Press and Reviews

Giving Voice Productions has had its play, Power to Pleasing: The Sex Lives of Teenage Girls, reviewed in The Daily Camera, Boulder CO and the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando, FL. The play, Pressure to Prove: The Sex Lives of Teenage Boys was reviewed in the Boulder Weekly, and Westword. GVP’s third play, Promiscuity, Passion and Promises: The Sex Lives of Teenagers had a write-up in the Longmont Times-Call.



Review Excerpt:
Healing a theme of ‘Sex Lives’
By Quentin Young
© 2009 Longmont Times-Call


BOULDER — In the play “Pressure to Prove: The Sex Lives of Teenage Boys”, one of the characters, a tormented young gay man with intolerant parents takes out a razor, pulls up his shirt and drags the blade across his chest. As a cutter, he welcomes the pain, as we see on his face, which resolves into a perverse expression of emotional catharsis.

It’s an electrifying moment, if difficult to watch. It represents the kind of raw honesty that permeates Giving Voice Productions’ “Sex Lives” series, of which it is a part.

The three-part series began with “Power to Pleasing: The Sex Lives of Teenage Girls”, which the Boulder-based company presented at the Boulder Fringe Festival and other venues. That play is always staged in a women’s bathroom, with audience members crowded around the performance area, catching glimpses of themselves in the mirror.

The third and final installment, “Promiscuity, Passion, and Promises: The Sex Lives of Teenagers”, opens Nov. 12 and will run for four performances through Nov. 14 at the Dairy Center for the Arts.

The plays take an unflinching view of sexuality among American teens and are based on the creators’ research into the subject, including interviews with teens, as well as the personal experiences of some of the performers, according to Bethany Jean Urban, director of “The Sex Lives of Teenagers” and, along with Christa Ray and Liz Stanton, a founder of Giving Voice Productions.


She said the “Sex Lives” trilogy sprang from a question: When do girls lose their voice physically and metaphorically?”


The answer is: About when puberty kicks in. And the pressures that result is the central theme of the first installment.

When they first staged the show, in which Urban, Ray and Stanton performed, audience members expressed an interest in seeing similar issues raised from the boys’ perspective, Urban said. So, Giving Voice went back and created “The Sex Lives of Teenage Boys.”

Where girls might feel the need to please boys, boys feel pressure to prove themselves — not just to other boys, but also to girls, Urban said.

The company offers talk-back sessions following “Sex Lives” performances. In a sign the shows strike a nerve with many audience members, the sessions can last longer than the plays themselves, and can be just as emotionally charged.

If the first two “Sex Lives” plays centered on the darker side of teenage sexuality, the new play seeks light, Urban said.

“Our intention going in was to look at a side of healing,” she said.

The play, as with the first two, was developed with input from members of the whole ensemble.

Chris Hatfield, who plays several parts in “The Sex Lives of Teenagers,” said he helped write a monologue for one of his roles. And he said several of the performers draw on personal experience for their parts.

This dynamic can make for “intense” rehearsals, Hatfield said.

“I generally lead the unexamined life,” he said, but during rehearsal, “it is a lot of self-reflection.”



Review Excerpt:
‘Power to Pleasing: The Sex Lives of Teenage Girls’
— By Elizabeth Maupin, THE ORLANDO SENTINEL
May 20, 2008

Not too many Fringe shows have as much on their mind as Power to Pleasing, which hits you smack in the face with the sexual demands placed on teenage girls. This is the infamous bathroom show, staged in the cramped, narrow confines of the one of the Lowndes Shakespeare Center washrooms –


and if forcing an audience to confront so closely what’s happening to their daughters and sisters and friends doesn’t wake people up, I don’t know what will.”


In Power to Pleasing, three actresses use almost every inch of space in the room: With 14 or so theatergoers lined up and facing the mirror, the performers peer out from over the stalls, crawl out from under them and pass between audience members. Sometimes Christa Ray, Elizabeth Stanton and Bethany Jean Urban play mothers, educators or social workers, but most of the time they’re kids – kids taking part in sexual activities that would horrify their parents, kids who in many cases are scared to death and don’t know how to say no.

The three actresses based this show on oral histories, and it sounds like it: Two teenage girls who saw the show with me said at the talk-back that everything in it is real. I’m curious how Power to Pleasing goes over with a bathroom full of teenage girls – or teenage boys.


If every single adolescent could see it, they’d all be better off.”



Review Excerpt:
‘Power to Pleasing: The Sex Lives of Teenage Girls’
— By Mark Collins, THE DAILY CAMERA
Thursday, May 17, 2007

You may find some of it disturbing, some of it heartbreaking. It may remind you of your teen years or you may come away thinking things have really changed. You may want to head for the exit door as soon as the lights come on and take big gulps of the night air or you may want to sit down and talk about what you’ve just experienced for the next hour.

Thing is, you’ll likely have a strong reaction. “Power to Pleasing: The Sex Lives of Teenage Girls” is provocative theater.

It starts with the space in which the theater piece is presented — the women’s bathroom at the Dairy Center.

If it’s a sell-out, 23 audience members cram themselves into the bathroom in two lines, backs to the stalls and facing a row of nine mirrors. Three actresses — Christa Ray, Liz Stanton and Bethany Jean Urban — move back and forth from inside the stalls to the counter by the mirrors during the 40-minute performance.

To say some audience members could reach out and touch the actresses doesn’t quite do the physical intimacy of the performance justice. Some audience members have to strain so as not to touch the actresses.

Ray, Stanton and Urban first created the piece three years ago when they were studying in the MFA performance program at Naropa University. They’ve presented it at the Boulder International Fringe Festival the past two summers, and at the University of Colorado a handful of times.


Power to Pleasing” looks at the wounded, misguided and troubling side of female teen sexuality. The kind that’s born of unwanted sexual advances, rape, peer pressure, alcohol and drugs, an onslaught of sexual imagery in our media and, sometimes, a plain, old desperate cry for love and attention.”


The inspiration for the piece was to explore why it is that some girls go through such a dramatic change as they enter their teen years. At 10 or 11, many keep up with the boys in P.E. class, are good at math and have no qualms about raising their hands in class. At 13 or 14, the focus can suddenly shift to make-up and dressing in sexually provocative fashion. The bright, ambitious student can turn demure.

The piece tries to ask: Why do girls often go from a place of power to one where pleasing the opposite sex is paramount?

The creators took the material in “Power to Pleasing” from several sources — books, interviews and the cast’s personal writing. They portray several characters, including pre-teen and teen girls, a mother, a social worker, a sex-ed teacher and, in one scene, a couple of cat-calling construction workers.

Ray, Stanton and Urban effectively mix realism with simple theatricality throughout the piece. (It’s surprising what they can do in a cramped bathroom with mirrors, some hand-held lights and four bathroom stalls.)

Some scenes are difficult to watch. When Urban — wearing a mini-skirt and sexy blouse — portrays a girl who’s surviving by covering the shame of being gang-raped behind a KFC with nonchalance, she’s both sexual object and sexual victim. It’s a troubling sight, and one all too real.

In another scene, Urban and Ray take objectification to another level when they don neutral masks and sexy outfits and come to life in Stanton’s mind as some kind of female sexual ideal.

(If you’re wondering how men fit into “Power to Pleasing,” they’re certainly perpetrators. But the piece isn’t about bashing males. Also, the trio have cast three men and are working on a boys companion piece they plan to debut at this summer’s Fringe. Next year will bring a piece that explores positive models of teen sexuality.)


For most, a vital part of the play is the talk-back session afterward. “Power to Pleasing” raises issues and asks questions, but doesn’t offer solutions or answers. It’s an alarm bell, not a primer.”


Experiencing the performance is uncomfortable, perhaps startling. We need a debriefing session afterward. I saw “Power to Pleasing” last weekend and at the 2005 Fringe, and each time the talk-back was as rich as the theater piece itself.

It’s always remarkable when a group of strangers from different perspectives can open up a little and talk about something as personal as sexuality. “Power to Pleasing” has the power to provoke that.



Review Excerpt:
Sharing Secrets
— by Michael Roberts, WESTWORD
Published: May 10, 2007

In 2005, playwrights Christa Ray, Elizabeth Stanton and Bethany Urban unveiled Power to Pleasing: The Sex Lives of Teenage Girls. In talk-back sessions afterward, Ray recalls, “one of the topics that consistently came up was, ‘What’s the boys’ point of view?’ And we thought, okay, that’s our next play.”

Two years later, Pressure to Prove: The Sex Lives of Teenage Boys, which debuts tonight as part of the Boulder International Fringe Festival, attempts to answer such questions by way of what Ray calls “moments that are based on real stories and interviews.” Among the sequences enacted by cast members such as eighteen-year-old actor Ian Colson is one inspired by a Conference on World Affairs panel about sex and drugs staged at Boulder High School last April, which Fox News yahoo Bill O’Reilly hyped into a culture-war firestorm. “What we were interested in was how the teenagers felt,” Ray notes. “No one was asking them what they thought.”

Ray and her partners see Pressure to Prove as one way to right that wrong. “We feel like part of our purpose is to provide a forum for voices that are often not heard,” she says.



Entertainment Denver Post
Critics’ choice, 8/20/06
— by John Moore, DENVER POST


This week is all about the Boulder International Fringe Festival, which is offering hundreds of theater, dance, film and music performances all over Boulder through Aug. 28. Picking a show blind is a bit of a crap-shoot, but the performances, ranging from avant-garde to frivolous to brutally serious, are generally short enough to be worth the try.


If you have to pick just one, try “Sex Lives of Teenage Girls”


uniquely staged in a real women’s bathroom. It tells actual teen stories that look at age-old issues every woman can relate to.