Gould’s monologue piece balances humorous and emotional moments
Sex: How often do you talk about it? Are there some things better left unsaid? In recent months, these questions have been pushed into the center of public discourse, with the government of Ontario’s new sexual-education curriculum drawing both praise and scorn for its attempt to broaden the conversation in the province’s classrooms.
Entering the fray with its own unique voice is Sit on My Face, a collaborative live-theatre zine which paired writers with actors to share frank stories about sex: the good, the bad and the hilarious. The project premiered at the Atlantic Fringe Festival, and Xavier Gould, a Mount Allison drama student, contributed to the project as a both a writer and an actor.
“[The performance] was set in a classroom,” explained Gould, “with a prof. at the front and chalkboards at the back, and the prof. weaves the students’ stories together to create that collective show.”
One of these stories, “Shop Cl(ass),” was both written and performed by Gould. Throughout the monologue, Gould plays a bubbly, middle-aged gay man who shares the story of his first love and their budding sexual desire. Forbidden to meet by their parents and afraid to display their affection in public, the star-crossed lovers plot a secret rendezvous in their shop-class bathroom. Gould’s character was brash, unashamed and hilarious, eliciting laughs from the audience from the first moment he stepped on the stage.
Gould’s retelling inevitably ends with the lovers’ boorish shop teacher walking in on his students at the worst possible moment. Gould took a second to let the situation weigh on the audience before he boldly announced, “We looked like a couple of gay deer in headlights!” After a sigh of collective relief, the entire audience burst into riotous applause interspersed with laughter.
But, as Gould explained, the humour was a means to an end, not an end unto itself.
“Even the funniest performances had a message,” said Gould. “We were trying to start conversations.”
In Gould’s case, “Shop Cl(ass)” came from an extremely personal place. Elements of the story came from his lived experiences, and the original script he submitted to the zine was written in his own voice.
“Originally, the writers weren’t supposed to perform their own work,” explained Gould. “The story was so close to me that I couldn’t imagine reading it to other people.”
When Gould decided he would perform his own monologue, he sat down with his director, Sam Horak, to develop a new character that would allow him to tell his story from another perspective. This led to the creation of the character the audience saw onstage. “The story stopped being my story, and became his story, my character’s story,” he said.
But Gould emphasized that ultimately his character is secondary to the scene’s dialogue. His performance was funny, but the humour belied a story which expressed a deeply personal struggle.
“It’s about a naive 14-year-old kid not allowed to see the person he’s in love with, and at 14 years old, when you fall in love, you fall hard. It’s tragic: It’s so sad that he feels he has to resort to fooling around in school.”