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Some talk about "The Talk"
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All productions of the Youth Performance Company are a learning process. But that's especially true for this show because it's about how kids learn about sex. (MPR Photo/Jim Bickal)
"The talk," is that infamous moment when parents inform their children about sex. It is the stuff of legend, but in reality, kids learn about sex from a variety of often-confusing sources. A show at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater in Minneapolis explores how young people learn about sexuality from their point of view. It's called "The Talk: An Intercourse on Coming of Age."

St. Paul, Minn. — When they arrive at this rehearsal, cast members receive a new script from the director which is marked with abbreviations for stage directions that are unfamiliar to some.

All productions of the Youth Performance Company are a learning process. But that's especially true for this show, because it's about how kids learn about sex.

The cast members, who are between 13 and 23 years old, wrote the script. It is based in part on their own experiences. And when it comes to talking about sex with their parents, those experiences vary widely.

Some comments:

"My mother pretty much told me just to use protection and it was very informal, I guess, you know. Just make sure you're safe."

"With my family I consider myself lucky. We kind of have an ongoing discussion. We're very open and we've always been able to talk about things. So, I pretty much, just bring things up with my parents; they bring things up with me. It's just not uncomfortable at all."

"With me it's kind of the opposite. It's kind of a one way talk. Like, she's like 'you're not having sex before you're married. That's it. Do it and there's gonna be trouble.' So, it's kind of a one-way talk, basically."

One of the goals of the production is to encourage a two-way discussion about sex so teens can talk with their parents about what they're going through. One of the topics that the show addresses is the varied experiences that adolescents have as they go through puberty. In one scene, two girls both lament their differing stages of development.

Why me?
Why me?
Why did these have to happen so early?
When will they happen?
I don't want to look different from everyone else.
Why can't I have boobs like everyone else?
Just because I have big boobs all the boys think I'm a slut.
All the boys still treat me like one of the guys.
You know, I wish I was flat.
I hate being flat.
It's not fair.

The cast members say they hope the production helps teens sort out the conflicting signals they are receiving about sex.

"You're getting mixed messages. Like the media makes it into, 'Oh, you can have sex randomly whenever you want,' and then you get your parents, who are like, 'Don't ever have sex.' And this is making it more approachable, that you can talk to them about maybe both sides of the situation."

"For me, anyway, my biggest goal in the show is to express a lot of -- not necessarily negativity or positive influence toward sex, but just to be ready for it. Don't do it unless you're ready to do it."

"What I think is really unique about it, is that even though we're all from the same roughly age group, we all have very varied experience levels and varied backgrounds as far as the values that we've been taught about sex."

The show uses humor to make the audience more comfortable with the subject of sex. One song presents a list of 50 terms that are related to sexuality.

The cast members say preparing the material for the show was definitely a learning experience.

"I think I'm the youngest member of this cast. I'm 13 and, yeah, I didn't know anything. I was like well, what's that word mean and stuff. So, yeah, no, I learned a lot."

"I don't know about anyone else, but I touched a condom for the first time doing this show. In the education that a lot of people are given, you know, sex and disease and pregnancy are just kind of these vague ideas that off in the distance. I had no idea that there were so many methods of birth control. Like, basically you learn about 'the pill' and condoms and that's it and I had no idea that there were so many other options out there."

"This show kind of helped me learn more about the female body parts and things they do because I didn't really care about that stuff and now I know how they do things and what they think and how they work."

These are the voices of cast members of "The Talk: An Intercourse on Coming of Age." It will be performed on Tuesdays through March 1, 2005.

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