THE CAST

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It’s with delight and excitement that we announce the cast of the inaugural New York City production of The Sex Myth: A Devised Play! Each of these incredible performers brings a unique and personal story to the stage. The play will show at HERE August 16-20, 2017. Tickets go on sale July 19.

 

JARI JONES

Jari Jones is a black trans multi-faceted artist residing in New York. With her start in musical theater, Jari has graced some of New York’s greatest stages, performing in productions such as Disney’s High School Musical, Ragtime  and recently a 2 year run of Lin Manuel’s In The Heights. Jari later shifted into fashion, building a successful career as a fashion and editorial photographer, but quickly became internationally recognized as a LGBTQ and body positive public figure in front of the camera as well. Jari has been featured in publications such as Teen Vogue, NYLON, and The Advocate for her insight on fashion within politics, body positivity, and LGBTQ community building and relationships. Jari along with her girlfriend have also been recently spotlighted in the acclaimed exhibit Perpetual Revolutions: The Image and Social Change at the  ICP ( International Center of Photography) and a number of other International galleries highlighting Trans-Lesbian Relationships and Queer Bodied Empowerment. Jari dedicates her artistry in all mediums to uplift and launch careers of marginalized artists and the people who support them.

 

JENNIE RUNK

Jennie Runk is an American model represented by JAG Models in New York. Born in Georgia and raised in Missouri, Jennie was discovered in a Petsmart while volunteering for a cat adoption service. A proud (and recently married!) member of the LGBTQ community, Jennie is passionate about inclusion and empowerment for all people. Considered plus-size by the fashion industry, Jennie starred in the H&M summer swimwear campaign, graced the April cover of Marie Claire France and will be starring in the Straight/Curve documentary where she’ll share her compelling perspective on the future of her industry.

 

NON KURAMOTO

Non Kuramoto is an actor, comedian, and feminist-art-slut. At Northeastern University, where she is a rising senior, she has performed in AntigoneColumbinus, and House of Bernarda Alba. She co-founded the Northeastern Shakespeare Society and has designed and built costumes for three productions. When not on or off-stage, she can be found covered in paint or shooting people with a camera. She spends the rest of her time musing about fashion as the Editor-In-Chief of The Avenue.
You can hear Non’s voice at a variety of mics around New York City and Boston, or on her theatre-centric podcast Where’s Julie?
IG: @nyanchatte

DARIUS JOURNIGAN

Darius is a company member and administrative assistant of The Family Repertory Company where he has taught and performed since 2015. His most notable credits include Christian in Ruined at the Athens & Epidaurus Festival in Greece, Hal Carter in Picnic, and most recently, Conduit #2 in Adonis Memories, an immersive experience. He is absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to perform in The Sex Myth: A Devised Play this Summer!

 

CLAIRE BEAUDREAULT

 

 

Claire Beaudreault is New Orleans-born, Los Angeles/Philippines/West Virginia-bred rapper-slash-actress. A founding member of irreverent, semi-viral feminist hip-hop group Hand Job Academy, she performs and releases music as Clara Bizna$$. Acting credits include Miranda in The Tempest, Helga in Cabaret, and “tattooed hipster” in the background of every TV show that shoots in NYC. Once upon a time, she was a character performer at Walt Disney World. Claire earned her BFA in Puppetry from West Virginia University, and dreams of appearing in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Twitter and Instagram: @ClaraBiznass

 

SERGIO CASTILLO

 

Sergio Castillo is an actor, writer, director, and producer for both theatre and film. His NYC acting credits include: Audience Participation (Manhattan Repertory Theatre Festival Winner), The Prenup (Strawberry Festival Finalist), Dust (Third Room Productions), Kristina (August Strindberg Repertory Theatre), The Councilwoman (West Village Musical Theatre Festival), After (End Rape Now), Plutus (Curious Frog Theatre Company), The Taming of the Shrew (Queens Players), The Bald Soprano (Dance New Amsterdam), and Hello Out There (Dance New Amsterdam). He completed his MFA at the Actors Studio Drama School; Pace University. Since graduating he has directed and starred in six films: My Brooklyn (Praxis Culture Films) Have You Ever Been With A Latin Guy? (Praxis Culture Films), Coda For A Dream (Praxis Culture Films), No Translation (Praxis Culture Films), Lonely Ciphers (Working Class Films), and Never Worn (Working Class Films). Sergio has served on the Brooklyn Arts Council and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA.

 

SHERILL-MARIE HENRIQUEZ

Sherill-Marie is a Master of Arts candidate in NYU Steinhardt’s Educational Theatre program (Spring 2018). Her most recent work has been rooted in immersive, improvised, and devised theatre alongside companies such as The Murder Mystery Company, People’s Theatre Project, and Fantasy Theatre Factory. Additional theatre credits include Little Shop of Horrors (Ronette), Much Ado About Nothing (Margaret), and Seussical the Musical (Sour Kangaroo). A native of Union City, NJ, Sherill-Marie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnicity and Race Studies from Columbia University. In her spare time, she tries to come as close as she can to flying, through aerial arts.

 

SHAAN SACHDEV

Shaan, 28, is a flâneur, songfish, and writer of ontology. While his pen inclines primarily toward the dialogical metaphysics of consciousness and the abstract language in which it is enveloped, he too remarks regularly upon broad cultural and political tectonics under the nom de guerre Sach Dev. When his voice is not impelled toward conceptual courtship, it animates a scraggly musical persona known as The Dignity of Solomon Shah. With gratitude and vim, he inaugurates his disclosure within New York theater – HERE.

 

My Sex Myth Story: Henry

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Several years ago, I began talking with people for my book The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality, interviewing more than two hundred people across the United States, Canada, Australia, and the UK.

As The Sex Myth moves from book to play, I decided to touch base with some of the people that started it all. I wanted to find out what, if anything, had changed in their attitudes as well as their lives and relationships, as well as which sex myths they still wish they could break with the snap of a finger.

As readers of this series will see, identifying the myths that harm society and ourselves as individuals is often the first step toward freedom from them. Thanks to all of the original interviewees and the ones who were willing to follow up with me for helping us to break #thesexmyth.

This week, we follow up with Henry:

Henry, a trainee electrician from Bristol in the UK, is tall and broad shouldered with pale skin and closely cropped brown hair. At twenty-three years old, he has never had a girlfriend and he has never had sex, though he did come close to it once.  “It’s hard work to make sure that I don’t wake up every day and feel like I’ve failed,” he says. “I just feel too old to be a virgin.” When he was seventeen or eighteen, it didn’t feel like such a big deal. “Even at nineteen or twenty, it felt like there was still time.” But Henry is now approaching his mid-twenties, and his friends are starting to move in with their partners and get engaged. “I just feel like, What am I doing? I haven’t even gotten to stage one of that conversation yet.” – The Sex Myth, page 89-90.

What made you reach out to Rachel to be interviewed for The Sex Myth?

I was part of a community of creative writers on Tumblr around 2012 and Rachel’s advertisement asking people to come forward was reblogged by a good friend of mine. The advertisement asked for people to speak about their sexual experiences. I am not quite sure what prompted me to message. I think there was a part of me that wanted to reach out and find out if I was truly alone in my situation or there were others like me. Something about how the ‘sex myth’ was explained really spoke to me and it felt encouraging to come forward.

 

How have your beliefs and attitudes when it comes to sex evolved since you spoke to Rachel in 2012?

There has been a massive shift in my beliefs, attitudes and my sexual desires and identity. It feels like I have traversed a huge distance from the version of me from 2012 to who I am today. The person I was back then was afraid to engage with others sexually, and afraid to pursue my desires of Bondage and other facets of BDSM that eluded me at a time when I was coming to terms with the parts of me that I was afraid to embrace. Now I feel alive and that I am whom I was always meant to be.

 

And how has your sex and relationships life changed, if at all?

My sex life has changed dramatically too. I’ve since come to terms with my sexual orientation, that I  first thought I was bisexual but attraction to both genders isn’t something I’ve felt universally. I’ve since come to realise that my attraction is truly on a person-by-person basis, and it’s much different than simply having a ‘type.’ It’s determined by this X factor that still eludes me to this day, but this is something I can get behind since I think it makes it more special when those connections are built.

My long-term monogamous relationship has developed into a loving polyamorous relationship where we love and respect each person in the poly group. There has been a learning curve, but I am learning to engage with it ethically and respectfully to embrace a new paradigm of open communication and trust, as well as sexual, personal, and gender exploration.

At the time of my 2012 interview, I was a 23-year-old virgin, who didn’t believe he had any value to himself and others, tortured by desires I didn’t know how to fully understand and address.

Now I am a 28-year-old Pansexual Queer person who is very much beginning to understand the things that engage me and fuel my desires and passions. I openly engage in BDSM with a followed heart guiding the way. I am in a loving polyamorous relationship, where I am loved for who I am and the time and energy that I share with the people in my life. I am feeling at my best, and stronger than I have in a very long time.

 

If there was one sex myth [ie, toxic sexual stigma or stereotype] you could break today, what would it be?

I would like to shatter the myth that people who live kinky and alternative lifestyles are deviants who don’t have a place in our society. The truth is we are three-dimensional people who have lives, families, relationships, and responsibilities just like anyone else you walk by on the street. We are just pursuing the desires in our hearts in a positive and open way.

Your War Paint

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For the past three weeks I’ve been taking a professional makeup course. It’s not like I fancy a career change, it’s just something I always wanted to do, and since I moved to New York City last October, I thought it would be the best time to seize the opportunity.

When I enrolled in the course, I had no idea that I would meet Rachel Hills a few weeks into my new life in New York, and would be playing an important role turning her book into a play around the same time that I would be spending my days learning about contouring, eye shapes, and the perfect red lip.

It has been a very fulfilling experience so far, as learning a new skill always is. I have struggled with the challenges and marveled at my achievements. And whilst learning about the history of eyeliner and the anatomy of the human face, I’ve found myself having a first-hand experience of the intrinsic link between personal appearance and sex—which is one of the themes of Rachel’s book.

In chapter 2, “Sex: An Act Unlike Any Other,” Rachel tells the story of Sofia, a “glamorous young executive in Beverly Hills” who considers her physical appearance (including her makeup) and her sexual appeal to go hand in hand. This is an old and enduring story. Since the year 3100 BC, when the first Egyptian dynasty began using kohl to paint their eyelids (or at least this is the first historical record we have), makeup has been used to help the wearer acquire status—whether it be to showcase your wealth, beauty, or birth—humans long to be admired.

 

Isabel is enrolled in a make-up course at Chic Studios NYC.

Sexual desirability is yet another way of assessing our status in comparison to others; historically we know this to be true and arguably it has become even more so since the sexual revolution.  We want to be wanted because it gives us a sense of value and power. Particularly for those members of society who have direct influence, sexual politics have become a currency, a kind of ‘soft power’ with which to play a role in society. We invest much time, money, and resources into creating a persona— a look that will tell the world where we wish to be placed on the spectrum of our peers.

However, the downside of marketing oneself as a sexually desirable being is that this almost always comes hand in hand with objectification and becoming a receiver of unwanted attention. And so, makeup becomes a mask. A cover up for your pain and fear, a giving in to the demands of a society that has an absolute determination to label all its members to determine value, but, paradoxically, a tool to defy that very same society. Ironically, a subject matter and medium that is often dismissed for its female association has also become a powerful tool to stand up against societal rules, to bend gender roles and express individuality. Cue the endless variations on this topic affected and influenced by race, gender, identity, sexual preference, disability and age.

As a budding makeup artist, I want to say: I see you. Whatever your war paint of choice, whatever it is that you want to show the world, whether it be minimal natural, highly polished glam, darkly mysterious goth, or anywhere in between—I see you. I support you.

And as Assistant Director of The Sex Myth, I want to hear your story. I want to incorporate it into the play and I want it to be told. Because I see you. And I want others to see you too.

The “Talk” & Attack of the Nasty Women: Recent Work from Rachel Hills

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Sydney Writers’ Festival: nasty women Chris Kraus, Viola Di Grado and Brit Bennett take centre stage

In the final minutes of last year’s third US presidential debate, Hillary Clinton spruced up some otherwise dry comments about social security with a jab at her opponent.

Under her plan, she said, her taxes would go up. “As will Donald’s, assuming he can’t find a way to get out of it,” she added with a smile. Trump narrowed his eyes and shook his head, leaning into his microphone. “Such a nasty woman,” he said, raising his right finger in rebuke.

It was an offhand remark that would launch a thousand responses – from T-shirts, to tea cups, to the Twitter hashtag #IAmANastyWomanBecause, to the forthcoming Advice from Nasty Women panel at the Sydney Writers’ Festival later this month.

Part of this overwhelming response can be attributed to the global impact of the US election, and the knowledge that what happens in America affects the rest of the world. But the resonance of Trump’s comment was also inherent in the words themselves. As culture writer Megan Garber noted in The Atlantic, “nasty” has been employed as a gendered and sexualised insult since Shakespeare’s days. It also has a shorter history of reclamation by women, dating to Janet Jackson’s 1986 hit Nasty, which Jackson revealed in a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone was written in response to threatening and abusive harassment she had received from men on the street.

The past 10 years have seen the emergence of a feminism that isn’t interested in being palatable or popular. Illustration by Sarah Murray.

 

But the word has a particular resonance, perhaps, in the context of the ballsy, take-no-prisoners feminism that has emerged over the past 10 years. A feminism that isn’t interested in “rebranding” itself (as digital media company We Are the XX controversially advocated in 2014) to become more palatable or popular, but which has found popularity in its precise lack of interest in palatability. As comedian Amy Poehler famously retorted when her Saturday Night Live colleague Jimmy Fallon told her that he didn’t like a sketch she was test driving because it wasn’t “cute” – “I don’t f—ing care if you like it.”

It is a feminism personified by writers such as Fairfax columnist Clementine Ford and Guardian Australia contributor Van Badham, whose searing, uncompromising prose on everything from sexual assault, to neoliberalism, to popular culture, has earnt them outsize fanbases on social media … and plentiful backlash from their detractors.

Read the rest of Rachel’s lead story on the rise of the nasty women in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Spectrum here.

My Sex Myth Story: Jennifer

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Several years ago, I began talking with people for my book The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality, interviewing more than two hundred people across the United States, Canada, Australia, and the UK.

As The Sex Myth moves from book to play, I decided to touch base with some of the people that started it all. I wanted to find out what, if anything, had changed in their attitudes as well as their lives and relationships, as well as which sex myths they still wish they could break with the snap of a finger.

As readers of this series will see, identifying the myths that harm society and ourselves as individuals is often the first step toward freedom from them. Thanks to all of the original interviewees and the ones who were willing to follow up with me for helping us to break #thesexmyth.

This week, we’re starting by speaking with Jennifer, a young Vietnamese-Australian woman who reached out to be interviewed for the book after reading an article I’d written for a women’s magazine about sexual double standards.

 

“But although she was sexually active, Jennifer didn’t feel in control of her sex life. She describes her role in that relationship as that of a titular gatekeeper. Oliver set the terms—Would she come over to his house? Would they have sex tonight? Would she have a threesome with him and another girl he was seeing?—and in theory, Jennifer had the option of accepting or declining his requests. But in practice, she felt her only real choice was to say yes. “In a superficial sense I was completely in control of the situation, but in another sense I wasn’t at all,” she says. “I didn’t feel like I could ask for what I wanted; I could only respond to what he wanted, and in a way that was agreeable to him.” – The Sex Myth, page 154.

What made you reach out to me to be interviewed for The Sex Myth?

I read an article by you which made me think more broadly about some of the myths and misconceptions about what it meant to be a modern, sophisticated woman – particularly around the role women have in their sex lives. I thought it would be refreshing to throw around some ideas and have a different type of conversation about sex, women and feminism. It turns out, it really was.

How have your beliefs and attitudes when it comes to sex evolved since you spoke to me in 2012?

I feel like my whole world has changed in the last 5-6 years. When I spoke with you, I was in my early 20s, living at home – I’m pretty sure I did the interview sitting on my parents’ bed. I was early in my career, trying to figure out my way in the world. And really, I had very limited experience and exposure to healthy relationships and healthy experiences with sex.

In so many ways, I was really still grappling with the person I was and the person I wanted to be.  

I had such low self esteem too. I was convinced that healthy relationships were like people with blue eyes – maybe it was just something I wouldn’t have. I used to tell people that all the time. I was 23! I was so young and naive! (Side note: I wrote this email at work and have to keep myself from snorting at my younger self.)

Thinking about it, I had created this terrible narrative. If my life was a movie, I had made myself a typecast supporting character – the sassy fat best friend who made poor choices. I was making decisions which would make me the endearing hot mess. I had meaningless sex because I was convinced I was meant to want it. Deciding yes meant I was a ‘good’ gatekeeper – I was a powerful sex kitten who held all the cards, but also playing into submissive role by pleasing men at the same time.

The opening scenes of Bridesmaids where Kristen Wiig pretends to enjoy her terrible sex was a great summary of my life at the time.

Somewhere along the line, I managed to get myself together. I did some wider reading, made new friends, stopped watching shit TV, told shitty boyfriends to fuck off. I spent time focusing on how to be a person who wasn’t trying to please everyone.

I’d like to hope my experience isn’t unique at all, and most women settle into who they are and learn how to stand their own ground. But sometimes I am not so sure.

And how has your sex and relationships life changed, if at all?

I am currently engaged, with my wedding set for later this year.

My relationship with sex changed quite significantly after speaking with you. It was a natural flow on to be more conscious of the decisions I was making in that area of my life – and it just happened that I really didn’t want to have sex until I met my current partner. Leading up to my chat with you I had been unhappy but couldn’t put my finger on it, so being able to reflect on my decision making had been very helpful.

My current partner is someone who is respectful and loving, but most importantly, lets me be who I am. I don’t need to be a chameleon who changes to suit his needs and he certainly doesn’t expect, need, or want me to satisfy his every need – and especially not at the expense of my happiness.

I think of sex in a really different way now. I feel so old-fashioned saying it but I really do see it now as an expression of love. It’s a way to connect to my partner. But it’s also fun and playful and something we do together – not something I let happen to me. The relationships and sex before now never really felt that way. The comfort and safety of our relationships gives us a really solid foundation and the  confidence to explore other aspects of sex and to try new things together.

I think as my sex and relationships life changed, so did my views on feminism, gender roles and my identity as a woman. For a long time, I swore getting married was bullshit unless I could have a wife – i.e someone who would be my dedicated #1 cheerleader who took care of everything (the house, the children, meals every night, social calendars etc), leaving me to focus on my own hobbies and pursuits. Turns out, what I really wanted was a fair and balanced relationship with mutual respect with equal sharing of the boring stuff.

I’m not 100% sure my relationship answers all of those things, but we try our best and in lots of ways, that’s all I can ask for.

If there was one sex myth [ie, toxic sexual stigma or stereotype] you could break today, what would it be?

Having lots of sex is not a defining characteristic of a successful woman.

Inside auditions at The Sex Myth

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By Hanne Larsen, Director of The Sex Myth: A Devised Play.

When someone asks me how casting and preparing for The Sex Myth is going for this summer, my immediate response is a huge bright smile. And then I gush.

It took me a very long time to get accustomed to auditions and enjoy them, rather than becoming anxious about them. I used to be overwhelmed by auditions as a performer, because I had a perfectionist mindset and fears of being judged. Of course an audition is useful, but I always felt like the director could never see everything I could offer. I was anxious mess on the inside, and it probably (definitely) showed. I knew what I could do and just didn’t know how to convey it. It’s one of the big reasons why I didn’t want to hold standard auditions for the first iteration of The Sex Myth last summer. I wanted to get to know the person in a more well-rounded way–not make face value decisions.

Last year, I sent out a casting call, and I interviewed the performers who showed that they were invested in this project and willing to grapple with the issues of our sexual climate through their application responses and the perspectives they offered. I wanted to see how and if their experiences and purpose in their lives aligned with this project. I could tell if a person was genuinely intrigued and willing/able to commit to rehearsal times – which was important because I was specifically curious about working with more people who did not have theater experience. Some people I never met in person until the first day of rehearsal. The ensuing months of working together to develop the piece was a gift.

This time around, The Sex Myth is a much bigger production, with a five-day run at the historic HERE Theater in New York City. Because of the high level of interest, auditions are vital, but I can still instill the standards I had before. I’ve been looking for people’s different worldviews and their willingness to share their lives on stage through the lens of the Sex Myth. I have been deeply moved and excited by many of the applications that have come through. The bravery of sharing one’s story with a stranger through an email inspired me, and the creative pieces I’ve seen in the audition room have been equally, if not more, moving, and have given me chills.

I went into the audition room nervous, wondering if the parameters I set up would be creatively fruitful for me and the performers. I asked the actors to bring in a piece that they created about sexuality and their experiences related to it. I never imagined I would connect, like a simple breath, into their worlds through their poetry, essays, free-written diary entries, stories, and lilting songs. I was breath taken by everyone’s openness.

Then I gave the performers a set of ingredients to put together a new piece as an ensemble, and just in twenty-five minutes. I was worried that I was leaving them alone too soon, with just an ambiguous map to find their way. But then I saw the result of their creativity, which was a rehearsal room vibrant with excitement and opportunity. As I left those auditions behind both nights, my faith in this project strengthened.

I look forward to the next round this week because I know I’ll be getting to experience all of this once again, and it will be completely different. Getting the snapshots of the lives of colorful, brave, soul-sparking New Yorkers through their stories has left me inspired and excited to put together a group that reflects the mosaic of a city. Never have I been so excited about auditions!