Wednesday April 24—UMBeneath The Sheets had their debut performance in the Campus Center at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The show ran from 7 to 8 p.m. with a total run time of 45 minutes. UMBeneath The Sheets is a sex-positive theater troupe, aiming to educate students on campus about sexual health and awareness. The troupe consists of mostly freshman, and most of their content is based around sexual education with a fresh and remarkably direct and easy-to-understand style.
Some of the troupe’s performances covered a variety of topics such as alcohol, sexuality and correct and incorrect sexual practices, as well as gender roles. The set contained nine scenes in which the scenarios changed frequently to depict different lessons and topics. In one very colorful performance, two students go out for dinner. One of them is very nervous because they are in the presence of a well-known individual and ends up relying too heavily on alcohol to relieve their anxieties, which ends up making them very obnoxious and belligerent, causing the night to go awry for everyone involved. The scene culminates into a very important message about alcohol safety and awareness.
Auditions for the troupe were held in November of last year. Casting and official rehearsals began in December. Most of their practices took place over the course of three months. A few of the performers have previous experience in theater before, whether it was with UMass Boston theater programs or in high school. One of the troupe members, Emma, describes initially being uncomfortable with some of the content in the scripts, but then becoming very open and familiar with the topics as time went on, reassured by the fact that she was helping educate people. Another troupe member, Ady, said that, “The reason that we are doing this is to destigmatize these topics and if we can't do that, we aren't the ones that should be presenting this information … This is normal; everybody has sex.” Many members of the troupe described becoming more comfortable with the topics as time went on, forming something of a family with their fellow members. Although it was their first public performance, they gave it all of their effort.
Craig Bidiman, health and wellness promotions specialist for University Health Services at UMass Boston, directed the skits that the troupe performed on Tuesday night. Bidiman has had previous experience being the graduate director for UMass Amherst's long running ‘Not Ready for Bedtime Players,’ which are widely acclaimed for their positive and honest depiction of sexual health issues. Bidman said that, while working with the Bedtime Players, he realized how powerful comedy theater was as a tool for conveying messages about health in a lighthearted way, while at the same time being able to teach actual lessons without needing to read off presentations to get the message across. While not having an extensive acting history, Bidiman says that his experience as a professional public speaker and his comfort with speaking to people really helped him transition into the role nicely. He says that he was happy with the turnout despite, having worries about the audience attendance at first. “The Bedtime Players perform exclusively in residence halls so they have captive audiences. We don't have that captive audience.” Bidiman has hopes of the troupe becoming a familiar name on campus as well as influencing more positive habits on campus.
UMBeneath the Sheets has one more performance slated for April 30, 2019. It will be located in the dining area of the East Residence Halls after dinner service. They are also holding auditions for Fall 2019, as well as a possible performance during ‘Sex In The Dark,’ an event hosted at the beginning of the fall semester that allows participants to ask anonymous questions about sex, which are then answered on stage.