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- A Story of O’s
The amazing Eleanor O’Brien (aka, the person who introduced me to the fringe festival circuit thereby changing my life forever) and the good folks over at Sex-Positive Portland have put together the world’s very first theatre-festival dedicated to promoting sex-positivity, Come Inside: A Theatrical Orgy of Intimate Acts! And I am honored to be a part of it!
There are four shows in the festival, receptions, workshops, burlesque performances, play readings, and an open mic…Something for everyone! Individual show tickets are less than $14 including the service charge, plus you can get a two-show nightly pass for less than $22! And if you aren’t afraid to go all-in, a festival pass is under $53 and gets you into every performance and event in the entire festival (except for the intensive workshops)! That’s a pretty damn good deal, if I do say so myself…
A Story of O’s at Come Inside: A Theatrical Orgy of Intimate Acts
7:30p Friday 12 September
9:30p Saturday 13 September (Post-show talkback Q&A @ 10:45p)
7:30p Sunday 14 September
@ Milepost 5, Portland, OR
Single-show tickets $12 (+$1.41 service fee)
Two-show evening pass $20 (+$1.69 service fee)
Festival pass $50 (+$2.74 service fee)
Talking Dirty and Roleplay INTENSIVE
1:00p – 4:00p Saturday 13 September 2014
$40 (+$2.49 service fee)
When I was writing A Story of O’s, I was extremely mindful of honoring my clients and respecting their privacy. First, I used no identifying details about specific callers without asking their permission. Also, I wanted any of my phone sex clients to be able to come to the show and, if they recognized themselves in any way, feel celebrated as opposed to ridiculed. So I am absolutely overjoyed at this rave review from the Willamette Week and particularly proud of the following:
“But the show’s momentum relies not on mere erotic absurdity. Rather than reducing her clients to caricatures, Miller humanizes them.”
*deep sigh of relief* I hoped that’s what I was doing, but you just never know how people are going to interpret things. I have one more Portland performance left, this Friday, and it’s already almost sold out. Then I have a couple weeks off before heading to Edmonton. It’s going to be very interesting (read: terrifying), presenting A Story of O’s to an audience that isn’t comprised primarily of my friends, family, and the kink/poly/swinger/sex-positive communities. I mean, if people think she is a blasphemous slut, what are they going to say about me? Guess I’m going to find out. Heh.
(Sits at computer.)
Ok. Time to make a list of all the potential trigger warnings I should post at A Story of O’s.
(Goes through entire script and starts typing.)
(Reads list. Reads it again.)
Mhmm. Yep. That’s pretty much all of them.
(Breathes a little faster.)
It’s not really that bad. I mean, I barely touch on some of these topics. I certainly don’t act them out on stage. Well, not all of them…
(Gets anxious butterflies.)
(Pulse begins to race.)
I can’t get arrested for this, can I?
(Butterflies turn to full-blown nausea.)
Shit. Shit shit shit.
(Hands start to tremble uncontrollably.)
What are people going to think about me after seeing this? What if they think I’m a disgusting, awful person for even talking about these things? What if nobody ever loves me ever again?
Is it too late to cancel all my shows?
(Checks ticket sales.)
Fuck. I’ve sold advance tickets for every performance. I have to do this.
(Gets heart palpitations.)
I wonder how much it would cost to move to Belize and go off the grid.
(Thinks about lush rain forests. And unspoiled coastal waters. And not doing the show.)
Fuuuuuuck. I have to do this, don’t I? I have to do this show. I have to do this fucking show.
(Takes some deep breaths.)
Ok. Am I absolutely 100% sure I have to do this show, and how come?
(Reads the last few lines of the script.)
Oh. Yes. Right. That’s why.
Yeah, yeah I’m one of those annoying people on the salted caramel bandwagon. I will eat salted caramel cardboard, I’m not even joking. But I see these teeny jars of it for sale at gourmet stores or the Portland Farmers Market, and they’re freakin’ expensive. So finally a while ago I decided to try my hand at making some at home, and lo and behold it was super easy!
I do recommend doing a little online research on caramel-making tips and techniques, but it isn’t rocket science. The following salted caramel sauce recipe is adapted slightly (more butter and salt!) from the ones you will run across most often. I let the butter and cream reach room temperature before I begin melting the sugar.
Salted Caramel Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
8 T butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 t. finishing salt
Melt the sugar in a sauce pan over med-high heat. As it begins to melt, stir it to keep the melting/browning even, but try not to incorporate too much oxygen. Watch the color- you dont want it to get too dark/burn. As soon as it reaches a light golden brown, add all of the butter and stir until it’s all evenly mixed in. (This will make the sauce bubble violently, so be prepared. Same when you add the cream.) Remove from heat, add cream, mix until smooth, add salt. VOILA!
I use Cyprus White Flake or Maldon salt and leave it in large flakes. I don’t mix it into the caramel sauce until it dissolves completely, because I like the little bit of crunch it retains for the first few days. Anyway, there you have it. My take on salted caramel sauce. You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.
Just got my venue assignment and show times for A Story of O’s at Edmonton Fringe! I have to confess I’m a little torn about my venue, #2, the Fringe Cabaret Lounge. “Lounge” is a bit of a misnomer, as the room is basically a big warehouse with tables and chairs in front of the stage and row seating on the sides. Cabaret-style, yes, but lacking the small, intimate vibe I prefer. The good news is they serve booze, and I really think a little lubrication will help the audience. Honestly, the show isn’t done yet. I keep adding and editing. But it’s already clear to me that pretty much anybody who comes to see it will have both a moment of “ewww, I really don’t get that” and “oh my god, that’s hot!” Which is of course intentional. Heh.
My show schedule is…not bad. You’re basically guaranteed to get a couple peak show times (i.e., Friday or Saturday night), a couple good times (weekday evening or weekend afternoon), and a couple crappy ones (anything after 9p Sunday-Thursday, weekday matinees). Some festivals will take your input on which non-peak times you prefer, so for example a kid-appropriate show can request an early afternoon slot over a late night one. With Threads, I always requested matinee times. Audiences for that show skewed older, as the subject matter resonated more immediately with people who lived through the Vietnam War era. But A Story of O’s is way more suited to a boozy, night-on-the-town crowd, and I have an awful lot of afternoon shows…
6:00p Saturday 16 August
8:45p Sunday 17 August
2:00p Monday 18 August
4:00p Tuesday 19 August
12:00p Friday 22 August
2:00p Saturday 23 August
6:00p Sunday 24 August
*shrug* Nothing to do about it. Such is the nature of the fringe. And I’m not particularly worried, because after all…Sex sells, right? Heh.
I also booked five shows of A Story of O’s in Portland as a warm-up for Edmonton. Details and ticket purchase link available here. Plus, I’m going to be teaching my Talking Dirty & Roleplay 101 workshop when I’m up in Edmonton. More info here.
I’m going to be a busy lady the next couple months!
It would be difficult for me to think of any two-week span in my lifetime that was more incredible and mind-blowing than my experience at the 2012 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. It really was like getting to be the star of my very own fairy tale.
Unless you want to make yourself crazy, you have to understand that once you present your art to the world, you have no control over how it is received and interpreted. I won’t lie; validation from audiences, critics, and (most importantly to me) one’s peers feels good. But if you depend on that for motivation, your creativity is subject to the whims of everyone save yourself. I tell stories because I have something to say that I believe needs to be heard. I don’t tell stories so people will pat me on the back and tell me how wonderful and talented I am. Sure, it’s nice to hear, and I appreciate positive feedback as much as anyone. But I tell stories to remind people that we are all connected.
More important to me than critical and financial success, those two weeks in Winnipeg gave me a sense of connectedness with my fellow human beings that I don’t think I’d ever felt before. Me telling my (mother’s) story gave people permission to tell theirs. Complete strangers walked up to me on the street to thank me, and to share their own similar experiences. Gratitude, appreciation, respect. Smiles, hugs, tears. It was simultaneously flattering and humbling.
Hands down, the most memorable of these interactions involved Walt and Jody. They were a charming couple who flagged me down at the King’s Head Pub one afternoon and insisted on buying me a drink. We chatted for a bit, and I was just struck by what delightful people they were. Threads really resonated with Walt, for personal reasons I don’t feel it’s my place to share. We crossed paths a couple of times over the course of the festival and ended up befriending each other on Facebook.
When I returned to Winnipeg in 2013, we made plans to catch up over a lovely dinner, which Jody and Walt, ever generous, insisted on treating me to. They talked up the show to tons of people, and it really kind of felt like they were my champions. They had become an integral part of my Winnipeg experience. They weren’t just a couple who had seen my show; they were my friends. When I didn’t get drawn in the Winnipeg lottery this year, I think they were as bummed out as I was. We were already looking forward to the possibility of 2015.
Last night, I logged into Facebook and was shocked and heart-broken to read the following post on Walt’s wall:
“Dear friends of Walt: Most of you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. I am his girlfriend and life partner of the past 6 years. Rather than have you wonder what happened to his online presence, I wanted to let you know that he passed away very suddenly sometime last night. He was not ill; in fact he was happily looking forward to breakfast with his son. I will keep his facebook page active for a while and check it from time to time in case anyone wishes to post a farewell message here. I hope that all of his family members have heard the news by now and that this is not a shock for you. For those of you who were personal friends and former co-workers, I know that Walt did not really keep in touch very much, but I believe that he valued each and every one of you in his understated way. I will check this page for the next little while. Peace and blessings to all. -Jody”
Sweet, wonderful Jody, my heart goes out to you. Words are not adequate at a time like this, but I am sending my love and sympathy to you across the miles.
And to Walt…Your smile and words of encouragement live on in some of my fondest memories. You are profoundly missed. Winnipeg will not be the same without you.
I did a podcast with my friend, Liam. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to talk to me for an hour and not pay $3/minute, it’s kind of like this…
About a year ago, I was approached by some people who were putting together a sex-themed storytelling show. They either found my blog or my Fetlife profile, and contacted me to see if I wanted to perform at one of their shows. It wouldn’t be too hard for you to figure out the name of the event, but I’m not going to mention it here for two reasons.
First, this isn’t meant to be a personal attack against the producers or a diatribe against the event. I run across similar situations repeatedly, and they specifically are merely one of the inspirations for this post. Second, I decline to use what little influence and social media clout I may have to further their “brand awareness.” This actually speaks to the larger issue at hand, so back to the story.
When it comes to erotic storytelling and erotic improvisation, I literally have thousands of hours of experience. I believe you would be hard-pressed to find a single person in the city of Portland with more professional credentials in this particular niche. So it came as no surprise when they approached me.
I have performed at similar events across North America. I have a couple of rehearsed monologues I can do on a whim, but I prefer to improvise an erotic piece based on audience suggestions. (I think my “Peanut Butter” bit from the Toronto cabaret will live in infamy…) When I suggested this to the producers, they informed me they had a process and framework they wanted me to adhere to.
I was to pitch them a story via email. If they were interested, we’d meet in person so I could tell them the entire story. If they were still interested, they’d give me notes (“details, clarifications of story points, or thoughts on structure”) and schedule me to perform.
Let me take a moment to remind you that they were pursuing me. I had no attachment to being in their show and in fact wasn’t sure at that point that I wanted to be. Which I told them. I am asked to do this sort of thing all the time, and I don’t need the exposure. I enjoy erotic storytelling performance, but mostly because I like the way I do it. When my clients are paying me $3/minute, I do it their way. When I do it for my own joy and artistic fulfillment, I prefer having the autonomy to tell/improvise whatever story I want as I see fit.
They were very persistent, to the tune of multiple emails over the course of six months. During this time I pitched a potential story but was told it wasn’t sexual enough. (I know, I know, the mind boggles…) I tried to clarify that it was actually a sex story and that I thought my mistake in the pitch was a phone sex operator’s mistake- we all talk dirty and vulgar, so it’s the non-sexual details and descriptions that make a fantasy seem more real and fleshed-out.
The impression I got from the response was that I was mistaken, and that the story in my head (that they hadn’t even heard yet) wasn’t sexual enough. At which point, I attempted to politely decline working with them because I didn’t think my style was a good fit with theirs.
They asked me to reconsider and offered to put me on the guest list for the next show so I could see what they are doing and hopefully be inspired to operate within their framework. I wasn’t particularly optimistic, but I agreed. Due to that pesky blizzard earlier this year, I wasn’t able to make it to the show I was supposed to see. I emailed my regrets and promised to attend the next one. I was told they’d love to have me but wouldn’t be able to give me a comp as their guest list was already full. However, I was welcome to buy a ticket and see the show if I wanted to.
Um, what? I didn’t particularly want to see the show. How often do you think, “gee it’s my night off, so just for fun, why don’t I go watch someone do what I do for work?” I was taking time out of my life to do this for them, to assess whether I felt comfortable compromising my personal artistic vision and process to work within theirs. But hey, I was a concert and special event producer for a decade, so I know about budgets and capacity issues and the like. Guest list full? No problem, I thought, I’ll go to the next one.
A month later, they again contact me. Did I see the last show? Nope, but I could attend this month if they can find room for me on the guest list. I was informed that wouldn’t be possible, as they’ve had to limit their guest list to staff and storytellers. *blinks* Isn’t that what I am? A potential storyteller? One who they have been pursuing for months, who is still obviously on the fence about working with them? As politely as I could, I informed them that meant I would not be attending the show in that case. Obviously it also means I won’t be performing in it anytime in the near future.
Lest you think this is about my own sense of entitlement, please allow me to share the reasons for my strong reactions to situations like this…
First, I don’t think I should have to pay for the privilege of possibly compromising my own artistic process in order to lend my cache and experience to someone else’s show. I make a living directly off phone sex and the original writings I perform in my one-person plays. They’re essentially asking me to gift them a story I could sell myself, which I may actually be willing to do, whether for fun, charitable donation, or creative fulfillment. But I shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket to do them that favor.
Simply put, I know my worth. I’ve spent the last decade honing my craft and building a reputation, and I know what kind of crowd I can draw to an event of that nature. Years of touring the fringe festival circuit has taught me there is no pride in playing to an empty house, so if I sign on for something, I will be shameless in promoting it via social media, personal email lists, and face-to-face. I understand why they want me to perform at their event, but what I want to know is, what do I get out of it?
Or am I not supposed to ask that question if I want to be a Twue Artiste? Should I just roll over and be glad that someone, anyone, is going to “let me do my art”? As if just getting to perform should be reward enough?
Let me clue everybody in to a little secret…The opportunity for artistic expression? I have that already. I regularly perform for crowds of 40 to 400, doing shows of my own creation, with complete autonomy and artistic control. And I make money off it. This doesn’t lessen the quality of my art. I need to be able to support myself, just like you. I have trained and spent years at my chosen career. I am good at it because I have practiced and practiced and practiced. I’ve poured more money, time, and energy than I could possibly quantify into becoming a better actor, performer, playwright, artist.
Ask any artist you know how often they get asked to donate works or perform for free in exchange for “the exposure.” I guarantee you it is more often than not. Think about that. More than half of the “opportunities” I am given to share my creative work come with no compensation. How would you feel if you were asked to do your job for free half of the time? And suggesting that exposure is an artist’s compensation in these situations is insulting and ignorant. How do I benefit from exposure if it is to people who don’t want to pay for art in the first place?
Which brings me back around to my original story. After thinking about it for a while, I decided to seek out some folks who have performed at the event, just to get a different take on it. Maybe my knee-jerk reaction was too harsh. After all, the producers obviously have a strong vision, and I really do believe in supporting sex-positive events with crossover appeal to the mainstream. They have the potential to open hearts and minds.
But what I gleaned was that I am definitely not a good fit with the show. I’d have to create a custom story, be willing to edit it per their suggestions, and take direction on the telling of it. Which would mean at least one live telling to the producers, edits and reworking, and (I’m assuming) another rehearsal/telling with the producers, and then performance. It starts to depart from what I consider unscripted storytelling (which is more how they sell the event) and veer toward rehearsed performance. That requires time and multiple rehearsals to do successfully. For which I would be paid…wait for it…Nothing.
Essentially, I’d provide them with content and talent as a hired hand. Except I wouldn’t be compensated. Here, playwright, write what we tell you. Here, actor, perform this script the way we want you to. Since I create, perform, and make a living off doing these things for myself, I need a good reason to do it for someone else, especially for free.
As I mentioned before, I have produced similar events before, and I know the producers aren’t getting rich off this. But they are charging a ticket price. The advertisements get paid for. The venue gets a rental fee. The security guards at the club get paid. The bartenders get paid. The box office person gets paid. The venue sound and light technicians get paid. The producers make whatever money is leftover, if any (that’s the risk of being a producer). Why are the storytellers themselves, the entertainers, the artists not worthy of the same consideration? I’m the one getting on stage, sharing my story, being vulnerable in front of an audience, and that doesn’t deserve any monetary compensation?
I don’t harbor ill will toward the event or the producers; I am simply declining to participate in their show with these given circumstances. This really speaks to a larger problem in our society: the generally accepted idea that art isn’t worth paying for, or that being an artist isn’t a valid profession. That I’m lucky anyone is paying attention to me, much less money, and I should just be satisfied having my ego stroked by applause once in a while. Yes, I take it personally. No, I’m not sorry.
Do me a favor. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine your life without art. No paintings, films, poetry, literature, theatre, or music…No art of any kind. It’s actually almost impossible to do. But please try. Because if you refuse to actively value art and artists, there will be fewer and fewer of us able to continue creating. There will be less art. And that would make the world an ugly, uninhabitable place.
Me: Birthday shoes arrived!
Him: Nice! Looking forward to seeing them up close when they are on my shoulders.