Locally Grown Solo Shows Return After a Month of Cultivation

As our festival winds down — only one more reading to go — this Sunday at 5 — we’re seeing amazing things take root — a shaping, pruning, deepening and snipping process that’s really a cultivator’s dream — to be able to be with a play for weeks — in the case of MARRIED SEX and THE PROSTATE DIALOGUES — January 10 marked the start of their public lives as works-in-progress — plays not even quite finished — and now, by-golly, they’re complete journeys, with still more refinements to come, but deeply touching, pleasing, topical, personal, deeply probing works that have come to mean a lot to their creators — and to their collaborators too.

We’re so pleased with the audiences who’ve shown such devotion to this reading series — we’re seeing amazing turn-outs for Locally Grown and, even better, we’re feeling a great sense of community — of shared ambition in making a real, professional commitment to an ongoing development of work by local writers, speaking to our mission, extending our reach to new parts of the city.

Eager to hear follow up comments from any and many who took in either one or both solo performances this past weekend or last night! And more concluding thoughts on What’s Next for Locally Grown soon!

14 thoughts on “Locally Grown Solo Shows Return After a Month of Cultivation

  1. Plays must have a live audience. Finding an audience is a playwright’s dream. Kudos to Locally Grown for nurturing local playwrights, making their dream come true and giving us all a chance to witness the birth of remarkably rich and challenging new works. And what an audience! Young, engaged and appreciative, the envy of any theater struggling with an aging demographic.

  2. After seeing the second reading of “Married Sex” I realized that it was the first time that I had gone to see a second reading of the same play. Overall, I was really surprised to see just how much the play had changed from the first reading to the second and how it had only been five weeks that the transformation had taken place.
    The first time I had seen the reading, I found the delivery unsettling in some part because of the humor and because the reading did not go to the end of the play. However, I enjoyed the more mellow delivery of the new version of the play. I think Laura focused more on how and where to insert the humor and it totally changed the mood of the play. As a result, I think the audience felt more comfortable laughing at the more comedic moments and could enjoy the comedic aspects of the work rather then feeling tense or unsure about when to laugh.
    As for the comments made during the talk-back, I very much agree with the person who said the “sex brunches” gave the work a nice spine (I think that was the word they used) that Laura could keep coming back to tie the work together. By removing the hospital scene it also made the play feel bulky.
    However, I also agree that “Matt” was slightly lost in the new version as a result of the hospital episode and the story about the little black dress being cut out. On a personal note, I really missed the scene with the little black dress. I think the scene made a very nice transition into the date night, but it was more awkward without it in the second reading. I hope the scene makes its way back in to the play and I think it might add some of “Matt’s” personality into the work.

  3. To me, “Married Sex” is not one of those plays that you like right away. Laura is a very animated character, and at first her tone sounded fake and annoying. As the play went on, however, i slowly warmed to the character of Laura and began to feel comfortable with this character who was fighting a battle to keep on a happy face. I admired her for that.

    On the subject of admiration, i thought one of the other audience members voiced a feeling that i definitely shared when he exclaimed that Laura’s husband was so supportive that even he would like to marry him. I and the other audience member both found this odd and hard to relate too. Sex is not the only or necessarily the most important part of a relationship; but to deny its role in love between two people is untruthful in my mind. The play did not make sex seem unimportant, quite the opposite in fact, but it did make it seem like it wasn’t that important to Laura’s husband, which bothered me. There’s a reason the term “sexual frustration” is part of our vocabulary, and i think that “Married Sex” focused heavily on Laura’s frustration but not at all on her husband’s.

    I have to thank another audience member for helping me bridge a big metaphorical connection as well. Laura started out the play by using a metaphor involving her in the ocean and her libido on the beach to describe her sexual troubles. At the end of the play as she was slipping into the ocean with her husband, the presence of water triggered something in my brain and once the audience member brought it up i finally completed the picture. I couldn’t tell from Laura Zam if the two parallel metaphors were intentional or not, but i thought it rounded out the play very well and helped to connect the entire storyline.

    • I agree with Will that the supportive nature of the husband was a bit unbelievable. However, I do not agree based on the same rationale. I think there are some spouses that face tough situations in which they are forced to forego sex and be supportive as their husbands/wives go through physical or psychological challenges. For many, this is incredibly difficult, but they rise to the challenge because of their intense love for their partner. Often times, faith plays a role in guiding the couple through such struggles.

      I found the husband’s supportive nature somewhat unbelievable because he played a very minimal physical presence on stage. Laura refers to him, but we do not actually hear or see him show his love, compassion and support. I think I would have been more convinced had I witnessed or heard of more concrete examples that demonstrated that he probably was as good a guy as she said.

  4. While watching Married Sex, I was amazed and impressed by Laura Zam’s ability to capture the audience’s attention and keep it for the duration of the show. Although she was the only person on stage, she personified multiple characters and provided upbeat energy that kept the show moving and made the dialogue at times very funny, even though the story was on a very serious topic. I felt that the development of her main character was well done because it showed her internal conflict openly and subtly at the same time. The audience could tell that the actress was not “healed” but could not guess how she would react to each attempt to reignite her sex life. I also enjoyed the women’s sex conversations because it gave Zam a chance to bounce around the various personalities and show off her animated acting styles. I particularly loved the brief moment when they tried to get Frank to join the conversation and he said that men don’t want sex because they have a bad cold. I found that moment extraordinarily funny, especially in the context of the previous conversation about the evil nature of men.

    However, considering how successful Zam developed the main characters and the supporting roles of her friends, I was surprised by the underdevelopment of three characters in particular. Laura’s husband, Matt, was strikingly missing from the play. I understand that the play was focused primarily on her internal journey to figure things out, but I felt that it would have been more successful to show Matt’s supportive nature. By excluding Matt from the majority of the play, it was hard to believe that they had a loving marriage at all. I do not think he should be added to dominate the play, but I do think he needs a larger presence to make the ending a more logical conclusion, showing that he’s been there all along. The other two characters who felt should have gotten a little bit more attention were Victor and Scott. Their relationship was very briefly mentioned in the beginning, brought up in the middle and then provided a nice concluding demonstration of what love is about. I thought that they should have been played up a bit more in the beginning because had Zam not reminded the audience who victor was, I would have had no idea. I think Zam can successfully develop these three characters and it will go a long way in freshening out the play. Overall, I really liked Zam’s work and was very impressed by her acting, so I hope she continues to refine Married Sex to make it as real and impactful as it can be.

  5. If I were to sum up the aesthetics of “Married Sex” in one word it would be unique. I was thoroughly impressed by the talent of Laura Zam as she took us through the script in a tour guide like fashion. For her to be able to keep all of those characters coupled with various accents straight was something to see. I felt the play struck a various nice balance between seriousness and humor. The play as a whole I felt was more of a comedy but in the countless jokes there was a vain of seriousness to them.
    Laura’s character really went through a journey, almost a like a classic quest, a quest to find her sexuality in her new marriage as she dealt with insecurities and a troubled past. I felt a tremendous sense of realism throughout the play, the problems, the conversations, the thoughts all were very believable. Her struggle for normalcy really stuck a cord with me especially. Although I am obviously not a woman the struggle and aspiration to be seen as “normal” in society transcends sex, it is a very human desire. Her journey” ah ha” moment when she came to terms with the fact that she wasn’t “normal” so was a bit predictable but it was most certainly a nice and satisfying conclusion.
    “Married Sex” was very nice well done play, it surprised me. With the title I foresaw a shallow and sex filled humor play with any real depth or story. Although sex, was the but end of many jokes I was pleasantly surprised that there was a real story within the play. The story that not just one that newlyweds or those that are victims of abuse can relate too but it was a story that casts a very wide net, there was something in there for everyone.

  6. If only my teachers and classmates throughout middle and high school could tell a story with such energy, my literature classes would have been much more enjoyable! Lauren Zen’s reading of her own work “Married Sex” was hilarious, uncomfortable, confusing, and overall enjoyable. The energy she provided throughout the reading made it impossible not to be engaged. As an unmarried male just out of his teens, I wasn’t sure how much I could relate to a play about “Married Sex.” In fact, I was skeptical if I could enjoy a show that consisted of a person reading their play. But I didn’t need to relate to many things to be entertained or take away a valuable message.

    Throughout the reading, Laura often referenced her traumatic past of sexual abuse, which remained a topic throughout the play. In the beginning, a pleasant trip through Europe is harshly interrupted with a side flashback of her situation of abuse, and it’s apparent that that trauma still haunts her. However, from that moment on, Laura continuously tries to convince us that she is “healed” of her abuse. This serious topic was not the focus of the play, but rather an underlying theme. We see her come to grips that she is indeed not “healed,” first physically, and then emotionally. This conflict growing within was not often discussed out loud, but rather it could be subtly seen. I have been fortunate enough to not have experienced abuse in my life. Yet from what close friends and psychology experts have told me through their own experiences, it is almost impossible to be entirely “healed” of any form of abuse. One cannot simply beat abuse. But we can become stronger in how we deal with it. And throughout the play, I felt like I could see Laura coming to that realization (but again, I am no expert, and do not claim to be. This is only what I saw in my own eyes).

    • Tobias, I was not lucky enough to be able to see “Married Sex” for a second time (I saw the first reading in January) but am thrilled to see the adjectives you used to describe the show. “Hilarious, uncomfortable, confusing, and overall enjoyable” are the perfect words to describe the play I saw and I feel that without any one of these elements the show would not be nearly as poignant. For me the place where all these combined in the best way was in the scene where Zam met her husband at the bar. It was fun and exciting and nervewrecking-but made you really root for her because it was clear she was getting stronger with how to deal with her abuse. I hope that this moment stayed the same. Based on your post and the other one’s on this play it is clear that Zam has refined it to keep the best parts and soften places that hit the audience too hard. It was good in January and I bet it’s even better now.

  7. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend “Married Sex” by Laura Zam and watch the play in the theater, but I have read the script. I read the script first and then the blog posts by audience members who have seen the first and/or second readings of the play to get a feeling of what people thought about it. It seems that Laura’s play was intended to be a comedy and some parts had comical tone, but I thought that humor might be a “cover” used to talk about such serious issues as child abuse. Even though Laura mentions that she has healed and has become a “normal” person, the subject of her child abuse continues to resurface throughout the play. Of course I might be wrong, but I think that the play itself and the process of writing and openly talking about her traumatic experience is a way of healing. When I was reading the play, I remembered an exercise that we had to do in one of my sociology classes, known as Pennebaker essay, when individuals are asked to write about personal traumatic or upsetting experiences. The process of writing is supposed to have healing properties. I think that in a way writing was part of emotional healing, and Laura was brave enough to talk about her experience in front of the audience. Whereas in the beginning she denies the idea that child abuse might have affected her and her relationships, she seems to accept that it might have affected her in some way by the end of the play.

    I also thought the idea of “sex brunches” was useful because in many cultures intimate relationships are not discussed. It was interesting to get different perspectives on marriage. I think that the play also shows the importance of supportive relationships in our personal journeys and in the process of overcoming problems/issues. Even though we don’t get exposed to Matt a lot, he seems to be a very supportive and understanding husband. I think the connection between Laura’s characters and the audience could be made stronger if we were given more information about Laura and Matt’s personal lives as a married couple and/or more information about Matt’s character. Even without that information, the ending of the play, “but things warm up as we swim. As we swim for our lives. Together” (as well as the story of Scott and Vincent) was very strong and shows that even though not everything will go smooth in a marriage, this unique connection and support between two people is what can make our lives more meaningful.

  8. I enjoyed “The Prostate Dialogues” more than I thought I would. Even though I thought I would not be able to relate to it, the playwright did a great job of creating personal connection between his character and the audience. At times, I could feel the pain that the character and his family were going through. I felt connected to the story as if I were also part of it. Somebody in the audience mentioned that they thought the play was intended for people who are in the same situation as the character, but even though I am a 24 year-old female, I was quite engaged and didn’t have a hard time relating to the story.

    The play itself was great, but I didn’t like the ending (especially the last sentence, when everything goes dark). The whole scene with him and his wife trying to hold hands and their dog nearby created an atmosphere of comfort and hope that everything will be alright. However, the last sentence about lights going off and everything going dark reminded me of the idea of death. I know that many people liked the ending, but it was a little abrupt for me. I was waiting to hear more.

    I haven’t seen the first reading of the play, but the playwright mentioned that there were chairs on the stage and a dummy of his character. I don’t know how that worked during the first reading, but I think that the last reading that I attended, when the playwright read his story and there were no chairs/dummies, created a stronger connection between the playwright and his audience.

    One of the reasons why I loved the play is because it reminded me of the importance of gratitude in your life. We can never know what is going to happen to us and significant people in our lives. Similar to “Married Sex,” the play reminded me of the importance of support and meaningful relationships in your life. The playwright’s wife and daughter have supported him as he was going through difficult time. The play was also full of useful information about prostate cancer and treatment that people in the same situation can find very useful.

  9. It was an incredible privilege to sit in the cozy library, feet away from the distinguished Jon Spelman, surrounded mostly by men and women decades older than I, for a reading of The Prostate Dialogues. At the talk-back, one audience member commented that the title was misleading—the work was about more than just prostate cancer. While prostate cancer was clearly the play’s catalyst, it is true that The Prostate Dialogues proceeded to treat of themes as tremendous as relationships, taboo, embodiment, and mortality. Should it have dared anything less? Absolutely not.
    Many comments I have heard at talkbacks express dissatisfaction when a play fails to answer every question it poses. For instance, Spelman spent a few minutes recounting a dizzying array of possible results of his surgery. He presents an absurd list of medical innovations designed to assist his ailing member in its functions, post-operation. Despite all of the play’s pre-surgical speculation of his post-surgical condition, we hear nothing at all about this condition once he actually undergoes the operation! Those questions go unanswered, and they are clearly answerable. But then, let us search for a reason for Spelman’s omission. I suggest that it was not the point to narrow his story to his own very specific physical condition! By not revealing which of the numerous predictions of surgical outcome turned out to be true for him, Spelman makes the play more accessible to a greater audience.
    Expecting an answer to this question has greater implications for art in general. Since when is it the job of an artist to play God and ensure that art, like puzzles, neatly testify to some clear order and explanation for the activity of the universe? I am not excusing clumsy vagueness that seeks to clothe itself in false mystery. Yet to expect a work of art to answer all questions is a pathetic hope for two reasons: first, such hope will always be disappointed, and second, such an expectation eclipses entirely art’s ability to provoke question, discussion, and the contribution of one’s insight, insight that may be not an entire truth but at least a sliver of it.

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