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ORAL is a play that explores every aspect of oral sex - the good, the bad, the scary, the moving, the horror - everything. And I think our review said it best, the play “doesn’t cheapen it.” It’s a very intimate, blunt conversation about oral sex - and tackling the subject tastefully can be a challenge.
Additionally, this was my first experience with a playwright in the room and honestly it was great. I LOVE to have a sound board when working on a project and my god, was Hannah great at this. Yet of course, the journey took some time.
In addition to writing the play, she also directed every iteration of the play - expect for this one. So naturally she was a little apprehensive to hand her baby over to someone else and there was some tension toward the beginning. I’m not in the belief of coming in to a “fix” someone’s play. I feel that my job is just ask questions of the playwright; to make sure we are telling the story they want to tell. More over, I wanted to have Hannah on my side and I wanted her to know that my priority was to her play. So after a dinner meeting with her, coming in with questions, and making it clear what my intentions were - Hannah was on board.
I’ve heard that some playwright are shy and can be pushovers...not the case with Hannah. She is a strong willed person and a force to be reckoned with. She knows what she wants and she is not afraid to say it. I cannot tell you how huge of a gift was for me. When I couldn’t unlock the scene, Hannah was there with the key. If I was leading a scene in the wrong direction, she let me know. But there was alway a mutual respect for my work and her words.
My process usually begins with research. I like to soak up as much as I can. A review from a previous production mentioned the play was the “most fun sex-ed class you could ever have...” And that got me thinking. What would happen if the kids sitting in sex-ed kicked the teacher out of the room and really had a conversation?
When my brilliant set designer, Casey Blanton, met with me, we somehow were on the same page. He brought me a sketch with writing on a wall. So we came up with this idea of making part of the set a chalkboard. It ended up being the thread that the series of vignettes and monologues together. So the show started with nothing but “Oral sex” on the board but by the end, the wall was covered. For me, it was visual representation of the play. “the good, the bad, the scary, the moving, the horror-everything” ended up on that board. The play doesn’t make a final decision about oral sex. It just poses a simple question, “what does it mean to you?”