'Now That We're Men' tackles toxic masculinity

Traveling play prompts reflection and discussion during Exeter stop.

Adam Loyd
February 13, 2020
An actor performs as part of the play "Now That We're Men".

As part of the Academy’s ongoing initiatives regarding sexual misconduct, consent and developing healthy relationships, Director of Student Well-being Dr. Christina Palmer and a team of 40 faculty, staff and students welcomed “Now That We’re Men” to campus for three performances on the Goel Center mainstage.

Written and directed by Katie Cappiello, and performed by a New York City-based cast, the play follows five, teenage friends navigating the complicated influences that shape males in the years between adolescence and adulthood. Through a series of raw, unfiltered monologues and scenes, the characters tackled the often-taboo topics of pornography, toxic masculinity and virginity. Central to the plot was the issue of consent among sexual partners and the distinguishing factors between appropriate behavior and sexual assault.

Despite the fact that the play exclusively features an all-male friend group, Cappiello said it is important for every student, regardless of gender identity, to see these scenes acted out. 

“What I hear from girls all the time is they feel like they’re being heard,” she said. “They’re watching their male peers step up on a stage and present a behavior that’s clearly problematic, then we can dissect it.”

Actors perform "Now That We're Men" on Goel Center MainStage

Present at the midday performance was Emilio Abelmann ’21, who saw the play as a “phenomenal approach” for creating discussion around such heavy topics. 

“I think the themes discussed in the play are some that rarely receive attention in peer-to-peer conversations,” Abelmann said. “As teenagers, we’re still molding our personalities, and I think it is crucial for us to hear how we can act in the most respectful manner and stem away from contributing to a negative type of culture.”

Students and faculty were encouraged to reflect on the issues presented in the play and to discuss during advising meetings and within dorm groups. 

Following each performance, the cast, made up of 17- and 18-year-olds, fielded questions from Exonians about the challenges of depicting such sensitive topics and how their personal feelings conflict or coincide with their characters behavior. 

“It wasn’t that hard to connect; in a sense he’s a version of me,” said actor Maliq Johnson. “I know if a girl says ‘no’ that regardless of how great you think your connection is, then that’s where it ends.” 

Representatives from HAVEN, a violence prevention and support service, and school counselors were on site during each performance.