Locally Grown Readings Are Launched!

An inspiring double-bill tonight — MARRIED SEX by Laura Zam and THE PROSTATE DIALOGUES by Jon Spelman. Some amazing revelations.
Soon to post any number of responses. Share your thoughts about these intensely rich, very personal works. On Facebook, my friend
Tim Christensen writes:

These were two one-person, author-read readings about very intimate subjects. Totally riveting, so personal, and I would describe them as autobiographical documentaries as opposed to plays. I’m wondering if Ari Roth disagrees. I hope to see them again when they’re finalized.

I’d say I agree and disagree. They were intensely autobiographical documentaries. AND they were terrific plays in the making, soon to be shared as fuller-length events when they’re presented individually later in the Festival (check the website for various performance times).

What’s the distinction between a “documentary” for the stage and a play? Between story and play? Looking forward to reactions…

25 thoughts on “Locally Grown Readings Are Launched!

  1. I’m a documentary producer, for public radio. In public radio we have a sufficient number of pigeon holes that a work like Laura’s (which I haven’t seen yet, but have heard enough excerpts of to grasp the type of work that it is) would not be called “documentary.” A documentary for the stage would be the works of Anna Deavere Smith. In fact, when I saw “Fires in the Mirror,” my first thought was along the lines of what Truman Capote said about “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, “That’s not writing, that’s typing.” Of course that’s a flip reaction and I realize that there is a lot of work that goes into compiling a documentary for the stage, but the work is not in the writing. So a documentary is different from a personal narrative or memoir or commentary for the stage. Those types of work not only require compiling and structuring, but also the same level of creative writing that goes into the creation of any play. So that’s where I’d make the distinction (FWIW). Also non-narrated documentaries are more reliant on the eloquence of others while personal storytelling rises and falls on the eloquence of the creator.

  2. Laura’s reading of Married Sex exceeded my expectations. I had never been to a reading before and quite honestly, I was expecting to be slightly bored. On the contrary, Laura’s movement on the stage, humor coupled with intense content matter, and voice inflections made for an entertaining and poignant piece.

    I was amazed by the topics covered in Laura’s fifty-minute reading. Some of such issues that she touched on included the Holocaust, gender roles, child abuse, sexual molestation, and female sexual dysfunction. I thought Laura’s ability to write in such a way that all of these issues were tied together was truly amazing.

    I have worked at a domestic violence shelter for the past two years, and I also answer the crisis line at the shelter. Many of the survivors that I have spoken with have experienced some kind of trauma, usually sexual abuse, during their childhood. Often this trauma is suppressed until adulthood, when it resurfaces. Unlike Laura’s character, for most of the women that I work with, the abuse they endured in childhood has continued on and led them to violent relationships in adulthood. Although the type of relationship Laura’s character was in was not abusive, I found many similarities between Laura’s character and the survivors that I have had the opportunity to work with. One similarity is their strength and willingness both have to talk about the issue of violence against women. Secondly, I thought the Laura’s character’s discombobulated thoughts were very realistic did a great job of showing the thought process of individuals who have repressed trauma. Many survivors, like the character, become flustered and overwhelmed if something occurs that triggers memories of the past to come flooding back.

    I greatly appreciated this work as it drew attention to an issue that often society tells us we should keep quiet and to ourselves. Interestingly, society then labels us as “crazy” when these issues resurface and cause more problems because we did not deal with them properly initially. Shining light on such a problem and creating an atmosphere where such heavy issues could be talked about lightly took true talent on Laura’s behalf.

    • I think it was really interesting to read your post as I realize how differ our views are on weighing between the two shows. Because of your common experience and personal identity with Laura, you are able to appreciate her piece which I find harder to appreciate as well as the Prostate Dialogue. Now I think of it, the level of relationship and appreciation an audience member has with the material really varies with personal background. What each audience member gets away from a play can be completely different. One may be impacted by deep and stirring emotions and his life changed forever, while another may simply move on. Then, it seems that it is impossible to define a great play based on the number of people who appreciate/like it or the impact it brings to the society. Ultimately, a play really is a personal thing, or perhaps the opinion of the play is one.

  3. After watching the “double feature” tonight, I want to start with comments that address both plays before addressing Married Sex directly. I enjoyed both plays due to their ability to draw the audience into the trusted role of confidant. Both characters draw the audience in and trust us with personal information. I think that this creates a bond among audience members and between the audience and those on stage that is not always so present in a theatre. Someone mentioned during the discussion afterwards the theme of relationships in both plays as an unexpected bonus. After considering it, I must agree. Both Married Sex and The Prostate Dialogues were just as much about the personal journey as they were about the importance meaningful and supportive relationships. The plays of course though, were very different from one another. Married sex sought out to be a comedy, and with that came, I think, several potentially tough spots for playwright or audience. Because of the shows funny demeanor, I didn’t really hop on the “healing as a theme” train about halfway through the play. The humor in it kept me from immediately taking the play’s content seriously, and instead, my connection with healing as a theme developed late in the play and was then of course left unsatisfied as we didn’t finish the play in our 50 minute reading. Second, with starting on a honeymoon, where the conflict initially made fun of the Catholic Church, I was surprised that for the rest of the play, religion didn’t make an appearance. I can understand that there was a relationship between being Jewish in a Catholic city, and the discomfort of being a sexual assault victim at the number one symbol of an entire institution that passively if not actively excused sexual predators, But to me, this scene didn’t fit with the rest of the play as a whole. I am however, excited to see how this develops and look forward to seeing it later this semester!

    • Hi, it is interesting how a number of the audience agree on the theme of healing, which I didn’t realize until someone mentioned it during the discussion. Personally, I didn’t find a coherent and lasting theme throughout the seven scenes but I conclude that it must be the nature of a reading. It is also interesting how the playwright herself didn’t realize the theme of ‘healing’ in her play. Thus, I agree with your point about the appearance and lost of the religion theme seems to come out of the blue and last for a flash second. You are very observant in identifying the number of themes presented in the play which I failed to realize. The themes you identified reminds me of a few other modern plays which solely aims to explore a number of related social problems instead of riding on one distinctive theme throughout like many conventional play. It makes me wonder what the playwright have in her mind before writing this play. Is it just an exploration for herself and the audience or a lesson for us to learn? Should the playwright just tell the story and let the audience find the answer, or should she lead the audience to an answer? Is it easier to do the former way? Or perhaps it is trendy.

  4. After sitting through my first reading, Laura Zam’s Married Sex, I was proved wrong and shown that a reading is just as entertaining, if not more so, than a fully finished play. However, by the time Jon Spelman’s The Prostate Dialogue, was about to start fatigue from the long night and day I had experienced starting kicking in. I felt my eyes burning, starting to shut on my when Jon walked onto the stage. Within minutes I was wide-awake and rejuvenated thanks to Jon’s talent.

    Before Jon started his reading, I had a few preconceived notions. I figured that it would be difficult for me to connect to his play, seeing as I do not have a prostate. However, I found that I was able to relate quite easily. My grandmother passed away from brain cancer, and during Jon’s play I spent much of my time reflecting on when my grandma was in the hospital.

    The difference in how I related to Jon and Laura’s plays was intriguing. With Laura’s play I felt directly for her character, and as a woman who has experienced some of the issues she discussed, I felt it was easy to understand her emotions. With Jon’s reading I did not relate to his experiences directly, rather, I was able to place myself in the shoes of Jon’s loved one, such as his wife and daughter. I had empathy for them as I had gone through a similar situation and had to deal with similar emotions. In addition, Jon actually reminded me of my father, so I got very emotional imagining having to watch my father go through prostate cancer. There was one scene in which Jon went fell down on to his knees, and it was at that point that I actually felt his pain. This small gesture had a huge impact on me.

  5. I thought both of the plays were rich and full of many painstaking experiences. I didn’t really know what to expect at first, the concept of attending “a reading” was new to me, but it didn’t turn out to be too bad at all. Ms. Laura Zam did a great job with the different voices, it very much reminded me of my 5th grade teacher, which was good because back in those days when we read Harry Potter, the different voices were really what kept us awake and engaged.

    I would have to say, perhaps its just due to the fact that the play wasn’t acted out, but I though it to be a little long. It went on and just kind of stretched out one scene after another. I thought it was a bit intense, not to be a critic, it was just a piece that was true to the author as well as the audience, but something that could have been shorter in scene count (at least in the reading of it). I would like to see the produced version of it in full length.

    The prostrate dialogs was something new for me, at first I thought it was part of the first show. I thought, as well as some of the audience given their comments, that the authors voice was very soothing and calm, which made the entire reading more like an audio book than anything else, and the various experiences he described in great details kind of kept (the men) at the edge of their seats.

    I thought it was a great contrast to the other V monologues that we commonly hear about. The “vocal differentiation” between the first and the second show were a good one, because they allowed us to have one from each polarity and that really help to balance out the entire show.

    • I find it interesting that at the end you compared The Prostate Dialogues to the Vagina Monologues. I actually do not think there is so much of a “contrast,” as you state, between these two plays. In fact, I would actually say that The Prostate Dialogues compliment The Vagina Monologues, and vise-versa. Both performances use personal stories to draw attention to gendered health issues that are often brushed under the rug by society. For women, as The Vagina Monologues discuss issues that range from rape to masturbation to sexual orientation. For men, although The Prostate Dialogues have tended to focus primarily on prostate cancer, many more issues come up as well. For example in Jon’s reading, he discussed issues such as a lack of knowledge and inaccurate information about his own body as a teen, the stress of being a parent and husband, and the difficulties of getting older.

  6. Watching Married Sex and the Prostate Dialogues brought to mind the question of what is a story and what is a play. I have to say that Laura Zam’s Married Sex moved much more like a play, it was very theatrical and was even separated in terms of scenes. The Prostate Dialogues was much more of a recited story in that it was less theatrical and more poetic. I feel that the key difference between the two pieces is that The Prostate Dialogues can live just as well on the page, as a written work, whereas to truly feel the flavor and energy of Married Sex you must see it performed, lived out on stage. They are two different kinds of performances but have their similarities in that they reveal very interesting, intensely personal stories.
    I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Laura Zam’s one-woman play Married Sex. I was kept on the edge of my seat for the whole of the time, waiting to hear more from the main character. It was intensely theatrical and confessional and the character’s voice was very strong. I could picture every scene as she described it, almost see the entire play as a movie in my head. At points, the play was so well told that I forgot I was watching only one woman on stage. She was able to balance the delicate and heavy subject matter, sometimes thoroughly heartrending scenes, with a graceful humor. Sometimes I was left feeling a little uncomfortable with the confessions, but I realize that in order to move your audience you have to establish a sense of closeness and this can only be done if you are able to share the truly personal— the uncomfortable. I think that the theme that connected both Married Sex and the Prostate Dialogues was the sense of healing that had to be done from some sort of trauma. Two very different traumas but depicting a process of healing that is both slow, intensely personal and sharing universal themes at the same time.
    What interested me the most about the Prostate Dialogues was this play’s recognition of the fragility of self. Spellman’s attention to the threat posed to our physical bodies was documented beautifully and perceptively in this autobiographical story about being diagnosed with and surviving prostate cancer. One comment that struck me from the talkback after the play was that the incidence of mortality from prostate cancer was relatively low compared with other types of cancers. What makes Spellman’s story especially striking is that it is one of my first encounters hearing about a prostate cancer survivor’s story and the trials he was inevitably faced with. When Spellman mentioned that there is a male reluctance to discuss taboo topics like prostate cancer and sexuality, I was struck with the thought that there must now be tens if not hundreds of thousands of untold stories of men who have survived prostate cancer, who believe it is their duty to stay stoic and reserved, never sharing or discussing their stories. This seemed to me a sad thought, all the wonderful stories of perseverance and adversity remaining untold, and it made hearing the Prostate Dialogues that much more important, that much more pressing. I was interested in hearing a man’s point of view of dealing with illness, disease. I was fascinated and saddened by the stories of how the disease alters these men’s lives in some way, forever. I was also interested by this sense of community formed around the stories of the men. At one point, as Spellman moved from the story of one character to his own, I found myself slightly confused as to whose story he was telling, and this was not altogether a bad thing. It was fascinating in that I could sense a shift in the voice of the character but could not pinpoint it exactly as the issues underlying where so much the same. Perhaps the Prostate Dialogues in aiming to share the different stories of men undergoing the process of healing from a life-changing disease also reveals the similarities in the lives of most men, the similarities in both their conditions, but also in the non-medical factors of their lives (their families, their relationships). What the Prostate Dialogues revealed to me is that the underlying similarity between all these men’s conditions is a profound awareness of their own mortality. This is a similarity that the author elaborates on in a part of the play where he discussed just how easy it is to be killed, how susceptible the body is to injury by just existing. That is a powerful thought to consider for even those who do not suffer from cancer.

  7. As I was reading through the posts, I see how the perspective of one on a play varies so greatly from that of the other. Married Sex and Prostate Dialogue is a really interesting combination that makes the variations happens.

    Through and after I watched the Married Sex, I regarded it as an unfinished work and tried my best to ‘do the reading’. Several peers commented on the prolonged length of the work and the yet clearly defined theme of each individual scene. These certainly would tend to hypnotize some of us whom were tired after a day of work and are new to the local reading scene.

    Yet, as I sat through the Prostate Monologue, I really began to see the reason why the PM is so much more appealing to me than the Married Sex. There are two reasons:

    One, there is a difference between how the two playwrights deliver their respective materials. Laura performed it and Jon acted it. While performing may sounds more appealing than acting, it is not entirely true when it is presented to audience whom have not quite garner the background/patience/professionalism to appreciate it. Throughout the Married Sex, Laura tried very hard to perform and entertain, dramatically changing her tones, her characters and her body languages. Yet, that is a performance. A rock concert may make all the rock fans jumping up and down but not a tired worker from countryside after 8 hours of fatiguing work, he may simply fall asleep. A performance can only be appealing to the group of people who can appreciate and relate to it, but not necessary the rest, which leads to the second point.

    It is easier for ladies, or people who have gone through similar experience to relate to the materials in the Married Sex. Also, it comes more natural to dramaturges or critics who are accustomed to readings like this. Therefore, it is difficult for me to find myself resonating/fully appreciate Laura’s experience. Nevertheless, I am certain that as the preparation process proceeds further, the Married Sex will grow into a much more appealing, exciting and thoughtful work.

  8. It was only through watching the Prostate Dialogue do I truly understand the power of empathy in a play.

    Despite the puppets (which have not quite shown their roles/functions clearly yet) and the crude stage settings, the reading presents itself as a real play. It is truly amazing how I find myself so related to the materials even though I have not experience the terrible trauma or decades of living like Jon Spelman. Personally, I find a few things that really draws me into the reading.

    First, the material itself is very informative yet made easy to comprehend. From the unhealthy lifestyle to the mutation of tumor suppressing gene to metastasis, to chemotherapy, to recovery process.. every single part of them is narrated in such a beautiful but heavy way that the images slowly but easily form in ones mind and sentiments creeps and sinks into the body. It makes one really uncomfortable but yet not quite over the top, taking the audience through the up-and-downs of the story.

    Second, the materials is very personal but inclusive. It explores a common fatal health problem that concerns almost everybody. Even though it is about the prostate, the part about the cancer itself certainly can be related to by many audience members. More than that, Jon ventured on to various other themes such as therapy, post-traumatic experience, which can also be found many places in our life.

    Third, the delivery of the materials is very powerful. Even though this is not a scored play, the material itself helps to bring about the playwright’s memory and emotions. The content itself, despite the humors, builds on a rather heavy topic and as Jon brought us through his experience, he himself is opening the deep corners of himself to the audience, presenting a vulnerability that greatly instigates a sense of empathy from audience members, whom can relate/appreciate the material.

    The playwright uses series of stories and information to allure the audience to stand in his shoes and then touch us through the emotional, imagery impacts from his experience. Once we begin to take Jon’s experience as ours and allows the portrayed sentiments to contact us, we immediately begin to empathize with him. Once that relationship sets up, true acting begins. However, to be fair, ‘we’ only refers to those who can relate to/appreciate Jon’s experience and stories.

    Still, Jon presents to us so clearly and moving a world that forces us to reflect on our lifestyle, our relationships and our identity. Going from the direction of prostate cancer is an eye-opener and is simply brilliant.

    By the way, the ‘dialogues’ with the puppets were not exactly very convincing/real. Perhaps, just like the Vagina Monologues, we will be witnessing the world premiere of a Prostate Monologue instead.

  9. Laura Zam’s reading of Married Sex pleasantly surprised me. I had seen way to many television shows and movies that make fun of one-person performances and make them seem absolutely ridiculous to come to the show expecting too much. Ms. Zam’s performance made me completely re-evaluate my pre-conceived notions in regards to one-person performances. I was captivated by Ms. Zam’s story and the compelling way that she told it.

    Ms. Zam touched on such varied and serious issues with just the right amount of humor and even light-heartedness that she grabbed the attention of her audience without making them uncomfortable. I never would have thought that I would laugh in a performance about a woman who had intimacy issues tracing back to being molested as a child, but I certainly was laughing at certain parts.

    The storytelling in Married Sex was simply excellent. There were so many interesting, varied, and often humorous voices coupled with dark and serious material. Although the many different scenes in the performance were all very different, I felt that they built on each other in a logical way that made the story easy to follow and enjoy. The close to repetition of the phrase detailing how the different entities of the Catholic church, a hospital, a cult, etc were offering help in some form or another apparently sung in Zam’s head also made for easy continuity throughout the performance. For me, this repetition also led me to draw the conclusion that all of these “cures” were merely empty promises to solve a problem too complex for them to handle. Ms. Zam mentioned her character seeking out help from a variety of other characters in future scenes, and I am interested to see how that will work out. I will almost definitely come back for the polished performance in March!

    I enjoyed The Prostate Dialogues more than I original thought I would. Contrary to what some viewers who were not older men said after the play. I found myself finding a somewhat difficult time understanding and relating to the play. There were times, such as when the character was talking about his daughter or his wife that I found the storyline easier to understand and appreciate, but I feel like more could be done to make certain parts of this more accessible for those who are not men of “prostate concerned” age.

    Something else that kind of disrupted the performance for me was at times it seemed a little choppy. I had a bit of trouble keeping track of all of the different characters and the time period when the events were taking place. As a viewer, I felt like I needed more direction in moving from some of the medical jargon to old childhood stories to very personal recollections.

    All that being said, I thought much of The Prostate Diaries was very moving and entertaining. Much like Laura Zam in Married Sex, Jon Spelmen incorporated humor with very serious and trying issues in a simple manner. I appreciated how Mr. Spelman dealt with issues surrounding mortality in a very non-threatening manner. His performance left me with the feeling of how futile it is to fight against one’s own mortality. This can be seen from something life-threatening like prostate cancer that may not even register as something to worry about and also from things like car accident which can happen to anyone and time that to worry about them too much seems ludicrous. What I took away from The Prostate Diaries was that death and mortality are inevitable, so one must make the most of everything and approaching life with as much humor as possible.

  10. In the beginning of the “Prostate Dialogue” I was not sure if I was going to be able to relate to it since I am younger and female. However, I found that the work was easy to relate to even if one is young and/or female. Overall, I ended up enjoying the work and how the work was broken up into almost short stories. I am not sure how Jon Spelman will be presenting the finished work, but it would be interesting to see. Even if it stayed as one long monologue, I think it would still be very effective performance especially since it is his story. In the end, the work was very heart-warming look at getting older and dealing with the uncomfortable situations that arise when one gets older. I especially found it heart-warming since my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and has recently finished up his chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

  11. First, I just wanted to say that I think that all people should take the opportunity to see a reading of an original play-you really get to see and feel the true, raw sentiment of the work. I would be interested to see how production, casting, staging, etc., affects, whether it facilitates or prohibits that spirit.

    I think that, in seeing the two readings together, one pertinent issue stood out- the nature of mental and emotional trauma versus physical trauma. As a viewer, seeing “Married Sex”, with her confusion over her attempts to create some semblance of normalcy whilst dealing with the demons of her past, I had issues empathising with her feelings. It is not to say that I inherently do not believe that mental trauma is significant-quite the contrary. I think that the reason I struggled pertained to the very muddled nature of her struggle. I had issues following her logic and her commentary on her feelings and so I could not relate. Contrast this with “The Prostate Dialogues”, where the physical struggle is understood and treatable with exact procedures. In fact, those procedures were described in the reading. I could follow all of this perfectly, contributing to my understanding. This is an interesting point with relation to mental trauma. We don’t really understand the brain, much less its disorders. It is this lack of understand that causes us to mitigate the importance and impact of mental trauma on individuals.

    Another relevant portion to the discussion was the acting that took place and its effect on the audience. In the discussion after the two readings, one viewer commented “with the first, I felt like I was at a play. At the second, I felt like you were telling a story.” I agree with this thought totally. Because “The Prostate Dialogues” almost felt, as a young female viewer, like a father or grandfather telling stories (granted, very adult stories), I felt connected to the story very quickly. Whereas in “Married Sex”, the staging and acting was very theatrical, and so I could not immediately connect her words with interactions that are familiar to me. However, relating to the first reading, I think the lack of disconnect was a blend of both the acting and the themes discussed.

  12. Entering into the readings, I had no idea what to expect. What immediately came to my mind when I heard the word “reading” was the highly satirized “one-man” shows that are the butt of many jokes. Needless to say, both readings surprised me; both in good and bad ways. Firstly, I enjoyed the Prostate Dialogues much more than Married Sex. The biggest disparity for me was probably the gender difference. Although I am not of the age to get prostate cancer or relate to some of the problems in the Prostate Dialogues, I still related to many of the boyhood issues that Jon talked about. I thoroughly enjoyed Jon’s humor, his reading style, and his plot. That being said, I am surprised that I even had an open mind about “readings” after viewing Laura Zam’s Married Sex. I felt uncomfortable much of the time and I just could not find myself believing her character. While I by no means posit that Laura was lying about her past, I could not help but think that there were deeper mental health/stability issues at play, other than just childhood sexual molestation. Her humor did not resonate with the crowd -and her accents were neither accurate nor funny- and it felt like she was laughing at her own jokes most of the time while the audience sat there confused and uncomfortable. Furthermore, while I respect that readings are the type of forum that allow for more adult material and more intimate interactions with the audience, I felt that there were things that were said that were just too explicit. I did not enjoy Jon’s description of his wife using a sex toy on him. I did not enjoy Laura’s description of her uncle masturbating to her naked four year old image. Such descriptions do not provide a more intimate experience; they provide for disengagement of the audience as they are turned off by such notions. Rather, certain things ought to be implied, rather than outright stated. All in all, I had a relatively neutral experience with the readings. I enjoyed one and disliked the other. I am neither excited about going back to a reading nor dreading the next one. However, I will enter into the next one, as always, with an open mind.

  13. At the end of the Prostate Dialogues, John Spelman and Ari both expressed concerns that outside of the “men of a certain age,” that this play might not be relatable. I found myself quite engaged with the play and it’s message and delivery resonated deeply with me. I might not be a middle aged man, but I certainly have a father that is. In fact, I have a father with the same silver hair and mustache as the playwright, which only made me connect with the play more. As the returned and the audience clapped at the play;s conclusion, I texted my dad:
    Me: I just watched the prostate dialogues. Don’t forget your DRE!!!
    Dad: Just had a physical
    Me: Yay! Safety first.
    But more than just prompting me to inquire into my fathers’ prostate health, I really enjoyed the emotional journey that we were taken on with the playwright. It was as if we were given a window into his memories and feelings. He let us into his personal life and painted a picture of his family and their love for one another. The play was both uplifting and sobering and was a truly a story. I have always been a storyteller myself and think it is how people connect to each other and how we create community and share experiences. My love for storytelling has inspired me to pursue a history major (contrary to popular belief that all of the students are political science majors or that we are all in political internships—we’re not). The way John Spelman moved around the stage and sat places like on the floor and the edge of the stage, it made me feel as if I were listening to a friendly older male relative, like a great uncle who shares a little personal information but you love all the same.

  14. The discussion portion led me to believe there was a great difference in what each writer was going for and their writing styles. Married Sex seems to have been written in more of a play style, with many different characters, voices and animations while The Prostate Dialogues was created in the form of a story. I had difficulty following along during the Married Sex reading because there seems to have been some disconnection in the story line during the beginning. When she stated she had issues, in a humoristic manner, I did not think it was something as serious as sexual abuse, so that threw me off. I probably would have had an easier time following this work if it been acted out. Despite my inability to see the connection in everything, I do believe I grasped the main character’s struggle and some of her journey to recovery. Having been sexually abused during her youth and holding onto this traumatic experience caused her great hardships when she tried to maintain relationships, especially sexually. To overcome her inability to have sex, she pursued various avenues to combat the strain. Later on during the reading the main character seemed to have come to some great realizations. There were many different messages sent during these realizations. It reiterated the reality of people having issues and the right to have a moment of sorrow, but only a moment. One cannot settle for being a victim. There were great messages sent with the triumph in battling her tragic memories. Although I have these opinions, I do not feel I can give a just response or interpretation based solely off a partial reading. The full version of the play would have probably given me a better experience and a deeper understanding of the character.

  15. Based off of the small glimpse given from the reading, I could tell that Mr. Spelman’s work was informative. His reading gave reason to take caution and become aware of simple things like one’s body. He brought up a great point when referencing the tendency of women to be more open and willing to talk about their health, while men are more reluctant. The relationship between gender and willingness to discuss health, presented during the reading, was very similar to how I believe men and women deal with health. He told various stories, one which resulted in the death of a man while also acknowledging the fact that this gentleman was not him. Jon’s prostate cancer had been caught earlier and he was a survivor. Jon’s story demonstrated that moving past the shame society places on reproductive health issues and seeking out preventative care can be life saving. Mr. Spelman’s work was supportive, especially for men, because it suggested the need to be proactive with one’s health. The way he discussed the body parts hinted at there being a lack of knowledge of the male genitals. He also told another story that involved his wife being in a life threatening accident and ending up perfectly fine. Telling these stories revealed how physically vulnerable we are and how we at times fail to acknowledge this. Overall the small portion shared during the reading was very informative, realistic, and alarming in a subtle way. It even presented some of the information in a humoristic manner. During the discussion portion it was suggested by an audience member that The Prostate Dialogues resonated more with a story, while Married Sex seems to have been written like a play. After hearing this it made me question how The Prostate Dialogues would be as a play. Nonetheless The Prostate Dialogues seems to be off to a great start.

  16. I had no idea what to expect going into the staged reading of Laura Zam’s new play “Married Sex”. Based on the title, I assumed that I would spend 50 minutes hearing about how this woman’s sex life changed after she got married. Though there was some of this in the play, it was less about how marriage had impacted the character’s relationship with intimacy in her life and more how her marriage was impacted by her past. Dealing with issues of sexual abuse, sex toys, and sex support groups masquerading as weekend brunch, there was certainly a lot of sex talk in this play. Yet the most interesting part of the play was not when it was exploring the “Sex” part of the title, but the married part of the play.
    Laura Zam opens her play with the cheerful, glorious announcement that she is getting married. With the sheer amount of joy and smiles that accompany this announcement, I couldn’t help but imagine this character as a young, blushing bride, full of excitement for her future. It is later revealed that the character is in her forties, but this does not cloud the excitement of a woman who has finally found love, it just means there is more of a backstory to how she got there. Zam hints at this when addressing her “issue” but does not divulge the details to the audience immediately. Instead she chooses to treat us as her traveling companions, going with her to Rome on her honeymoon. It is here that it is revealed the character was sexually abused as a child.
    The rest of the play deals with how this tragedy in the character’s past impacts her present life and the future of her marriage. Though we in the audience get a chance to meet a few other characters, the one that we did not get introduced, the main character’s husband Kurt, was, to me, the most interesting. Kurt is a constant source of reassurance for Zam’s character throughout the play. I found these moments to be the most real of the play for me. Due to the fact that it is a one woman play, it was sometimes difficult for me to relate to the main character because I could not see how she related to anyone else. Yet whenever she talked about her husband a lightness came about the character, which made me a see a totally different side to this very complex character. In the first scene alone, the main character’s emotions run the gamut from elated to terrified to nervous to calm. This tends to be the MO for the duration of the play, except when she is talking about her husband. For me this rang true in two scenes-one where she unexpectedly finds herself in the hospital, and another where she and her husband are trying to find new ways for her to cope with the tragedy of her past by pretending not to know each other at a bar. Both of these scenes made the main character seem caring, warm, and open to her future-especially the future that she hopes to have with her husband. These moments where she descried their interactions were by far my favorite, because they allowed me as an audience member to recognize that she is still dealing with her past abuse, but seeing that she is making progress towards moving away from it and being comfortable in her marriage. Overall I found the piece very thought provoking and am looking forward to seeing what it becomes in a full length version.

  17. After seeing a reading of Laura Zam’s new work “Married Sex,” I found myself much more ready to handle uncomfortable subject matter. This new found openness allowed me to sit back and find the humor, tact, and humanity in “The Prostate Dialogues,” a new work by John Spelman. Due to the nature of the subject matter, I could not directly relate, but I think this made my experience better, because it prompted me to examine how I would react in a similar situation and how factors such as age, gender, and marital status can affect your response to a cancer diagnosis.
    One of the most interesting statements for me came during the talkback, when Spelman and artistic director Ari Roth had an exchange about talking about prostates. Ari and John both agreed it was not something men talked about unless they absolutely had to, something you are forced to do when you are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Juxtaposed against a scene that I had just seen in “Married Sex,” where a bunch of women gather together at a brunch to discuss various sexual problems they are having, I found these statements to be puzzling. I have always been able to have very open dialogues with my friends, so to find that men of all ages found this very uncomfortable was interesting to me. Clearly this is an instance where gender greatly affects how you respond to the situation.
    The same was true of marital status. Because John’s character was married and had a grown daughter, he responded very differently to situations than I would imagine myself responding. I feel that he was always concerned about how his cancer and his prognosis would affect his family, even before he was worried about how it would affect himself. Being a college student, I know that if I were to receive this kind of life altering news, I would probably be most concerned about myself and what would happen to my future. Yet in the way that John talked about his daughter and his wife, you could se they were his main concerns.
    Despite not being able to fully relate to the subject matter presented in this play I enjoyed it very much. It handled the subject of cancer with tact, but also with doses of medical jargon, so I knew what was going on, and humor. When things were starting to get heavy John would crack a joke, reminding everyone that this was not a serious play, but rather one about life, all the ups and downs included. During the talkback a fellow student commented that John reminded him of a really great professor-presenting material that could easily fall to really boring but keeping the audience engaged with his humor and stories. While the play did not remind me of sitting in lecture, I agree that John was engaging in a way that educated me about a serious topic, while simultaneously keeping me entertained and engaged. “The Prostate Dialogues” was a fun journey that left me feeling like even though life is unpredictable, it is still a fun experience and is always worth sharing. One of the most interesting statements for me came during the talkback, when Spelman and artistic director Ari Roth had an exchange about talking about prostates. Ari and John both agreed it was not something men talked about unless they absolutely had to, something you are forced to do when you are diagnosed with prostate cancer. Juxtaposed against a scene that I had just seen in “Married Sex,” where a bunch of women gather together at a brunch to discuss various sexual problems they are having, I found these statements to be puzzling. I have always been able to have very open dialogues with my friends, so to find that men of all ages found this very uncomfortable was interesting to me. Clearly this is an instance where gender greatly affects how you respond to the situation.
    The same was true of marital status. Because John’s character was married and had a grown daughter, he responded very differently to situations than I would imagine myself responding. I feel that he was always concerned about how his cancer and his prognosis would affect his family, even before he was worried about how it would affect himself. Being a college student, I know that if I were to receive this kind of life altering news, I would probably be most concerned about myself and what would happen to my future. Yet in the way that John talked about his daughter and his wife, you could se they were his main concerns.
    Despite not being able to fully relate to the subject matter presented in this play I enjoyed it very much. It handled the subject of cancer with tact, but also with doses of medical jargon, so I knew what was going on, and humor. When things were starting to get heavy John would crack a joke, reminding everyone that this was not a serious play, but rather one about life, all the ups and downs included. During the talkback a fellow student commented that John reminded him of a really great professor-presenting material that could easily fall to really boring but keeping the audience engaged with his humor and stories. While the play did not remind me of sitting in lecture, I agree that John was engaging in a way that educated me about a serious topic, while simultaneously keeping me entertained and engaged. “The Prostate Dialogues” was a fun journey that left me feeling like even though life is unpredictable, it is still a fun experience and is always worth sharing.

  18. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by both of these performances. I had never been to a reading before and found myself thoroughly enjoying the raw and uncensored aspects of the writers. Both were willing to talk openly and candidly about their personal experiences. While they were not initially similar to each other, after watching them together they held a common thread of inner strength, and individuality. While both plays could have been depressing, the writers were able to turn the energy to be inspiring and positive in their unique ways.

    For the first play, I found myself holding huge respect to the writer for her performance. She seemed to truly open herself up and let the audience feel her uncensored emotions and experiences. Her story was relatable for many people who held any internal struggle, not matter the topic. She also had a way of bringing up awkward topics with ease and humor to make the audience feel comfortable.

    The second performance I found extremely touching. Although the topic was something that effects men, the writer created a family theme around the topic, which made it easily relatable. Almost everyone has a connection to cancer somehow, and the writer did an amazing job at connecting that to the audience. One thing that I found interesting was that the writer skipped a large part of his story – his diagnosis. I feel like it was discussed up to the way he was diagnosed and what his treatment was, but when it came time for him to hear the actual words cancer and tell his family it wasn’t discussed. This would be a large part for any individual’s story who was affected by cancer.

    I am very interested to see these performances finished. I hope the emotions don’t change and the plays, along with their performers, still hold their heartfelt feelings. Also I wonder if seeing the last few end scenes would change my perception of the characters and their paths.

  19. I had absolutely no idea what a “reading” was when I entered Theater J on Tuesday. After being introduced to readings with Laura Zam’s Married Sex, I was not very excited or optimistic about my enjoyment for future readings. Married Sex was excruciatingly awkward the entire reading. I did not laugh or even smile the entire reading. If the aim of the reading was to make everybody in the audience feel awkward, then Ms. Zam accomplished her goal. Many of the jokes fell flat. The Pope Innocent joke was not humorous. The Olga character was maybe the only humorous part of the reading. Also, I did not like the random times she would sing or chant and did not understand what the purpose of this was. I thought her character was way over the top and not a very believable character. However, Jon Spelman’s The Prostate Dialogues redeemed my “reading” experience. I really enjoyed the mix between the scientific explanations and humor. I allowed Mr. Spelman to get the message of his piece across and to get people to listen to the technical explanations. He truly reminded me of a funny professor, which have been some of my most enjoyable classroom experiences. There was one point in the reading where Mr. Spelman did go on a bit of a tangent with overly technical explanations, and my attention was temporarily lost during this period. I really enjoyed how the entire piece became personal about three-fifths through the reading, when he explained his personal experience with prostate cancer. As someone who has had both parents endure bouts with cancer, I could definitely relate to this segment of the play. I, like Mr. Spelman, have been extremely lucky to have both of my parents survive cancer and endure treatment successfully. Mr. Spelman’s delivery was much more believable and easy to listen to, and I thoroughly enjoyed the story of his experience.

  20. I felt that Laura’s performance and story hit very close to home for me. For most of the reading I felt like I was watching my life being performed on the stage and that was a little eerie. At times I desperately wanted to leave the
    theater and at other times I was so hopeful that Laura would have the answers since our situations were so similar. Probably the other unsettling
    part of the reading was Laura’s choice to make the work almost comedic and at times I did not appreciate that (especially at the end of the reading).
    Despite my great discomfort at moments, I commend Laura for her openness and at times her brutal honesty. I never would be able to be that open and I respect her for that.

  21. Do not judge a book by its cover or in this case “don’t judge a reading by its title” would just about sum up my experience when it comes to Jon Spelman’s “The Prostate Dialogues.” After reading the title I was honestly confused and thinking “what could I possible get from this” and to my pleasant surprise I walked away that much more appreciative of all that which I do have, especially my good health and my family. Jon’s reading hit home allowing me to connect, and maybe much more importantly, reflect, embrace and truly grapple with my personal experience, something that I had never done before, not until last night.

    When my mother got diagnosed with breast caner my freshman year of high school I did not have time to think about it, she did not have time to figure things out. There was no time to spare let alone shed a tear. Things needed to get done ASAP if she was going to stand a chance at saving herself and her life, as she knew it. It was not until Jon’s reading that I was able to, sit back, take a moment and really take all that we lived through in. Before last night (January 10th 2012) I had never really taken the matter “in.” I was not living life back then but merely going through the motions as a means to get by, then when it was all over, it was done, and I never really looked back. Jon made me realize that it is okay to face a struggle without necessarily knowing what to do next. Yet, on the same token he made me see that one can act in a matter in which all will be okay in the long run without necessarily really knowing it at the time. As scary as his wife’s accident was, as unsettling as his surgery and its aftermath were you can only take things as they come and not worry nor stress about what is up ahead because we truly do not know what IS up next. Through his reading I learned that everything will be okay as cliché as that sounds and even if its not there isn’t really much we can to about it but take it in, embrace it and figure out how to carry on, as he did with the amazing unconditional support system he was granted by his wife and his daughter.

    I was also able to relate to his daughter, she was scared and did not know what to expect. I never developed nor explored my feelings simply because I did not have the time yet after last nights reading that is all I could think about reinforcing the idea that all will happen in its due time. Moreover, I left “The Prostate Dialogues” with an overwhelmingly appreciative feeling and consciousness for my family, specifically my mother, and surprisingly enough, myself as well.

  22. Playwright Laura Zam’s piece seemed to touch on a complex, personal issue, needless to say one that hit close to home. Moreover, “Married Sex” was interestingly presented. She touched on a subject that many people face and for that I appreciate her piece. Sexual assault and/or sexual abuse neither are issues that many people want nor know how to deal with right away so for Zam to shine light on the matter was unsettlingly appreciated.

    Someone very close to me faced a very similar situation and was unable to disclose such happenings until she was a grown woman and pregnant with her second child. I of all people understand how hard it can be for someone to open up and talk about the matter at hand. Having been on the receiving end of the situation, having been the support system without knowing neither what had happened nor how to “fix” it I was able to indirectly relate to Zam’s character. I utterly understood the characters struggle to come to terms with the happenings. I was able to grasp the idea that opening up and talking about this matter, for those individuals that do decide to immerse themselves in the difficult and complex recovery process that at times it is never really attained, no matter how much time as elapsed since the initial encounter.

    However, as much as I appreciated Zam’s piece, I must admit I was unable to follow her train of thought from start to finish. I only managed to pick up on what was actually happening until about half way through the reading. Laura Zam touched on many subjects and incorporated many other taboo themes/issues. I felt as though it was a bit much coming at me entirely too quickly. Once I thought I had figured out what were talking about Laura Zam was on to the next matter. Had she narrowed it down to a few things or separated her work a bit more, when addressing one issue and then another matter it would have been easier for me to follow, but then again this confusion could be because I am a newer theatergoer and not use to covering so much so quickly. I mean it was only a 50min reading, we had yet to get to the climax and the resolution as Laura Zam stated during the discussion after she’d read.

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