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‘Phallacies’ performance grabs audience

The performers of “Phallacies: A Masculine Performance” think it takes a real man to express his feelings and wear pink shirts. The performance of students concerned about dispelling myths about traditional male archetypes, held April 20 in the Cape Cod Lounge, sought to challenge the fallacies of traditional concepts of masculinity.

The performance consisted of two acts, with a mixture of sketches drifting between comedic and serious in nature, conveying messages meant to promote healthy male behavior.

According to a pamphlet distributed at the show, the more a man holds a strong belief in what the pamphlet described as traditional masculinity, the more likely he is to commit sexual assault, drive unsafely and abuse drugs and alcohol.

“When forming this group, we had several revealing discussions,” said University Health Services health educator and “Phallacies” performer Tom Schiff. “A group member brought up the idea that men had to decide often between being healthy and being traditionally masculine,” he explained.

Schiff said that he and his troupe ran with this paradoxical idea and incorporated it into their Tuesday performance, adding that he drew inspiration to create the compilation of sketches from the 1996 play about women’s struggles and relations “The Vagina Monologues.”

“Too often men don’t think about how it is to be a man,” said Schiff.

One of the more serious sketches the group performed was “Lessons from the Kickball Field,” where actor and UMass student Dennis Canty explained the pain of getting picked last for kickball in the fourth grade. Canty’s character explains that being picked last was a way to make him feel he was worth less than other students. The character explains that being discriminated against became a part of life as a gay adult man.

“Letters to Our Fathers” examined the relationship between a father and son, while “Crossing the Line” depicted a man being confronted by his friends about the abusive language he uses toward his girlfriend.

The mood was lightened with comedic sketches such as “That Guy,” which made light of the actions of a highly intoxicated guy at a party. Another humorous piece was “The Middle Stall,” where several actors portray the awkwardness and discomfort of using the middle urinal in a men’s bathroom, all to ask the question, ‘Why does is this an uncomfortable situation?’

“Testicle Talk” showed the humorous banter between the left testicle, “Lefty,” and his counterpart, played by Schiff. The pair encouraged self-examination for testicle cancer, a health risk for men.

“Hugging 101” showed the multiple variations of the male hug, from the awkward “A-frame” to the drunken group hug. The audience was subjected to witnessing two men wrapped in an intimate embrace for about thirty seconds.

The show discouraged the use of certain terms, like “no homo,” and phrases like “I’d hit that,” in a sketch called “Masculinguistics.” This sketch also examined how the history of some words, such as “suck,” actually perpetuates negative “masculinized” expressions through their users subscribing to pre-established codes of perceived male behavior.

The performance also explored so-called masculinities from different ethnic and class perspectives. In a sketch called “What’s Race Got to Do With It?” performers discussed topics including diversity among a group of Asian men sitting at a table together. A “yellow” performer explains that it is a “miracle” that at his lunch table are not just other “yellow” men, but Koreans, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese all coming together, regardless of the various historic differences between their countries.

Meanwhile, a white man expresses his frustration with being what he calls “just another face,” and a “black” man articulates his struggle to reconcile his identity in what he considers a white man’s world, lamenting that, “To be a full man means to be a white man, anything else is less than, therefore, I feel less than.”

The play also sheds light on “the real cost of drinking” and focuses on how abuse can transcend the physical and include emotional trauma.

“I think they did a really good job representing different racial and class backgrounds,” said UMass alumnus Margo Bossom.

“This show is not a solution to sexism,” said Bossom, who works in community engagement, “but it is a good way to start talking about it.”

The last sketch, “From This Day Forward, “challenged the audience to initiate conversations challenging the traditional form of hegemonic, or dominant, masculinity.  

The end of the show was met with a standing ovation.

“I think the performance went really well,” said Scott Aldrich-Holmes, a performer. “This is the first time the group has performed as a whole.”

“[The show] was nerve wracking,” said Aldrich-Holmes, who is a member of the troupe for the first time this semester. “But I hope next time we are given a bigger venue than the Cape Cod Lounge.”

Phallacies was sponsored by the Center for Health Promotion, University Health Services, UMass and was funded in part by a grant from the UMass Arts Council.

Bobby Hitt can be contacted at Jillian Pasciecnik can be reached at

One Response to “‘Phallacies’ performance grabs audience”
  1. Dan says:

    thanks bobby. another good article.

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