This year’s orientation play, TBH: To Be Honest, hopes to not only inform first years of services available on campus, but also provide some reassurance around the first-year experience.
Quinn Andres, a fifth-year theatre and performance major who plays the character Sam, described the premise of the play – a jukebox musical which tracks several students throughout their first year at UW. The play depicts students navigating typical first-year struggles including romance, academic struggles, recognizing their neurodivergence, exploring their sexuality, and the struggles that come with being an international student.
One example of such an arc in the play is how one character, Nick (played by fifth-year communications and statistics student Liam Couchman), must navigate the rule of consent. Couchman explained how in the play, Nick turns down the sexual advances of his drunk girlfriend Grace, “under the premise that when you’re drunk you can’t consent, and affirmative consent is incredibly important.” A later scene discusses the different ways consent applies beyond engaging in direct sexual activity, including how consent is a continuous aspect and can be revoked at any time.
Included on the soundtrack is an original song performed by the cast along with six other songs from various artists including Rihanna, Dua Lipa, and Siibii, a non-binary Cree artist from Quebec. Couchman said that part of what drew him to the show was the opportunity to perform in a musical and express a narrative often told in much less creative ways.
“A lot of universities will just create videos or small pamphlets to walk … first years [through] different elements to university but having a show that’s still energetic and full of music and entertainment, I think is what makes TBH so unique,” he said.
Andres also said that something the production had discussed as a group was the play’s ability to inform students of the services available on campus, admitting that the play had reminded him of things he had forgotten were available on campus.
While Andres admitted that being a theatre and performance student meant that “getting involved in theater is always a plus for me,” they also appreciated being able to play a trans character in this year’s orientation play after seeing a queer character in Single and Sexy, the orientation play they saw in their first year.
Though Andres acknowledged that in hindsight, some parts of Single and Sexy were “a little bit questionable”, it was one of the first places he had seen a queer character on stage. “And I was like, I would like to be that person on stage… Here I am being able to be that and that is… a very empowering experience.”
Couchman also expressed his appreciation for the diversity of stories and characters that TBH portrays, citing it as what “locked” him into doing the show. One aspect he highlighted was the main character’s discovery of their bisexuality, which Couchman stated was an experience he had personally dealt with in first year. “I think one of the best things about TBH is that each character… [has] such a huge amount of diversity in how they act, how they interact with one another, and just what they’re experiencing in the first year.”
Couchman said that one of the largest changes to this year’s play was an increase in the amount of first-year characters to “help create a more relatable experience”.
“If we can even make one new first year feel heard and feel represented… then as far as I’m concerned, I think we’ve done our job,” he said.
The show is being presented tonight at 7 p.m. to UW community members. As part of O-week programming, new students are encouraged to attend the shows on Monday and Tuesday. For times and locations, visit https://wusa.ca/event/tbh-to-be-honest-2023-peformance/.