For Dramashop students, the focus this term has been sex. Sharing personal experiences, brainstorming, improvising and playing, their exploration has culminated in Down and Dirty (Taking It All Off), a collective theater piece about sex and sexuality that opens Thursday, April 24.
The setting--backstage at a strip show--"suggested characters and story lines that allowed both performers and designers to express opinions, feelings and experiences about sex in a format that went beyond the autobiography or the testimonial," said Assistant Professor Brenda Cotto-Escalera of theater arts, who directed the collaborative project.
Actor Joseph Kaye, a sophomore majoring in brain and cognitive sciences, especially enjoyed the self-revelatory aspect of creating Down and Dirty. "Everything is a source when you leave the comfort of a text, and it's an amazing way to create. We took MIT students and stripped them down, using the ideas and experiences that make them up, to create and build characters," he said, adding that the ensemble work led to a great closeness and group feeling. Mr. Kaye also discovered what he called a "naked excitement" in "being on stage, without a script or other people's words to hide behind."
"The artists that work with me have both a knowledge of the themes we're exploring and a deep passion for such an exploration," Professor Cotto-Escalera said. Using music, stories, political events and visual images as provocations, she encouraged the students to improvise with body and voice and involved both the actors and designers. These improvisations were then shaped and edited into a script.
According to Mr. Kaye, the show's title was selected because "it shocks; it's exciting; it makes people look up and say `hey.'" That strategy seems to be working. Even the people who print the tickets--TicketCraft in New York--commented that the order had a "funny name to be coming from MIT."
Down and Dirty will play Thursday through Saturday, April 24-26 and May 1-3, at 8pm in Kresge Little Theater. Tickets are $7, $5 for students and seniors. For more information or reservations, call x3-2908 or e-mail
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 16, 1997.