S.H.A.D.E.S. Theater Helps to Spread Knowledge

by Nicole Murray

Students do not always come into college knowing everything that they were taught in health class. Parents do not always sit down and tell their kids, for example, about sex, the safety risks, and the possible consequences if people do not use protection or get tested regularly for sexually transmitted diseases.

Rutgers students now have an opportunity to become involved with Rutgers Health Services by educating their  peers as an employee of H.O.P.E.; which stands for Health, Outreach, Promotion, and Education.  Through the program titled S.H.A.D.E.S.,  students will help to spread awareness regarding mental and physical healthcare. S.H.A.D.E.S. stands for Student Health Advocates Developing Educational Scenarios, and has been teaching fellow students since 1995 when Cydelle Berline founded the organization and was appointed as the first director.

S.H.A.D.E.S is a student-run theater group that performs programs for other students and faculty about health issues, sexuality, drinking, and drugs for students and faculty. All the shows take placeon Rutgers campus, and are mainly requested by resident assistants for the students that live in their residence halls. The programs are free and offer pamphlets and both male and female safer-sex kits at the end of the show.

“We aim to bring an interactive theater experience depicting students, for other students,” said S.H.A.D.E.S. Co-Director Elena Georgopoulos. “The facilitated discussions that occur after actors act out the skits are done to let people know that the problems we discuss are very real, can affect everyone and anyone, and that there is a space to be heard.”

The programs are separated into two parts. The first part entails a small handful of mini scenes performed by the S.H.A.D.E.S. actors and actresses. In the second part, the actors and actresses come back on stage but remain in character. This is when audience members are given an opportunity to ask questions about anything they did not understand or comment on anything that they agreed or disagreed with. There are no specific answers or even solutions given for the problems that are presented on stage, but S.H.A.D.E.S. members teach the audience about the different options that they have if ever in a situation depicted on stage.

Co-Director Candice Mazon said her favorite topic is “anything relating to identity.”

“Whether it be Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual Queer issues or topics that relate race, I feel like a lot of people can connect to what they are seeing on stage,” she said.

Auditions to become an actor/actress of S.H.A.D.E.S. are held at the beginning of each semester for students interested in joining S.H.A.D.E.S. and no previous theatrical experience is needed.

“S.H.A.D.E.S. is important because it generates discussion,” said Georgopoulos.“I want to make people aware that what many consider to be ‘normal behavior’ is not always so normal. It is important to step away from complacency and be critical of scenarios we see around us.”

             To book a program, send a request to rhshope.rutgers.edu at least a minimum of two weeks in advance with a few possible dates and desired subject matter.