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Author: camerynmoore

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CALL OF THE DAY: accents, “black girls,” and aural stereotypes

Go watch this video, it's an interesting discussion, and I particularly like that the host turned this dumb-ass question around: "What kind of white guys do black girls like? There's no real answer to that question, why should there be one the other way around?" The DK Show on YouTube

Go watch this video, it's an interesting discussion, and I particularly like that the host turned this dumb-ass question around: "What kind of white guys do black girls like? There's no real answer to that question, why should there be one the other way around?"
The DK Show on YouTube

The dispatcher rattled off his number and name, and then blurted it out fast, as if she knew it would squick me out: “He wants a black girl.” Maybe she did know. My dispatcher knows that I have … feelings about these kinds of things.

Let me be clear: interracial relationships do not upset me, but when someone calls up looking for a PSO of a specific race, they are not looking for mutual commitment and support. They are looking for whatever verbal stereotypes exist that fit their fuckability profile.

I have heard about getting requests for an Asian girl, and holy fuck, I can totally imagine what that would involve. (I don't think Bilingual Papi counts here; he knows I'm white, he just likes to hear the words in Spanish sometimes.) On the rare—two?—prior occasions where I was supposed to be a black girl, the callers wanted to hear me perform a specific kind of black; they wanted a certain cadence, the kind of “sass” that makes videos go viral and, when white gay men imitate it, makes me want to scrape my eardrums out until the racist echoes are gone. African American Vernacular English is what the linguists call it. A lot of other people call it “sounding black.”

I knew what those two callers were after, and I just couldn’t make myself do it. The best I could muster was just me, but louder and more forceful even than my usual domme default. Afterward I thought, well, at least they didn’t use the N-word. Cold comfort.

This was my baggage, on this recent day, when the dispatcher said, “He wants a black girl.”

- What does that even mean? I asked, nearly shouting in frustration.

“I don’t know!” she shouted back.

- I don’t do accents.

“I know, I know. Just describe your skin, say it’s chocolatey or whatever.”

Fair enough, I thought, and sullenly gave the go-ahead. Okay, I’ll do that.

“Ten minutes,” she said. “Go get ‘em.” She always sounds like a high-school football coach when she says that.

I braced myself for the worst-case scenario: white, entitled, subby-but-still-in-charge. But then the caller answered his phone, and my brain froze. His voice had that cadence that was not mine to claim; he was using AAVE. If he himself was not African-American, he was trying hard to pretend, which would be WEIRD, but not the weirdest thing that I've ever heard for the sake of a wank.

“What you look like, girl?” he asked. I am shit at lying, but I gave it my best shot, fed him the line about chocolatey skin, brown-black eyes, hips you can really hold onto. He told me about himself: caramel skin, big hands, long tongue. Oh, yes. That was the important bit in his self-description. He wanted me to sit on his face and ride him until I came, so I described my pussy, described the taste: nectar, honey, sweet sweet juice. That was it. I came a couple of times, he climaxed at the right moment, we said bye in a thoroughly friendly fashion, and I breathed a sigh of relief when I hung up the phone. He bought it, I thought. Whatever I said, and however I said it, he bought it.

And then I sat back and wondered yet again if all of my callers understand that they are not actually getting the girl that they describe to the dispatcher. Maybe they know it in an abstract sense, but think that they’re special, that they have preternaturally keen powers of discernment, that they could tell if I were lying about being 5’2 and petite, or 450 pounds with long auburn hair, or, you know, black.

What does a black girl sound like? No. The real question is what do white men who call phone sex lines want a black girl to sound like, and I know the answer to that question. A new question is, what do black men who call phone sex lines (a statistical rarity to begin with) want a black girl to sound like? After this call, I can confidently say that I have NO FUCKING IDEA, any more than I know what a chubby chaser wants a supersize BBW to sound like.

Our voices all sound the same, coming out of my mouth. I swear to you, I'm CRAP with accents, especially stereotypical ones; I don't even try, and I don't want to. So the experiences differ only in who is listening, and what stories are already in their heads.

*****

The stories. That's what I tell. As many as I can get my hands on and wrap my mind around. Feed my forays: become a patron of mine over at Patreon.

What the fuck is a Smut Slam?

it's less an actual bucket, and more a state of mind.

it's less an actual bucket, and more a state of mind.

What is a Smut Slam, and how does it work?

Simply put, it’s a community storytelling open-mic featuring real-life first-person sex stories. We draw out storytellers one slip at a time, as the night rolls on. There are judges and prizes and a chance to participate anonymously with the Fuckbucket (anonymous questions and confessions).

Why a Smut Slam works is a different question. Often it feels like it won’t work at all. There are moments at the beginnings of every Smut Slam, where the bucket for teller entry slips is rattling with only four slips, or two, or one. And the room is full of expectant eyes, all trained on me, waiting for the show to happen, which is my cue to step up to the microphone and say something like, “you people know that this is an open mic, right? You are the show.”

Over the five years of doing Smut Slams around North America and the UK, I have learned not to panic. I have learned to prepare my judges for the possibility of needing to tell a story, and I have learned that, for most of those nights, though the teller bucket may have nothing but tumbleweeds for the first 20 minutes, by the time the second or third story has been told, audience members are nudging each other and finally picking up the little pink slips, and you can feel it in the air, a sort of collective sigh of “oh! I can do that.” At intermission the telling bucket fills up a little bit, and no one needs to know that I was panicking.

As sometimes happens with my projects, Smut Slam started out being a promotional happening, to coincide with the world premiere of my play slut (r)evolution. But Smut Slam quickly became its own style of event, taking on a life of its own and driving off, not giving a single flying fuck that I had accomplished my original goals. People want it on its own merits. The Slams are more popular than my award-winning theatre shows. I don’t even take that personally anymore. It’s just the nature of theatre, so I just make sure to always schedule a Smut Slam before a theatrical run, and rely on one to subsidize the other.

The other thing, the important thing, about my projects is this… I create them because I want it in my own life, and I don’t have time to wait around for other people to create what I want. I do it my own damn self.

Before that first Smut Slam in Boston in 2011, I had started attending and telling at story slams in the region. Storytelling seemed like a good skill to develop for my performance toolbox, I thought, and it was.

But I always felt like the odd one out at those non-smutty slams. I found myself biting back the obscenities even though, from a narrative point of view, they would have been by far the best artistic choice for that particular story. I discarded many a good story for public telling because, even though organizers told me it was an adult event and that I could use whatever language I wanted, I could tell instinctively that wasn’t actually true.

The audiences at those non-smutty events were not the audience for the stories I wanted to tell at that time. I wanted space where those stories, my stories, would be honored as the important things that they were and could be. I also knew, or perhaps I just hoped really hard, that there were other people out there who wanted the same thing.

I have maintained for years that there is no room in our society, as it stands now, to talk honestly about sex. While this in itself is not disastrous on the same scale as the refugee crises or global climate change or authoritarian presidential candidates, it is one more way that we are killing ourselves. And finding a way to open up that space is one more way that we can save ourselves. If we don’t find community, we will perish alone. Actually and metaphorically, we cannot change the world by ourselves.

Smut Slams are a community of sorts. People laugh a lot at these slams, but they are also nodding their heads, and taking down notes, and grabbing tightly hold of their lover’s hands, or occasionally crying. Smut Slam is, above all, a place of honesty and connection. If we’re lucky, we have friends and lovers with whom we can share our authentic sex selves. But in general, that connection is so fucking rare. I wanted it, and I guessed that other people would want it, too.

So yeah, Smut Slams work because some people are voyeurs and some people are exhibitionists and many people do love a good awkward sex story, you know, we can all identify with feeling nervous and making the first move and not having anyplace to urgently fuck, and dogs and/or parents and/or the priest coming into the garage/room/confessional at the wrong moment.

But Smut Slams also work, because … there is no space for this sharing and connecting, anywhere else. There is no place quite like this, where we can tell a story, maybe something we’ve never told before, and we know that we are being heard.

*****

Most of what I write is about this: making space for our sex lives to be heard. If you think that's important and you have the means, step up and become a patron of mine over on Patreon.

TERRIBLE SEX TIPS: “10 Sex Positions To Get Her Off (You’ve Probably Never Tried)”

Don't brace yourself against the wall for a paddlin'? That's another paddlin'.

Don't brace yourself against the wall for a paddlin'? That's another paddlin'.

I can’t resist, y’all. It’s just too damn easy. When the subhead for a sex tips article floats up on Facebook saying ORGASMS GUARANTEED, only two things are guaranteed (and neither of them are orgasms):

  • I’m gonna look. Someone has to do the looking, and I don’t want it to be you.
  • It’s gonna be crap, probably from that same guy at the … is it him? Yes! It IS, Sean Jameson! He's the BJ instructor who needs a paddlin’ for putting out some of the worst dreck in the history of sex tips.

He’s patronizing as fuck, in language that is so stilted that your brain might cramp! He takes all of the worst clichés in both writing and sex tips, and rolls them into one tedious to-do list (original article here)! And YOU NEED TO DO THEM ALL.

Jameson of course back-pedals on the click-bait promises, hedging his article all around with disclaimer language (positions that “you’ve probably never tried”, or “these may not all work for you”). Let’s take a look and see why these might not work.

  1. Thigh Tide

It’s something that I can almost guarantee that you've never, ever tried before.

Uh huh. You’re grinding their thigh. I approve of not feeling restricted to penis-in-vadge options, but dry humping is actually pretty common.

  1. Turtle

Start on your hands and knees with your man on his knees behind you. You will then put your arms backward around your the back of your thighs and pull yourself close to your legs. In this way, you will be making a turtle shape with your body. Perfect for deep penetration.

Wait. What do you do with your head? If "your man" (ick) is fucking you hard for that deep penetration, you need to be bracing back against the thrusting. What are you bracing yourself with? YOUR FUCKING HEAD. That sounds like a very strategic and sensible approach to neck and spinal safety.

  1. Bodyguard

​Spooning whilst standing, basically, the highlight of which, according to the author, is this: “One thing that can make it both fun and like a workout is standing on your toes while he is thrusting into you.” You know my feelings about even thinking about workout and sex in the same sentence. BOOOO THIS IS NOT A FEATURE.

  1. Washing Machine

Oh, bent over a washing machine. Because we haven’t had 70 years to figure that out.

  1. Leapfrog

Like doggy but DIFFERENT. SO DIFFERENT!

Instead of using your hands and arms to keep you upright, you are going to be resting your chest and head on the bed, while sticking your butt and waist high into the air. The added benefit of this is that your arms won't get tired.

No, but your back will.

  1. Acrobat

Ffft. Cowgirl with a back arch that really needs support from whomever you’re riding. He somehow manages to miss that aspect in his baroque yet strangely unexciting step-by-step instructions for getting into position. SAFETY FIRST, YOU TOSSER.

  1. Anvil

… lie on your back with your legs in the air. Your man will be kneeling and will then enter you. Next, he needs to start leaning over you. Doing this will push your legs further and further backwards creating a feeling of pressure where you man is right on top of you. Perfect if you enjoy feeling dominated.

Wait, wait, wait. I have so many questions! How wide do you spread your legs? What should he do with his hands? How many years of yoga do you need? What is the largest recommended bra size for this pose before you run the very real risk of being smothered in your own mammary glands? Why is this perfect for feeling dominated? Is it because you will feel trapped by your own tits and his body and the weight of societal expectations around gender and power dynamics? Yeah, that could be it.

  1. G-Spot Sniper

The G-Spot sniper is great for — you guessed it — hitting your G-spot.

I have big side-eye for any supposedly one-size-fits-all position that involves them "grabbing your thighs"—how small are your thighs?! How large are their hands?!—and hauling you bodily upward so your ass and lower back are off the bed. Said move is probably off the table for many bodies. Also, can we just try to avoid gun-culture metaphors when talking about P-in-V sex?

  1. Spooning

You'll find that spooning is great for intimate and sensual sex with your man, but it's not particularly good for super fast, rigorous sex.

Hah, no, really? I think it’s best to stay positive when giving sex tips, so here I would say instead, “it’s excellent for sneaky hotel-room sex when your friends are in the next bed over.”

  1. Hang Loose

Missionary, but right up to the edge of the bed, so that your head is hanging off the end.

It's not the craziest position in the world, but it makes for a really nice change from regular missionary.

Upside-down scenery! Blood-rush to the head! My goodness, that does sound like a delightfully fresh approach!

*****

If you find my writing delightfully fresh—whether you're reading it upside down or not—show some love and become a patron of mine on Patreon!

The unique trial of potty-mouthed play titles

nerdfucker_test

most shop windows will not put this up. #thingsidontneedtoverify

This article came up last year, in the middle of my UK tour. I remembered it this week because it’s still timely and relevant and… WHY DO I KEEP DOING THIS TO MYSELF. I I keep putting vulgar language in my play titles!

Okay, the last two plays have had inoffensive titles, but this season I’m back with nerdfucker, which is not just vulgar, but actually an obscenity by most public speech laws, so naturally I have been pondering the wisdom of my titling practices. I have had time to consider possible reactions of Fringe festivals, and the challenges of getting the poster up on bulletin boards, and I will never ever be able to go on the air anywhere, holy fuck, what the fuck have I been thinking?

That sort of face-palm mentality only comes to me in flashes. Mostly, I’m resigned. Publicity goes out to mass media, which is conservative by nature. Marketing goes out there in the public eye, and while I would assert that Fringe festivals are inherently risky places to trot your children through, I understand people’s point. This stuff is out there for passersby to see. (I’m still going to put it up there, but I understand the point.) Yes, I’ll have a little dispenser of narrow white tape to slap over the U and make it at least a little more tolerable for coffeehouse standards, but I will have to make peace with the pushback.

I’m more concerned about talking with people. I’ve been saying the title more lately—time to get used to saying it straight-faced, make no blink, give no quarter—and I’ve been getting That Grin in response. It’s a grin I know well, from promoting Phone Whore and slut (r)evolution, a kind of semi-knowing smile that nudges me sideways in the ribs and winks and says “ahhhh, and I bet THAT'S a saucy bit of stage fol-de-rol, innit!”

Nope. Not saucy, not sexy. nerdfucker is not sexy, way less even than Phone Whore was sexy. (People are constantly surprised by how not sexy Phone Whore is.) My next show, HearthCore, will not be sexy. Even Smut Slam, though it entirely features stories about sex, is rarely sexy. My shows aren’t necessarily or even primarily sexy. They just sound like they should be, because that’s the energy I bring to them, because they do touch on sex, because sex is part of our lives. Sex affects the decisions we make; it underpins so much of what most people do. I take it seriously.

But when I tell people the names of my shows, they think I’m being cheeky or something, which… not really. They think it’s going to be sexy; again, not so much. They think I can’t possibly mean anything serious with it, because it sounds sexy or at least saucy. This is the stuff I end up pushing back against all the time out on tour, and I … yeah, I get a little tired of it.

Well, you might say, if you're getting tired of it, name your shows something different. But that lets the listener right off the hook for their own gut response. It lets society off the hook for being so weird about language and sex and skin. And I can’t seem to name my shows differently. They find their titles, or the titles find them, and the titles and the shows fit together like a hand in a beautiful velvet word-glove. If the made-up word nerdfucker says exactly what I think people need to know going in, or at least part of what people need to know, then that’s what the title should damn well be.

So. Fuck the media and hey there, fringe people. nerdfucker is neither saucy nor sexy. It’s just me.

*****

What happens when a foul-mouthed, thoughtful wordsmith meets the world? That's pretty much what I do. Get on board and become a patron of mine over on Patreon. There's going to be a collision—many of them—and it's gonna keep being good.

CALL OF THE DAY: this is not ageplay, so why do I feel like I’m in junior high again?

"no fucking way" is a write-in option

"no fucking way" is a write-in option

(Names used here are neither real names or phone names.)

He’s told me before that he wants to do a call with the dispatcher, “Becca,” who is also the owner of the company. There is no room for professional jealousy in this line of work—if he doesn’t stick with me down the road, I’ll find somebody else—so when a caller talks about wanting someone else, or wanting to do a call with the dispatcher, I just shrug. This guy, he’s mentioned it once or twice; he thinks Becca has a sexy voice, but he’s never pushed it, and he always seems super satisfied with my service.

But he asked me today, “Did Becca say anything about me before she passed the call along to you?”

No, I said, should she have?

“I wrote her a letter.”

Oh, I said. That seemed like the only thing I could say.

He rushed on, kind of tripping over himself, bashful and unsure. “I told her how much I liked her and her voice, and I told her what I would love to do for her some time. I hope she wasn’t offended. Do you think she was offended?”

No. I thought about the things he talks about, not just with me, but with a bunch of other girls on the service. He calls regularly. And “Becca” listens in on all kinds of calls. She has heard enough of his calls that she has a totally accurate nickname for him: “Stinky Jim.”

No, I said. I doubt she was offended. She’s been doing this for a long time.

“I wrote three pages,” said Stinky Jim, “but I wasn’t pushy about it.”

I’m sure you weren’t, I murmured. Over the phone, at least, Stinky Jim is the epitome of the Southern gentleman. But a three-page letter? About what he liked and why she would have a good time? You might guess, from his nickname, that his thing is Not A Common Thing, and you’d be right. Still, he’s never been one to feel bad or weird about his Not-Common Thing.

He continued, “I just really think I’d have a good time, and I think she would, too. But maybe she’s not into it.” His voice lilted up, making this more of a question.

I thought again about Stinky Jim’s special areas of interest, and had to bite my tongue to keep from saying: most people aren’t. Instead I opted for something less harsh. I don’t know, hon, she and I don’t really talk about that sort of thing.

“You think I did the right thing? I showed Wanda the letter before I sent it.” Wanda is supposedly the madam of the brothel that he goes to on a Sunday, where he supposedly gets to play around for cheap and/or free, because he likes to eat out the girls after they’ve been working all weekend. “Wanda said it was a good letter.”

I’m glad you showed someone the letter, I said. Those are hard letters to write.

“Really, Becca didn’t say anything?” Stinky Jim asked. “I mailed it three weeks ago.”

Oh, god, I thought. It was a Valentine’s Day proposition. At that point I started getting the feeling that he wanted me to ask her if she got his letter.

No, I said. I think she would have said something if she wanted to follow up with you about it. Did she sound different to you? Did she treat you differently?

“No,” he said.

Okay. Are you asking for my advice?

“Yes!” he said.

Well, I think you have to leave it in her court, and not ask her about it, and be willing to let it go. Same thing is true here, as it is out in real life. If you make your gesture, and someone doesn’t want it, it doesn’t help your case to pester them.

“You’re right,” he said reluctantly.

I’m sorry, I said. And I actually was, a little bit. Without knowing the context of his relationship to Becca, I felt a bit squicked on Becca’s behalf about the idea of getting a three-page letter detailing one of Stinky Jim’s fantasies. On the other hand, she obviously knows all about his stuff. She knows he will talk about it with whoever’s available.

So I was left with the same feeling about Stinky Jim and his unrequited lust, that I have about most of my phone clients in general: putting one’s desires into words can feel really scary. So, good on ya, Stinky Jim, for putting yourself forward. Not everyone can do it.

But I don't think Becca's gonna go for it.

*****

I put scary shit into words. This is what I do. If you like the way I do it, show me. Become a patron of mine on Patreon.

TERRIBLE SEX TIPS: 5 Badminton-Inspired Sex Positions That’ll Have You Making a Racket!

Some Terrible Sex Tips cry out for methodical de(con)struction. Others beg for a manifesto in reponse, about the shitty politics or the egregious trend-seeking. And then there are those sex tip articles that deserve the silliest parody I can whip up. This here is one of those articles, and what follows is one of those parodies. Strap on your terry-cloth wristbands and enjoy!

Leap high, land hard, fuck fast. Is that a good motto? Maybe that is not such a good motto.

Leap high, land hard, fuck fast. Is that a good motto? Maybe that is not such a good motto.

5 Badminton-Inspired Sex Positions That’ll Have You Making a Racket!

There’s something decidedly sexy about badminton! Maybe it’s the name of the object being batted about. Shuttlecock. That’s hot. Sounds like go-go-gadget high-tech dildonics, right? And it’s gonna be badminton time of year soon, isn’t it, with spring and the Summer Olympics and family reunions and all. You’ll be able to just run out and pick up some cheap-jack packaged versions of the game sold at Target, because you’ve forgotten what happens with badminton at family gatherings, that thing when the two-year-old has chewed up and swallowed half of the shuttlecock, and one of the kids starts hitting all the other kids with their racquet, and no one does anything until the racquet connects with some grownup person’s drink. Not sexy! But here we provide you ways to make it sexy again while you watch the Olympic competitors, driving the hell out of all of that sexy sweaty energy happening in your living room. (Might be less sweaty if you turned on the AC, but hey, it’s your living room!)

The Underhand Lift

Cling to the door jamb and have him penetrate you from behind, lifting you up by your ass-cheeks and then dropping you down again. Your grip on the door will give him some extra lift, ‘cuz you don’t want to hurt his feelings about not being strong enough. That kind of core strength is one in a thousand, anyway. Just pull up on the upstroke and let him have his dream.

The Mid-Court Jump Smash

Get yourself two of those plastic milk crates and stand on them naked, bent over and bracing yourself against the wall. His goal is to jump up and land his dick inside you. It’s kind of a one-shot sensation, but wow, so powerful! Of course, bolder couples can aim for the Rear-Court Smash. He’ll love the adventure, and you’ll both be sweating in no time.

Sidehand Spin

This is a nice twist on the standard advice for hand jobs. Definitely use lube, but with the Sidehand Spin, you don’t want to keep your hand on his shaft. Instead, pull your dominant hand away from the action and then bring it back sharply, angling the edge of your palm downward for the landing, like a karate chop. Guys with foreskins will especially appreciate the sudden breathtaking tug.

Shuttlecock Shimmy

This saucy move needs a little bit of costuming prep, but don’t worry: you can get what you need at your local dollar store. Buy three or four feather dusters and wedge the handles up under the front of a nice snug garter belt. Straddle him as he’s sitting on the couch and ride him nice and slow, with a swivel action through the hips, giving the feathers lots of play across his belly. Tickle tickle tickle!

Mixed Doubles

Go to a swingers’ club together and find someone nice to play with. (Don’t shout points at each other across the play space. This is poor sportsmanship, and confusing for bystanders. Or byfuckers. Whatever you want to call them.)

Coming Soon: Seven Kinky Moves Inspired by Track & Field Events!

*****

Someone needs to keep me off the streets and between nice flannel sheets. It takes a village, ya know! Become a patron of mine over on Patreon and join my village!

FUCK THAT FOURTH WALL: operating notes for my personal theatre manifesto

The view from my Phone Whore chair at the Brixton kitchen show. There is simply NO ROOM for the fourth wall. Hell, there's barely room for the two actual walls and the refrigerator!

The view from my Phone Whore chair at the Brixton kitchen show. There is simply NO ROOM for the fourth wall. Hell, there's barely room for the two actual walls and the refrigerator!

Anyone who comes to one of my bar shows—Smut Slam and now BEDx—may have seen me flitting around in the half-hour before the show, chatting with box office and volunteers and most especially the early-arriving audience members. You might write that off as hostess jitters, and you would not be entirely wrong. But there’s more to it than that. I am trying to bring everyone into the show, wandering the boundaries of the room and gently nudging people in.

It’s part of my practice of breaking down the fourth wall, which I knew was a thing for me, but I hadn’t realized how much until five days ago, when I produced my first BEDx event in Montreal. BEDx is a simple concept: four presenters on sex/sexuality topics, 10 minutes each of geeking out plus Q&A, in the back room of a bar. One of the presenters had to drop out, so I rode into the gap on one of my favorite hobby horses, the intersection of performance space and sexual content. “Fuck That Fourth Wall,” I called my presentation; it was all about how I try to lower or eliminate perceived barriers for comprehension or empathy for audiences at my usually sexually explicit shows. Even before I got up on stage that night, I found myself doing the thing I was so keen on to talk about. It’s part of what I have to do, to make these shows work.

See, the fourth wall must be fucked with, for any public presentation about sex. Even the most starched-up, government-sponsored lecture series will have a Q&A. And for the more radical, intense, graphic, and/or personal moments that pepper my shows, I need to pull down the wall by whatever means necessary, using whatever little tricks I’ve found, accidental or deliberate, that can bring people in past that damned fourth wall.

This wall is the accepted convention that, in that theatrical environment, delineates the world of the actors from the "real world" that the audience is in. "Breaking the fourth wall" involves acknowledging the observer/audience as observer, and/or acknowledging the container for the work of art. For me, it is about bringing the audience in to inhabit the same space as I do.

For example, I am acutely aware of stage height. Especially for the plays in which I am talking to the audience for all or part of it—Phone Whore, for | play, The Pretty One, soon nerdfucker—performing on a noticeably elevated stage means that I will be literally talking down to them. Elevation also heightens (hah!) the sense that “this is a presentation or performance,” adding to the metaphorical distance that just gets in my way. For Smut Slams, I seek out venues where the mic stand can be at floor level. Why? I have a hard enough time coaxing people up. I don’t want to freak out non-performer tellers by making them go up and down steps—someone inevitably will bite it, owing to nerves—and then stand there in a brightly lit stage.

I like to start the show in the room, or make my entrance through it, where possible. I saw the effectiveness of this in 2013, at the Edinburgh Fringe. I was performing Phone Whore in the basement of a bar, which had no wings and only 15 minutes between shows. I was forced to see the audience as I was setting up, but rather than get stressed out about it, I decided to use that time to socialize while setting out my props. Now I do that with Phone Whore everywhere, even if I could do the conventional entrance from the side of the stage, even if there is enough space backstage to hold two productions of The Nutcracker side by side, including the growing Christmas trees. I will climb up into the raked seats to talk with people. It makes my dash for the phone more authentic at the beginning of the play, and gives me another five to 15 minutes of time to build rapport. And it makes the point that the entire room is where the show is set.

I also look at the size of the venue. From a strictly business point of view, we often hear, “Don’t hire a venue that you can’t fill up,” which is solid advice; you’re just paying for those empty seats. Or from a taking-care-of-the-performer’s-ego point of view: “It feels better to have 30 people in a 40-seat venue than in an 80-seat venue.” This is also true. My real interest in small venues is the build-in intimacy. Don’t get me wrong: occasionally selling out a 100-seat venue feels great! But honestly, one of the best Phone Whores I ever did was in a kitchen in Brixton, UK. It was a very large, open-plan kitchen/dining room combo, but believe me, 30 people was a tight fit, and it was amazing!

In addition to basic structural considerations in the venue, I really do find that circulating with audience draws people into the space and action of the show as well. You can't get away with hiding back there. I've already greeted you; I know you're there. This is obviously true for such hopefully participatory events as Smut Slam and BEDx, but I do it for my plays, too.

The thing is, theatre doesn’t always get to be choosy around where it is staged. There are challenges that strengthen the fourth wall, which I almost always want to break down. My sexual content thrives when I bust through that wall; it needs air to breathe and room to flow between my audiences and me. But at least I have this toolbox to do the work, and I have found that the tools can be as simple as just stopping by a table and saying hi.

*****

Together with you, I get to keep outfitting that toolbox! Become a patron of mine over on Patreon and help me dismantle EVERYTHING that needs to go.

 

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