Contributing to change: it’s under the heading of ‘WITH’

July 3rd, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

I’ve had lots of what I think are good ideas.  And, even if other agree with me, well, that, and 3 to 6 bucks will get you a cappuccino.

What I’ve appreciated about working with Prof. Ann Taket from the Burwood Campus of Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia is that she has a highly keen sense of what it means to be working with community.  That it requires the community itself to be willing to come to the table, and that requires their trust and belief they will be heard, respected, and a valued member at that table.  But it’s a two way street: it also means that they have a respect for you.

With Ann’s leadership, conversations have been happening all over the state of Victoria about You the Man. She’s presented the idea of the program being a tool for the efforts of Victorians in engaging men in violence prevention–not as a replacement, but as a means of highlighting their own programs and services, an opportunity for community members and constituents to be introduced to the ideas of violence prevention and the responsibility and accountability of all of us in this work.  The tour of the state was an act of vulnerability and humility:  This is what we are thinking, this is what it looks like, and what do you think?  How would this serve your work and efforts? Does this fill a need for you?

And as a friend of mine once said, be careful of the questions you as, if you really don’t want to hear the answer. In this case, we did want to hear the answer, and the feedback, concerns, and overwhelming enthusiasm is making the project work.  The next step in laying groundwork for statewide participation was in vetting the new translation of the script from American to Australian. And here is an eloquent and thorough response from Mr. Peter Crowley who works for the City of Moonee Valley

My favorite parts I’ve made bold!

Hi Ann

I enjoyed today’s script reading and I believe this ‘rewrite’ is well on track to its end goal.

I have been both enthusiastic and positive about “You the Man” and, I have to say, those feelings have only intensified after today.

It’s revealing to listen to the sort of post-event discussion that occurred today.  Sure there are differing views about what might be changed but, notwithstanding that today’s group had a mission, today showed me that…

1.       There was a range of comments and suggestions and that positively confirms that the script works with a range of ages and genders

2.       We should make the script as ‘efficient’ as possible but also accept that people will hear and interpret it in their own way and through the lens of their own experiences… so there’s no ‘perfect version’

3.       The fact that people respond and discuss the script with such enthusiasm shows that it really does connect and engage

At the end of the day, this is a clever play and the author clearly worked it out with great thought.  Sure we need to ‘acclimatise’ the play, but we don’t need to fix it.  It works (and the evidence has been collected to prove that)!

 Like others who have been in touch with you, I too am keen to see the benefits of You the Man in my patch.  If you need an audience for a pilot, or a dress rehearsal… look to me.  But my enthusiasm and involvement is driven by more than that.  Male voices and male presence is still far too inconspicuous in this issue.  Time after time I attend PVAW networks and meetings as the lone representative of my gender.  Perhaps it’s my interpretation, but that imbalance, that female focus, makes it too simple for some men to dismiss the issue… to consider it ‘women’s business’.   I have a strong hope (and now a solid belief) that You the Man can contribute to a change in that situation and, more importantly, to a change in the underlying and outrageous issue of the prevalence of violence, by men, to women.


Peter Crowley

Community Safety Officer

Community Development, Citizens Services & Information Management

Safe by choice, not by chance 


You the [ONE] Man?

June 12th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

On why one actor, and why professional:

Having written and directed plays for several years for activism with youth audiences, I know how challenging it is to pull together a cast. My plan was to follow the model I had work out with The Thin Line (a one woman 30 minute production on coping with eating disorders, 1999).  One actor to pay, one actor to schedule.

Nearly every production, I recognized, would be presented to captive (not incarcerated, however) audiences for assemblies, orientations, awareness weeks.  They would have been told the topic of the presentation, and they would be certain before they arrived in the auditorium (if they were lucky) or the gymnasium (very likely) that it would suck. In every audience there are victims and survivors, and I did not want to set them up for an hour of humiliation in which the topic could be ridiculed, diminished, or trivialized.   The actor has a tall order—teens are not known for polite theatre behaviors, especially when sitting on bleachers or in the back of large auditoriums—and he has to “win” in 10 seconds or less.  A task, I felt, best suited to a professional!

What’s in a (video excerpt of) a play?

June 11th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

In theatre, less is more.  You the Man features:

One actor.

Black t-shirt, black jeans for costume.

A nearly bare stage–table, stool, a couple of small props, flip chart.

Lights on the stage, and in the house.

This minimalist set up not only makes for ease in touring, it give audiences a chance to project an individual understanding of the characters, their situations, their ages.  But this description gives very little information of what the play is actually like.

Yes, if it were on video PERHAPS we could reach many more people.


No, there is not going to be a video version of the play.

Why? Because the ability of theatre to break through the noise of the hours of screen time youth as well as adults have every day is inherent in it being LIVE THEATRE.

But, this being the 21st Century, it’s pretty much required to have some sort of media version of one’s program or work.

And, having tried NUMEROUS times to capture the essence of the production on the ever-requsested video of the production, the transfer from one medium to the other is not simple (or inexpensive!).

So, for the purposes of having a video for use in promoting and presenting the program, the students in Mr. David Beane’s video production class at the Portland Arts & Technology High School worked with both the actors Lloyd Watts and Brian Chamberlain to capture ‘essence’ of the play.  We’ve got a typo to fix, but ignore that for now and check out their work!

YouTube Preview Image

Why Men?

June 11th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

On the male point of view:

When interviewing school-based advocates in Maine to learn what their experiences held for best practices, and what would they do with a magic wand, a woman named Angel offered a true north for the play: “I hate to say this but I am female, so when I open my mouth in front of groups of students I can just see the boys tune out.”  Angel pointed to a void of male voices speaking up against violence.  Her remark made it clear to me that this one-person, multi-character play I was trying to imagine would need to be male characters.

I interviewed advocates in Maine and around the US who had something to say about dating violence and sexual assault prevention efforts in high schools and colleges.  The pool of men doing the work was fairly small at the time, and all to whom I reached out to returned my calls, read drafts, and talked through what they saw as challenges, opportunities, and successes.

As my friend Norma Bowles of Fringe Benefits Theatre in Los Angeles, California said in a workshop she gave at and Association of Theatre in Higher Education conference in the early 2000’s, the goal was to reach the ‘mass in the middle’ and activate them as allies.  Most men are not perpetrators; most perpetrators are men. I wanted to create a series of characters with whom most men and boys could relate.

In the Australian version of “You the Man” Officer Friendly” (which was a joking reference to the DARE campaign) is now Constable Friend.  One of my favorite lines of his is a good summation of the movement’s agreement of cultivating empathy as  a prevention and intervention strategy: ” Not one of us, myself included, needs to wait for something terrible to happen before we act like we care.”

YES! (With enthusiasm!)

June 11th, 2013 by Cathy Plourde

Professor Ann Taket and I gave 7 presentations together: Melbourne City Center (Deakin’s meeting rooms), Geelong, Warrnambool, Deakin’s Burwood Campus, Bendigo, Benalla and Traralgon. Ann’s presented at one other place and is scheduling a few other gatherings. Over 250 people in Victoria!

I asked Ann what was surprising to her in our process of these presentations, and she said that the level as well as volume of enthusiasm. So what is making “You the Man” so appealing?

1. the design. The play sits at the center of a process of not just educating but engaging a community. It’s goal is to put the local resources front and center, and, to make their job easier.

2. the message. Men are key bystanders and key agents of change in preventing interpersonal violence. The play is packed with info that has been vetted by advocates and educators.

3. the method. Theatre is an affect experience. It goes to the heart, makes the issues real, and brings by it’s nature both need and urgency.

Who is enthusiastic?  All sorts of programs that are currently in the process of engaging men’s efforts in stopping violence against women: City Councils, Women’s Health, Salvation Army, Angelicare, Diversity and Inclusion, and more.