MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. On today's show, we're taking stock and someone who's been taking stock in a rather particular way...
MS. LAURA ZAM
Guess what? I'm getting married.
...is D.C. based playwright Laura Zam and she's been doing with help from what you're hearing her read from right now, her new one-woman show, "Married Sex."
My ex-boyfriends on Facebook keep writing, you're getting married? Screw them. I'm getting married. I'm 46 and after 30 years of disastrous romantic luck, someone that I love also loves me.
"Married Sex" is part of Theater J's community-supported art Locally Grown Festival. Its goal, to nurture the talent of D.C. area playwrights. And as artistic director, Ari Roth exports that talent to the rest of the nation. I sat down with Laura Zam and her director, Shirley Serotsky, to talk about "Married Sex." It's Zam's seventh one-woman show and one of her more personal. It's a comedy and just a quick note for our listeners, it does deal with some rather adult themes.
Anyhow, as Zam explains, the play is about a 40-something newlywed woman with a rather particular problem.
Her body doesn't respond the way that she would like it to, sexually, and she believes this has to do with something that happened in her past, a trauma that's still clinging to her life and so she goes to see a plethora of specialists. She sees a hypnotist. She talks to a Tantrika. It's a Tantric mistress. She talks to a sex therapist, while sitting in Panera, on her cell phone. Cognitive behavioral therapists, spiritual gurus, a whole assortment of folk.
Now, you keep saying she, but this is based on -- inspired by your own experiences.
Yes, it's mostly true, though I do fictionalize it a bit. And I do say she because it helps me to take my life experience, my source material, and to craft it into something that's meant for the audience's enjoyment.
You choose a fairly comedic approach to a subject matter that is not so comedic. Sexual abuse, trauma, why go that route?
I've been looking to write about this for a few years now. Once I started turning this into art, it stopped being quite as heavy and secretive and dark and twisted in its own way. It changed the story for me. It changed my relationship to it. Also, I'm not interested in talking about the event itself, this abuse which happened at the hands of a neighbor. I wanted to talk about the 44 years afterward and how they're still in effect. And I felt that because I'm talking about it and it's so far removed from the actual horrific event, I can laugh at myself. I can laugh at situations.
So there's a context having to do with trauma, but the narrative, the story is not about trauma. The story is about, in this case, a woman who's got a pain syndrome and she's going to all these doctors and they can't figure out, you know, what it is. Some say it's in her head, some say it's this, try this, try that, try that. And I think a lot of people can relate to that frustration and also the humor in something like this and the absurdity, I guess.
Well, Laura, let's talk about the process that Laura, the character, goes through, but also Laura, the playwright, went through in order to write the play visiting all of these practitioners. Can you tell us a bit about that, perhaps one of the more memorable encounters?
I talked about the Tantrika.
Tell us a bit more about the Tantrika.
The Tantrika's a woman that I found online and she started talking to me about my problem and her suggestion was, she said, well, the only way I can treat you is if you come in with your husband and you have to make love in front of me. And whenever you experience this pain, I'm going to stop you and ask you questions.
And then the sex therapist with whom you spoke, you were on the phone in a Panera?
In a Panera, yes. In order for her to really advise me, she needed all this information and so I was eager to go forward in the process so I figured, okay, let me just, you know, speak in as hushed tones as possible. So that was an interesting consult, that was an interesting consult, yes.
So surely as you're directing this, in your experience, you've directed all sorts of plays. How has it been working on this play?
MS. SHIRLEY SEROTSKY
As we've oft quoted here at Theater J, Sholom Aleichem's statement about laughter through tears and I think that even our comedies often bring this sense of humor to very serious things. But humor comes out in the honesty of it and in this piece, Laura, the character, says things out loud that many of us might be thinking, but we wouldn't say it out loud. And I think that's where a lot of the humor comes from. And one other thing that I think is worth mentioning, it still does good to this question of married sex and I think that is a little bit taboo to talk about as well. Lighter than the questions of abuse, but still important.
Yes. And I mean, that is the main story here and that's the investigation, not just this character wanting to improve her sexual functioning, but asking what does it mean to be married? What does that bond consist of and how does sexuality play a role in that and, in some ways, not play any role in that? And, I mean, there's a joke that people -- Ari said, joked at one of the performances, it's like, I have a play, it's called "Married Sex," but nothing happens in this play. Going to have a lot of expectations that something's going to happen, but nothing, absolutely nothing's going to happen. And I guarantee you're going to go away disappointed.
And so I realized that there are a lot of investigations of couples and relationships and marriage. It's a play about love. This is really a play about love and it's not weighed down by this trauma, this context of trauma. Instead, it's a play of moving beyond anything in one's past and what might be helpful in terms of realizing the life that you want.
That was playwright Laura Zam and director, Shirley Serotsky, talking about "Married Sex," one of the plays in Theater J's Locally Grown Festival. You can catch readings of the play at Theater J on January 10th and February 13th. For more information on "Married Sex" and the entire Locally Grown Festival of which WAMU is a media sponsor, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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