There is always a fine line between Art and Therapy, and when Tantra Theater is done right, that line dissolves. Generally we do this through 90 days of group psychodrama before inviting an audience into our process. Now, I am furiously preparing to showcase my first solo performance in about a month.
After about a year of research, development and procrastination, I've created a One-Woman-Show about the sacred prostitute. Because I believe in the power of deadlines, I booked a local theater in only FIVE WEEKS. That's hardly enough time to work through my self doubt, self consciousness and self judgment, let alone enough time to edit, MEMORIZE, rehearse and produce the hour long show.
As a creativity coach, I'm used to midwifing artists through said resistance. In fact part of my job description, as director of Tantra Theater, is to hold the artist by the hand and remind them to speak their truth. "Who cares what your mother, neighbor, rabbi would say, a true artist is willing to be misunderstood!" Now, when I visualize myself standing naked on the stage (figuratively as well as literally) my mouth goes dry, my knees start to shake and I wonder, who's going to hold my hand?
"What are you afraid of?" I ask myself, closing my eyes to inquire deeper. I allow feelings to focus beyond familiar fears of failure, not trying, looking like an ass, disappointing my fans, not living up to my own standards, sabotaging myself, or getting arrested and having child protective services take away my 4 year old son. To my surprise, my greatest block is ...drumroll please... fear of being self indulgent. I got into theater to help other people, my inner critic says, nobody wants to see me get onstage and watch me heal myself, especially if they're paying for tickets at the door.
I paid to sit through a whole litany of angry feminist rants in the name of self expression while studying performance art in college. When bored by what was happening onstage, I sat in the dark audience imagining a discursive spoof called: "Look at me, look at me, look at me!" The unbearable thought of contributing another self indulgent peice to the already embarrassing list of obscure post modern solo plays, is why it has taken me over 15 years to finally create my own show.
I confess I would rather die than re-tell the story of my dysfunctional upbringing in public-- And this is from a woman who is constantly preaching about the value of vulnerability! So, the only way I gathered the gumption to get up there, is by telling other people's stories. I admit it, I'm too chicken shit to share my own, so I built a show around interviews with five women, my mentors. Now, I am sincerely honored that these powerful pioneers in sacred sex have entrusted me to share their intimate details about being arrested, nearly raped, judged and ultimately liberated. As I refine their powerful stories, I realize the potential we have to affect social change, but the only way to do that, is to personally affect the audience, which requires me to be vulnerable.
This is the most ego confronting work I've ever encountered. I've spent 3 years supporting other people step up to the stage to heal rape, body image, sexual identity, STD and other taboo issues. After several months scrambling for other performers and/or a different director, I am finally ready to step up and share these stories. And then, the plot thickened. Annie Sprinkle, pioneer performance artist and one of my interview subjects, insists that I do a self pleasuring scene onstage. Hell, If you're going to be self indulgent, do it all the way!
Ha, ha, ha HA! (This is my awkward 'oh shit' laugh of disbelief.)
Then I remember what Ellen DeGenerous's says in her one woman show. She used to go to therapy and ramble on about her neurosis, (you know, all the dissatisfying details that come with being human.) Then she thought, why pay a stranger to listen to her talk, when she can get a whole room of strangers to pay her to listen to her talk! But she's Ellen DeGenerous.
And who am I? I wonder. Can I truly get naked and strip off my defenses along with my lingerie? Can I take off the title of author, director, self proclaimed goddess, and just connect with the audience? In the last scene of "The legend of the Sacred Prostitute," Annie Sprinkle plucks off her false eye lashe, still breathing heavy after a great orgasm, while looking into the audience. Could I do that? And be authentic? Annie promises that the sacred part of prostitution comes when we are authentic. She coaches me to perform her invocation in my own voice, my own style. Could I cum onstage and not be attached to whether it was good for them, or if they will tell their friends that they think I faked it?
I don't know yet how it's going to turn out, I haven't even finished the script, but now at least one thing is clear: I am willing to be self indulgent. And indulging in the self... feels damn good.
Tantra Theater presents The Sacred Slut Show opens July 7,8,9th $20 presale tickets $25 at the door. http://sacredslutseries.eventbrite.com/ The play is inspired by interviews with Annie Sprinkle, Mare Simone, Amara Charles, Veronica Monet, Tracy Elise and other anonymous sacred sex pioneers.