– by guest writer Laura Zam –
For several years, I had been wanting to write a comedy about the long-term effects of my own childhood sexual abuse. I know, this subject is a riot! But that’s what I do: I write comedies about horrible subject matter. I do this not to trivialize, but to look at these problems in a new way.
I think of comedy as a form of critical thinking. When Theater J offered me a commission last year as part of their Locally Grown Festival, I decided to work on this play. It was scary at first, putting myself so out there, but having a Theater J team (Ari Roth, Shirley Serotsky, Batya Felman) be part of this play’s development gave me the courage to take this play as far as I wanted!
Why this play now? By conservative estimates, 25 percent of women and 17 percent of boys were sexually abused before the age of 18. By comparison, the two biggest diseases in the United States, heart disease and diabetes, present at 11.5 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively.
Additionally, these sexual violation numbers may be much higher, especially for boys/men who tend to under-report such incidences. Rape statistics, of course, are also staggering. With this much prevalence, one would think that conversations about healing (from these sexual wounds) would be common place . And yet, these conversations are often absent (due to shame), fraught (for both storyteller and listener), or very misguided.
For instance, there is a general misconception that healing from these kinds of traumas happens automatically when the bad guy is punished, or a new law/regulation is enacted to protect further victims. By this thinking, a Holocaust survivor should be healed of all trauma simply because Adolf Eichmann was hanged and the UN drafted the Geneva Conventions. It’s just not the way trauma recovery works.
For these reasons, I want to normalize discussions around sexual healing– and sexual health in general. To do so, I chose to write not just about my own healing journey, but also about other people (I play 28 men and women) struggling with sex. I interviewed lots of people in creating this show, and what I found is that it’s not just me: sex is confusing for many people! The word on the street is that we’re supposed to just know how to make it work from the get go, given our particular make-up, in negotiation with our partners, and as we age. But how many of us are able to figure this stuff out on our own? How many are left with questions?
Once I began work on the play, I decided to make it a storytelling journey. In other words, I went on a journey to try to heal the last vestiges of my abuse. This adventure led me to a cynical sex therapist, an insane hypnotist, a jet-setting tantrika, a horny rabbi, and more.
In addition to this journey, I began meeting with groups of women to openly discuss female sexuality. All of this found its way into my play: my visits to these kooky sex “experts” is interspersed with “Sex Brunches,” where I play five women (often humorously) discussing sex.
Importantly, during my play research I discovered all kinds of tips, tools, and strategies for having a healthy, loving sexual relationship. I teach these to the audience. One of my taglines is: WANT RELATIONSHIP TIPS? COME! My other tagline is: A SHOW YOU’RE DEFINITELY IN THE MOOD FOR!
by Laura Zam
at Fort Fringe – Bedroom
612 L Street NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
On four separate occasions, after I’ve mentioned my play to a male friend, he has revealed to me that he was sexually abused as a child. Three of these men followed their story with another startling admission: they had never told anyone until that very moment.
Lots of people, men and women, have come up to me (or contacted me) after a show to tell me about their experience trying to figure out sex. By openly (publicly!) talking about so many things that I’m not supposed to talk about – my sex life, my sex problems, my sexual abuse, and way this abuse has affected me – I hope my audience will be relieved of at least a little shame as they move to heal themselves, having greater intimacy with their partner, and have better sex.
To give people an opportunity to engage beyond the play, I am hosting, along with a psychologist who specializes in sex, a Sex Brunch on July 28 in Woodley Park at a lovely French restaurant. This is an opportunity for women to eat, hear a presentation on the latest findings regarding women’s health, and also engage in a safe conversation around sexual health. Here is a link to the event: http://marriedsexshowbrunch.eventbrite.com/
Presented as part of the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival, a program of the Washington, D.C. non-profit Capital Fringe.
– Laura Zam is a DC area writer, performer, and educator, specializing in solo plays. Learn more at laurazam.com
Fringe Peeks is part of our ‘in their own words’ series.