinence. 

“This year, there are a lot of scenes that represent people who aren’t interested in sex, and we’re finding that with that balance, the show still works,” Hows said.

The troupe’s efforts to show so many different types of people stem from their goal of making each student feel welcome and accepted on campus. 

The theme reappeared as cast members walked on stage and delivered one-liners to show labels don’t define them, whether it was struggling to pay tuition or living with a physical barrier. 

While its stand-by sex jokes are a highlight of the show, the cast made sure to incorporate information about the resources available to students on campus. 

In a metaphor for alcoholism, a student developed an addiction to video games, started skipping class and neglected her mental health. As a solution, she was directed to the Peer Support Centre. 

The scene kept with the cast’s persistent stress on the importance of mental health and noticing signs of depression.

It taught frosh the importance of looking out for themselves—and their peers.

 

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