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- A Story of O’s
There’s an unsent draft in my gmail dated October 17, 2015. J and I were playing Addams Family pinball at The Standard, about two whiskeys in. The song “Crystals” by Of Monsters and Men was on the jukebox. And it came to me. My next show. I was literally struck by inspiration. It hit me so hard, it knocked the wind out of me.
J asked me what was wrong, but I couldn’t answer. I was furiously trying to find something to write with. Failing that, I pulled out my phone and opened the first app I could think of that would let me write and save it. I typed out sixteen words in the body of an email draft and went back to the game.
I didn’t apply for a single 2017 festival. The last year I wasn’t in any festivals at all was 2010. It’s…weird. But I spent the past two years working a “straight” day job and using every scrap of vacation and time off for the festivals I was in. I hadn’t had more than a couple days off in a row in a long time. Days off while healthy, I should say, since the better part of 2016 was spent hobbled by my knee injury and recovering from surgery. Still, my time away from phone sex was necessary, and my foray into the so-called normal workforce gave me some much needed perspective.
I used to joke that nobody ever draws a phone sex operator when they ask you in Kindergarten to draw a picture of what you want to be when you grow up. At some point it stopped being funny to me. Phone sex was a career that I stumbled onto and that suited me, but it wasn’t my dream. I needed to know continuing to do this form of sex work was a conscious choice, not an accident. I didn’t want to be the cliche so many crusaders use to vilify sex work- trapped in/by it, with no other options. Which I realize now smacks of privilege and internalized patriarchy and OH MY GOD why can’t any conversation be easy now? But I have to be honest and admit where I struggle, because the sixteen words languishing in my drafts folder won’t let me pretend any longer.
I don’t know how it works for other people, where they meet their muse. I don’t have a discernible artistic process, other than that at some point, I notice a story is “starting to arrive” inside me. Once I pay attention and commit to telling the story, I’ve just written until it feels finished. But not this time. This time the story announced itself in a split second and with all the subtlety of a fireworks display. It made me question everything I’ve believed about myself, my family, my childhood, my phone sex work, basically my whole life. And I wasn’t ready. I looked at the words I had written down, was drawn to them repeatedly over the next few days, and then spent the next year trying to ignore them.
I haven’t written. I haven’t been social. I haven’t wanted words, not to share them or use them or read them or hear them. I don’t want to write this show. I can’t even write this damn blog post- the first draft of this is from November of 2016 for fucks sake. If I write one word, here or anywhere, the whole thing might spill out, and I’m still not ready. I just don’t know how to fight it anymore. The effort is exhausting, and starting to manifest itself in physical maladies as it so often does inside me.
So I’m taking myself back to words. There’s so much story, too much, still jumbled but taking up space in my brain. I’m choking on the words trying to get out of body and wondering if there will be anything left of me once they’ve escaped. But this is a start. So far, I’m still here.
Because yes, it really has been almost a year. Fuuuuuck. I just posted my schedule for the Winnipeg Fringe Festival on the A Story of O’s page, and I hope to book a venue for a run of the show in Portland before the end of the year as well. I may start writing here more. I may not. Lots of change in my life over the past couple years, and I do miss this as an outlet. We shall see. In the meantime, you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Fetlife as @TonyaJoneMiller. I tend to update social media with much more regularity than this blog.
As a self-produced performer, I can’t afford to be one of those “oh I never read my reviews” actors. First of all, I’m convinced that 99.99% of people who say that are lying. We can spout our lofty artistic intentions all we want, but the truth is that if we didn’t want to affect people, we’d do skits in our basements for an audience of indifferent cats. I want to reach people, to challenge, inspire, and entertain them. I want to foster dialogue that might never happen otherwise, and to open hearts and minds.
Audience members often approach me after a show to share their own experiences. Somehow me sharing my stories gives them permission to share theirs, and I love that. But critics are able to influence others to see or not see my show, and the producer in me knows I must read all my reviews and use what I can from them to help fill seats.
I’ve gotten pretty good at dealing with poor reviews. I’ve learned that it’s ok to allow them to bother me for a little bit, and I’ve learned how to move past them. I’m able to assess whether the reviewer didn’t “get” it, and I’m also able to determine whether there’s valid, constructive criticism I can use to make my show better. I know that, particularly with A Story of O’s, not everyone is going to like the stories I’m telling. They make people uncomfortable and challenge their assumptions and misconceptions. This is intentional, a huge part of my calling as an artist.
So I won’t lie: it’s gratifying and relieving when I get positive reviews like the ones I linked to above. They help sell tickets, and I’d rather play to more people than less. This year at London Fringe, I’ve been blessed with some glowing reviews, and I wanted to share them with you.
A week from today, I leave on tour. After only doing one festival last year, it feels good to be gearing up for a four festival run. Of course, I had to switch things up. So for the first time ever, I’m performing two different shows in one season. You can find show time and ticket purchase information for all A Story of O’s and Threads by clicking those links, but here’s a basic itinerary…
A Story of O’s at London (Ontario) Fringe Festival
Threads at Ottawa Fringe Festival
Threads at IndyFringe Festival
A Story of O’s at Vancouver Fringe Festival
This post has been a long time coming. As you can see, I haven’t written much lately, mostly because I’ve been dreading writing this. I don’t know what to say or how to say it eloquently, so I’ll just spit it out. (Heh.) After almost twelve years of doing phone sex full-time, I need a break. There, I said it. Whew.
If you are or have been a client of mine, thank you from the bottom of my heart and depths of my cunt. I can’t begin to tell you what this job has meant to me, what you have meant to me…The amazing people I’ve “met” over the years, both callers and operators…The financial freedom it allowed me, which enabled my creative endeavors and tours…The countless orgasms shared with complete strangers to dear friends…The conversations, oh the conversations I have had, the things I have learned…I could never adequately express my appreciation…
But twelve years is a long time at any job these days, and I find I need a change. You probably already noticed I’ve been cutting back my phone sex hours drastically, and I’ve managed to tell many of you myself on calls, dispatch, or via email. I’m calling it a partial retirement, as I am still taking select calls by appointment. However, my availability is severely limited. I’ve been lucky enough to find another job I enjoy, with a small local company, and it’s even food-related, so I get to work with another medium I love. But it’s a M-F, 9-5 thing, and that means you get me on nights and weekends only.
I know this makes it difficult to arrange, especially when privacy is often impromptu, so I expect I’ll lose many of you. I hope you find a stellar replacement for me and only wish I had someone specific to refer you to. I fear phone sex is slowly going the way of the typewriter though, which is part of the reason I’m having to more or less close Bay City Blues. It’s just too hard to find other quality operators and keep them. Not sure what I’m going to do with the websites eventually, but I can’t bring myself to turn them off completely yet. Who knows? Maybe BCB 3.0 will rear its head someday.
But for now, I’m trying to adjust to life in the non-sex-work world. Did you know most people put pants on before they go to work? Lol! Seriously though, my new job is pretty great, and they’re even willing to let me do a few festivals a year, so I still get to fringe it up in the summers!
Speaking of which, it’s almost festival season again! I’m doing A Story of O’s in London (Ontario, not England) and Vancouver, and Threads in Ottawa and Indianapolis. This is my first time in Ottawa and Indy, and I’ve never done two different shows in one season, so there will be a steep learning curve I’m sure. But I’m looking forward to getting back on the road- after doing five festivals each year in 2012 and 2013, only doing Edmonton last year felt like I was missing something.
Anyway…So there you have it. My big news. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, maybe I’ll be able to post a little more frequently. This is not goodbye. It’s just hello to a new me that isn’t going to be at your beck and call quite as often as I have been for the last decade. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you for your support and patronage over the years. You’ve changed my life in unimaginable ways and taught me so much about love, sex, and human connections. I am honored to have been your phone sex provider and proud to call many of you my friends.
(Wow. I just re-read this and I’m tearing up. Feels like a big deal. I think I need to go cry now.)
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! This was the holiday in my family growing up. My single, working mother put the emphasis on gratitude and a good meal rather than the consumerism of Christmas. That stayed with me into adulthood, and my Orphans Thanksgiving meals have been going strong since back when I played den mother to a bunch of rock bands. Everybody who knows me, knows that if they don’t have somewhere to go, don’t want to cook, or have plans fall through, my door is open and there will be a delicious meal on the table. One of my great joys is cooking for my friends and family, so expressing my gratitude for their presence in my life by getting to feed them? Heaven. Of course, I recognize how lucky I am to have the means to do this every year.
So I’d like to invite you to join me in a personal holiday tradition. I portion out leftovers on paper plates, wrap them with tinfoil, and roll plastic silverware sets in napkin/paper towels. Then I go stand on the street somewhere there is a large concentration of homeless people and ask passersby if they’ve had a turkey dinner. Don’t take it personally if anyone declines. Remember, it’s not about you. But trust me when I say the genuine gratitude you will feel- from both the recipients, and from inside your own heart as you realize how blessed you are- is worth the little effort it takes. And don’t forget the pie! The best smile I saw last year was from a homeless teenager who declined the turkey but started crying happy tears when she saw the pie. (I wrap pie portions separately, so folks can take dinner, dessert, or both.)
I hope you all have delicious meals and good company in your immediate futures, but if not, there is an open door policy at my Orphan’s Thanksgiving. Feel free to message me for the address.
Many of you don’t even know I was ever married, but Halloween was our wedding anniversary. I found out last week that my ex-husband just passed away in Arizona. Those of you who knew him, know he was a profoundly damaged human being. Our relationship was inequitable, unhealthy, and abusive, albeit not physically. I was young and naive, but I loved him. Even after I left, I only ever wanted him to find the strength to be a good father to his daughter (with his first wife) and the courage to become the person he was capable of being. But I knew the chances of that happening were slim.
I was completely unprepared for how much the news of his death has affected me. I’m letting myself be sad. I’m letting myself miss the parts of that life that were good. Today, I’m choosing to focus on the sweet, happy memories.
RIP, Michael John Fisher. You’re finally free.
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)