For several years now, Springfield College has been putting on their own production of The Vagina Monologues. The monologues, which focus on intimate and sometimes controversial aspects of the female experience, have been a huge success on campus.
When Tom Schiff, professor of Health Education at the University of Massachusetts, saw a familiar production about 10 years ago, he knew he wanted to start something just like it, only this time for men.
“Educational theater is something that happens a lot at UMass,” Schiff said. “We have several different theater troupes. So about nine, 10 years ago, I was at a program that was put on for women of color, and it was inspired by The Vagina Monologues. So, when they put that together, I just thought to myself, ‘I need to do this for men.’”
That is when Phallacies was born.
This past Monday night, the UMass crew put on a production of Phallacies in the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union.
According to the UMass website, “Phallacies is a men’s health dialogue and theater program based in UHS’ Center for Health Promotion.”
Phallacies was put together to challenge the stereotypes that masculinity faces. Different monologues look at different subjects, such as sexual violence, unsafe sex, high-risk drinking and drug use, and several other unhealthy “masculine” behaviors.
The program was officially born four years ago when Schiff finally found all of the support he needed.
“It took awhile for me to get the support. It just took time to pull everything together.”
Schiff found that support in fourth-year doctoral student of Social Justice Education, Taj Smith. While Smith was working on his dissertation and looking for an internship, he conveniently found Schiff just as he started to formulate Phallacies, and talk of the program evolved from there.
“This is part of Taj’s work, and he is very good at it,” explained Schiff.
Once the program had the essential key players, it was time to recruit students to be involved.
“Tom [Schiff] was a teacher I had for class about diversity through education,” said Scott Greene, a now Phallacies performer. “Through that class, we talked about accepting people with different races, lifestyle options and sexual orientations. Then I went to one of the [Phallacies] performances, and it really just kind of opened my eyes to how prominent this stuff is. After that, I decided to join.”
“I took the same class called Social Diversity in Education [with Schiff], and it is a program that is pioneered at UMass,” senior Tim Katz explained. “It’s focused around exploring [different] issues. It goes into racism, it goes into sexism, homophobia, transgender oppression, and it goes through all of those things. What really did it for me is that [the class] outlined oppression and what my privilege was being a male. At the end of [the class], Tom came up to me and invited me [to do Phallacies]. Five semesters later, I’m here. It’s pretty fun.”
While some were drawn in by Schiff’s classes, others just seemed to stumble upon it on their own.
“For me, I was just having dinner and there was a flyer on the table, and I just decided to go. I went and I loved it. Four semesters later, here I am,” performer Duoc Nguyen said with a smile.
With a solid cast, guidance in Schiff and Smith, and four years under their belt, the program is continuing to grow.
“We’ve gone as far as Philadelphia, but we’ve also performed at places such as Williams College, Hampshire College, [but] primarily at UMass,” Katz said. “We’ve done three full shows this semester.”
The Phallacies crew will perform again this semester on Friday, Dec. 7 at 8 p.m. at the Campus Center Auditorium on the UMass Amherst campus.