In the “post”-#MeToo era, consent, sexual misconduct, and cancel culture have become hot-button topics present throughout news articles, thinkpieces, movies, and TV shows alike. From fiery op-eds insisting that there is a stark difference in severity between sexual assault and sexual misconduct to columnists who disavow complaints about ‘cancel culture’ as an excuse to avoid accountability, it seems that everyone has a different approach to these contentious topics.
Enter Meet Me, an interactive new play presented by Live Action Theatre Project and Teesri Duniya Theatre. This intimate production engages audiences in conversations about sexual harassment and power dynamics directly by having them follow one of the play’s three characters for the entire show. Audience members accompany their assigned character to the show’s three distinct settings, witnessing their unique perspective of an evening where a sexual encounter goes terribly wrong.
Along with seven others, I followed Gemma (Darragh Mondoux), an accomplished young artist and academic eager to make an impression on her attractive new co-worker Qas (Zeshaun Saleem). Throughout the play, each character consults their audience on how they should proceed, allowing you, as an audience member, to collectively shape the course of the narrative in real time. For Gemma’s group, this meant weighing in on everything from which outfit she should wear for drinks with Qas and her academic mentor Roslyn (Leigh Ann Taylor) to how she should respond to a breach of her consent.
Audience members were given earbuds and a cell phone specially programmed to display social media posts, texts, voicemails, and video calls from the other characters, providing additional context that could influence the group’s decisions. With this unique structure offering a choose-your-own-adventure experience, audience members inevitably butt heads if they disagree on how exactly the adventure should play out. But in the show’s press release, Meet Me director Rosaruby Kagan expressed her acceptance and enthusiasm for these potential conflicts.
“Meet Me is an opportunity to get people together who may not share the same political beliefs or ideology, to talk about the divisive theme of call-out culture and responsibility for one’s actions,” Kagan wrote. “I am hoping people will leave the play understanding on a visceral level why someone might make choices that they themselves wouldn’t.”
Though there were a few small disagreements within my group, we often came to a consensus about how Gemma should proceed after Qas violated her consent during a sexual encounter. Instead, moments of potential conflict mainly emerged during the play’s outdoor transitions.
Meet Me is created in the style of promenade theatre, in which a show guides audience members to different locations from scene to scene and encourages them to participate in the performance itself. In my case, this meant following Gemma on foot to her artist’s studio (a room in the Armstrong Building decorated with black and white portraits) and the campus bar (Morrice Hall 017). Those in Qas and Roslyn’s respective audience groups followed their assigned character as they moved between the campus bar and a third location.
The journey down McTavish between scenes was short, but there were still plenty of interruptions from passersby. A perplexed dog-walker strolled straight through one scene, and a few confused students stopped to giggle and gawk at a passionate make-out between Qas and Gemma by the McTavish Gates before hurrying past.
These moments certainly caused some awkwardness amongst the crowd, but they also intensified the play’s authenticity. The production’s setting is a university campus, so it makes sense that other students would notice if two individuals started to go at it out in the open. Furthermore, staging this moment—a precursor to the sex scene where Qas violates Gemma’s consent—in such a public space is unfortunately pertinent given the pervasive nature of sexual violence at postsecondary institutions.
In presenting this striking energy alongside its open discussion of consent, violation, racism, and cancel culture, Meet Me proves to be a thought-provoking, engaging theatre experience that will keep audiences thinking long after the metaphorical curtains close.
Performances of Meet Me run until Oct. 8 at TNC Theatre, 3485 McTavish (Morrice Hall). Tickets can be purchased by calling 514-848-0238 or online (Students: $20 ; Regular: $30).