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Guys and Dolls and gender stereotype lessons

Guys and Dolls premiered on Broadway 65 years ago, won a Tony Award for best musical, and had a 1955 film adaptation starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra.

Upper Canada College and The Bishop Strachan School’s Form 6 and 7 performance of Guys and Dolls Jr. may lack some of those credentials, but what it lacks in star power should be made up for in meaning to the young thespians and crew members working on the production.

Heads of state and high-ranking government representatives meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York City in late September decided on new global sustainable development goals, including the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. The Prep version of Guys and Dolls will do its part to raise awareness of gender inequities and encourage action for change by having students take part in an action research project to investigate stereotypes in the production.

The male protagonists in the New York City-set play, Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson, have issues with gambling. One of the female leads is a dancer named Adelaide who wants Detroit to settle down and marry her after a lengthy engagement. The other main female character, a missionary named Sarah Brown who’s trying to rid the city of sin, finds herself the object of Masterson’s affections and soon falls in love with him. In the end, both women decide to marry their men and try to reform them afterward.

Through discussion and questionnaires, boys will explore the concept of gender stereotypes prior to reading the play in class. They’ll then be asked to identify the stereotypes they encounter in the musical comedy and how they would like to address these issues within the play and beyond.

“We are undertaking this research as we strongly feel the need for our boys, in an all-boy environment, to recognize the challenges faced by girls and women both locally and worldwide,” says coordinator of health and life skills Jill Stewart.

“We also hope to deconstruct ideas of masculinity. We feel it will help them develop their character as global citizens and enhance the relationships with the girls and women in their lives.”

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