Design credit: Shanthony Exum. Photo credit: Alejandro Yanes
The Sex Myth: A Devised Play sparks transformative conversations about sexuality amongst audiences and performers alike – proving that the pleasurable isn’t just deeply personal, but also political.
We are told that the sexual revolution happened decades ago, and that we’re living in a time of unprecedented liberation. But for too many of us, sex is still a subject bound up in pain and anxiety – whether our shame is that we are “too” sexual, or that we are not sexual enough.
Borrowing themes and styles from plays like The Vagina Monologues, The Sex Myth draws out the humans beneath the stereotypes, mixing original and personal monologues with collaboratively-created vignettes to challenge and redefine our perceptions of what is “normal” when it comes to sex. But instead of professional actors “safely” performing other people’s stories, our cast share their own real-life experiences and performs their own truths.
The Sex Myth isn’t just a fun theater-going experience. It’s also a tool for activism, education, and consciousness raising. The play is devised using a set of interactive processes rather than a set script, meaning that the show is recreated each time it is performed to include the personal and diverse experiences of each new cast. Audience members witness brave performers sharing their own stories about sex in all its messy, funny, daring, mundane, violent, vicious and loving glory. In turn, this creates a unique, personal and shockingly original experience with each production.
Rachel’s fascination with the politics and sociology of sex stemmed from her own feelings of shame and anxiety when it came to sexuality. An avid reader of feminist non-fiction, she wanted to write a book that would help others put their experiences in a bigger cultural context, the same way the books she loved had helped her.
Since The Sex Myth was published in 2015, Rachel has taken her message to groups across the United States, Australia, and the UK. It was at one of these talks that Rachel met Hanne Larsen, a theater major at Northeastern University in Boston, who came to her with the idea of turning The Sex Myth into a play.
When Rachel saw the play performed for the first time at Northeastern in June 2016, she was enthralled. It was a thrill to see the ideas she had spent the better part of a decade researching turned into something new in another person’s hands.
But the play also opened up for the possibility for something bigger than that.
The Sex Myth: A Devised Play provided a framework for people to engage with The Sex Myth not just as readers, or as participants in an afternoon-long workshop, but as owners and creators of their own stories.
Audiences at the theater could hear and feel the stories from the actual cast members and engage more deeply than they would by reading people’s stories quoted on the page. The fact that the play was devised rather than scripted meant that the play could be regenerated, changing its shape to fit the needs and stories of the communities performing it. It meant that a show produced in Australia could be different to one created in Alabama, and that a performance done in 2017 could evolve into something new in 2027 as the culture changes.
As an experienced activist motivated by the power of feminist consciousness raising. Rachel sensed immediately that the fluidity of the play meant it could truly capture the zeitgeist of a culture, and therefore effect powerful change. With the first major production scheduled for New York City in August 2017, the movement began.