Lust & Marriage at the Edmonton Fringe Festival

Lust & Marriage

Academy at King Edward (8525 – 101 street) August 14 – 16, 18 – 22
More information:

Eleanor O'Brien in Lust & Marriage. Photo credit: Lloyd Lemmerman.

Eleanor O’Brien in Lust & Marriage. Photo credit: Lloyd Lemmerman.

An interview with Eleanor O’Brien.

Describe your show in 5 words.

Are love and lust mutually exclusive?

Okay, now that we’re interested, what’s the longer description?

Lust & Marriage is about a woman who believes in finding her soulmate, which she does, at Burning Man. Only he doesn’t believe in monogamy. They explore and navigate many different avenues for satisfying them both – with help from sex-advice columnist Dan Savage. Ultimately, it’s a show about the meaning of love, marriage, the desire for long-term lust, and how everyone has to figure what works best in their own relationships.

What got you interested in creating and performing sex-positive work? Sex-positive comedy?

10 years ago I wrote a show called GGG: Dominatrix for Dummies, based on my experience training to be a dominatrix. That show is actually about how we all want to be wanted, and how to stop judging yourself, and what you find erotic. In 2008 I cast a group of women in a show called Inviting Desire, which was about women’s sexual fantasies – based on what these women really felt and experienced, as opposed trying to be sexy for a man. I am interested in telling stories about sexuality, especially stories that help eliminate shame and evolve understanding. I think it’s easy to make a show that mocks or laughs at other people’s sexuality. I think of sex-positive theater as inclusive and supportive of all consensual choices. Plus, sex is fun to talk about! I mean, who doesn’t love it when the talk turns to sex? And it’s often hilariously funny. I think of my job as an artist as being a professional vulnerable. I tell stories, not so that you don’t have to, but so that you feel less alone. And you have permission to tell your story too.

You mention “ethical slut” and Dan Savage’s call for stories from the ‘monogamish’ – what do you think the “state” is of societal perception of polyamory? How do you want Lust & Marriage to contribute to that perception?

I think the idea of polyamory is pretty threatening to a lot of people, as if it could destabilize the institution of marriage. But I think marriage is due for a revamp. There are 40 million people on Ashley Madison looking to have affairs. The stats about divorce are well known. I have heard story after story about people in sexless marriages, who don’t feel like they have options. I’m in no way against monogamy – I just think there should be other possibilities. Right now, monogamy is pretty much the default. In no way is this show prescriptive – I think I illuminate both positive and negative aspects of having an open relationship – but I do want to inspire conversation. I want to give people something to chew on. What is the nature of love?

Your show title, Lust & Marriage, and it’s description seems to juxtapose lust and marriage – is that how it’s presented in the show? If so, can you talk a bit about the dramatic tension between the two?

Originally I wanted to write a show about the loss of desire in relationship, and how to deal with that loss. What happens when you love someone deeply, but you are no longer having sex? Or when one person has a much higher sex drive than another? It’s a very common problem, but there’s not much out there about ways to deal with it. I often find myself wanting to make shows about what people aren’t talking about.

I heard Dan Savage talk about companionship marriage and that intrigued me. What happens to love when lust leaves the building? That led to some other questions. Is it possible to let your partner have other lovers? Is sex ok, but not love? I grapple with these questions in my own marriage, and so I wrote a (somewhat fictionalized) show about that struggle.

Anything else you want audiences to know about Lust & Marriage?

Seeing this show will not turn you into a swinger! I believe it does what good theater should do, which is make you think and feel. I have tons of people tell me that the show made them laugh and cry, and they spent hours talking about it. I’ve had numerous messages from people thanking me for making a show that is honest and vulnerable and talks about things that most people don’t talk about. Plus, it’s a really entertaining show. I’ve spent a year and a half crafting it, and I’m super proud of the work. You won’t be bored.

Any names you want to drop that have been involved in your show? Any other Fringe shows you want to recommend?
It took all kinds of guts for me to ask TJ Dawe to dramaturge this show, as he has been a hero of mine for years. His shows are my fringe favorites – I always feel like I learn something about myself. So when he said yes I felt like I’d won the lottery (which I did actually – the fringe lottery!). Having his eye was exactly what I needed – he really helped me find the arc of the story, and cut away what wasn’t necessary.

As for shows I recommend – I am delighted to be a part of a group of solo women on the fringe – the Fringe Femmes! – and we have some kick ass shows! Rosie Bitts’ Stories of Love & Passion (which I brought to Portland), Gemma Willcox’s Magical Mystery Detour, Tara Travis’ Searching for Dick, Shirley Gnome’s Real Mature, Katie Dorian’s How Often Do I Dream… just to name a few! I think men tend to be more represented at the fringe, for a variety of reasons, and I’m really proud to support my sister soloists!

The 34th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is August 13 – 23. Get your tickets at starting August 4.

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