Mike Feldman stands, shirt off, admiring his arms and chest, which are flexed into a classic bodybuilding pose. Like a growing number of men, he is obsessing over his body.
He’s playing the character of Jim, one of the three men in “MuscleBound,” a one-man show by Feldman that gives audiences a candid view of the effects that disorders such as anorexia, compulsive exercise and steroid use can have on men’s lives.
Feldman, who also wrote the play, hoped the evening’s performance would help people recognize that these disorders are not just confined to women; they can have equally devastating effects on the lives of men.
“There is so much information out there on women issues,” Feldman said, “but guys are also half-naked in commercials and used as sex objects. And yet there is no discussion of it whatsoever.”
More than 170 students attended the event, which was held at 7 on Tuesday night in the Campus Recreation Center’s Upper Gym.
The live part of Feldman’s performance, in which he played a gay exercise bulimic, a testosterone-crazed steroid abuser and a documentary filmmaker sucked into the same obsessive gym culture he seeks to expose, was complemented by other media elements – interviews Feldman did with real men who suffered from these disorders, TV clips of celebrities perpetuating the obsession over body image and previews for a mock reality show, America’s Next Top Studmuffin.
Comedic elements such as the mock reality show elicited laughter from the audience throughout the performance. The humor was a way to reach people, making the serious issues he addressed more accessible.
“It allows people to get comfortable and really pay attention,” Feldman said. “It makes people let their guard down, and then you can slip in the serious stuff.”
The serious stuff certainly made its way into the minds of many students, who left with an increased level of awareness about these disorder’s effects in the lives of men.
Tabitha Holden, a junior majoring in interdisciplinary social sciences, hoped to share some of the insight she gained from the performance with her women’s studies professor.
“We were talking this week about eating disorders in women, and we didn’t discuss these disorders in men much at all,” Holden said. “I thought maybe I could share with her that this is actually a problem for guys, too.”
The performance was followed by a question-and-answer session. Feldman decided to include this to give students an opportunity to discuss the issues he addressed in his performance in a more factual and direct way. Those struggling with these issues can seek help from Student Health Services, the Counseling Center and the Psychological Services Center, said Kim May, the senior dietician at Student Health Services.
“Most of these services are free,” May said, “and I would encourage any student experiencing problems to seek help.”