About a month ago, Shana was interviewed by someone from a website called Infinite Explorers. According to their Purpose section, “This site is a collection of individual paths; it is a celebration of the human journey. While personal stories may appear disjointed, they do not separate us. They bring us together by illustrating our commonality. Other people highlight the limitless opportunities in front of us all. By combining inspiration with community, our potential is infinite.”
We acknowledge that Speak About It is an important, but small, piece of the larger puzzle of consent education and sexual assault prevention in this country, especially in our current climate where states are passing consent-positive legislation, the federal government is getting involved with bystander intervention, students are carrying mattresses around campus in protest, and fraternity brothers are taking a proactive stance about sexual assault prevention. We know that this performance, these actors, this organization, cannot single-handedly change our culture around consent, but we are definitely helping with small steps. This week, we wrapped wrapped the fall orientation season with performances at 28 different schools and over 25,000 audience members since mid-August.
Will all of these people ask for consent every time? Will they be active bystanders at parties? Will this performance change their campus cultures? No, probably not. But if one person leaves the performance and has a better understanding of consent, understands how they can intervene with their friends and peers, and continues the conversation afterward, then we’ve done our job. Like Infinite Explorers, we understand that we are one colorful stitch in the larger fabric of sexual assault prevention; we are unique and important and there would be a hole without us, but we are nothing without the stitches around us.
Below is the text copied from their website, but we also encourage to browse other Explorers and find the threads that connect us all.
Show on the Road
Not many people can say they make a living talking about sex, but Shana Natelson’s post-graduate life has taken many turns in unexpected directions. While studying Government and Spanish in college, she never thought she’d be able to call herself a Producer, Director, or Executive Manager of a nonprofit. In fact, Shana planned on moving west to become a “ski bum” after graduating. But she fell in love with acting, with writing, and with educating young Americans about sex and sexual assault.
Speak About It, an in-house production at Shana’s small liberal arts college, was written in 2009 as a way to educate students about sexual assault prevention, an issue unfortunately entangled in the culture of higher education. Shana, who previously had no theatre experience, performed in Speak About It’s inaugural production. She was immediately enthralled with the show and its message– providing college students with the language to talk about sexual assault and to communicate their own boundaries– and thought, “this should be everywhere.” With no plans for a graduate degree and an aversion to working a 9 to 5 job, Shana obtained the rights to the show and rewrote it to apply to students everywhere.
For almost three years, Shana worked full-time in a coffee shop while still operating as the manager of Speak About It, coordinating rehearsals and often having to take 10 days off at a time for the show’s tours to various New England colleges. Shana said,
“It was exhausting, but I loved it, and that made it easier– that made it doable.”
Now Shana, as the executive director of Speak About It Inc., runs the show full time, funded by small performance fees and the non-profit stipend she receives. No longer an actor in the show, she wears many hats– touring, coordinating rehearsals, and recruiting performers while also running the company’s marketing and PR. This has been a year of change and growth for the company, with Shana stepping out of the spotlight and further into her role as a leader.
She now coordinates three separate performance groups, enabling Speak About It to hit as many as 25 schools in just 10 days. Shana is as excited as ever to spread awareness of sexual assault issues. Speak About It, she says, “does something no one else is doing.” She wants to continue to challenge our beliefs about sexual assault, saying, “people still think of it as something that only happens in a dark alley.” She also wants to empower her audiences to realize the potential of bystander intervention and confident communication. She hopes that the show, which has now travelled as far as North Carolina from its home base in Maine, will continue expand across the country, also reaching high schools. Most importantly, though, Shana wants to continue contributing to the culture’s conversation on sex in a way that reflects a diverse experience. In an increasingly aware and inclusive society (Speak About It’s performances are anything but heteronormative), this means constantly evolving and rewriting, but Shana welcomes change– so long as she can keep us talking.
Author: Anna Geary-Meyer