A Play on Words

by Kathy on May 17, 2011 · 7 comments

in Bob, Books, Change, Inspiration, Quotes, Steppenwolf, Theater, Writing

Last weekend Bob took me out to dinner and to see a play at the Steppenwolf Theatre here in Chicago. It was my Mother’s Day gift and our first date night, just the two of us, in awhile.

I had wanted to see the play for some time, as my parents (who have a “subscription” to Steppenwolf, kind of like season tickets for a sports team) had seen and really enjoyed it and thought I would too.

It’s not often that your mother suggests you see a play called Sex with StrangersYes, you read that right. It’s a two person play written by Laura Eason about the power of words (both those in print and on the Internet).

Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble member Sally Murphy portrays Olivia, a passionate writer who has one published novel, that received mixed reviews from critics, and she is finishing her next manuscript. Stephen Louis Grush plays Ethan, a man who begins blogging about his life and experiences after taking a dare, to try to lure one stranger to have sex with him every week for a year by courting her the “old fashioned way.” Ethan’s website becomes very successful, which leads him to getting a book published, based on his popular and sensational blog entries.

Almost 40 year old Oliva lacks the self confidence and social networking savvy that 24 year old Ethan possesses. Ethan seems ready to shed his playboy lifestyle/persona and pursue a more serious relationship with Olivia. Ethan also yearns to have the opportunity to write for a more serious, discerning and inspired literary audience. Thus these two are drawn to each other, both finding inspiration in and attraction to the characteristics and qualities they want to explore and develop in themselves, which the other personifies.

My mom thought I would appreciate the play, part of the Steppenwolf 2010-2011 season’s theme of public/private self, because of how much I love to write, especially here on my blog, and knowing that I have entertained thoughts of writing a book proposal and trying to get published myself someday. My mom was right. I really enjoyed Sex with Strangers and found myself contemplating the story and dialogue long after Bob and I left the theater that night.

According to Steppenwolf’s Martha Lavey in her Letter from Artistic Director on Sex with Strangers,

The play speaks acutely to the contemporary landscape of technological communication and how those new platforms impact both interpersonal relationships and the construction of authorial identity. The play captures many of the complexities of our public/private self, humanizing those abstractions by telling the story of a man and woman who are trying both to further their public selves as writers and to engage their private selves as lovers.

Ms. Lavey goes on to say in her letter,

One of the most compelling issues that Laura (the playwright) is teasing out is how platforms like blogs and social networking sites are impacting the capacity for intimacy. What are the implications of knowing–before meeting in person–the private life of someone who becomes an intimate partner? Is that publicly-expressed, self-reliable representation of the private self? And what about change? If we have published our inner life, how do we revise ourselves? And which of our selves is trustworthy?

As a writer, and more specifically a blogger, I find these to be very interesting and thought provoking questions. How about you? Please feel free to share your thoughts/answers to the below questions that I pose in the comment section.

Have you ever entered into an intimate relationship with someone that you knew first only via the Internet?  Do you think your prior knowledge of that person helped or hindered the growth and development of your connection?

Though I have not been in an intimate/romantic relationship with someone that I met or knew initially only through connecting online, I have many friendships (which I consider to be very real and genuine) that have developed over the years with women that I have gotten to know through Internet forums/discussion boards and in recent years through blogging. I have had the opportunity to meet some of these friends “in real life” and in almost every case the way we met and the prior knowledge we had of each other has only seemed to strengthen our bond.

If you have written openly about yourself and your life on a blog and/or via social networking, do you feel that you represent your “true self” through what you share?

I certainly try to represent my “true self” when I write here on my blog and share about my life and experiences via social networking sites. I don’t try to paint my world as any better or worse than it really is. When I write blog entries, tweet or share status updates on Facebook, I attempt to maintain a healthy balance between the amount of venting I do with how much I express about wonderful and joyous times.

Do you think it is possible after sharing candidly about your private life to “revise yourself,” as Ms. Lavey suggests, and do so publicly in a trustworthy and genuine way? 

Having shared candidly about my private life here on my blog, I do believe that it is possible to learn and to grow from every challenge we face and each wonderful experience we have in our lives. I think we can, and should try to, be open to change and such “revisions of self.” I always strive to be a more honest and genuine person, including in public forums such the blogosphere. I recognize that such times of evolution in our lives are not always easy and are often painful to live through. Thus I realize we need to be patient with ourselves, our loved ones and with God as we navigate our “new normal.”
  
One of my favorite quotes, which I have shared here before, and that I believe expresses this idea so well is:

Patience with others is love. Patience with self is hope. Patience with God is faith~ Adel Bestevaros

Lastly, though I think it is worthwhile to be open and willing to change and to revise ourselves throughout our lives as we learn and grow from our experiences, I also know that we (and especially I) need to work on accepting ourselves for who we are, as we are now and being more confident and comfortable in our own skin.

Thank you for reading my reflections on my experience seeing Sex with Strangers (that sounds so much more naughty than it really is/was). The play’s run here in Chicago ended on Sunday, however there is talk that it may be headed to Broadway down the road. If Sex with Strangers does make it to NYC and you have the opportunity to see it, I highly recommend it.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 HereWeGoAJen May 18, 2011 at 2:32 am

I've gotten some amazing friendships through the internet. And when we've met in person, it has been nice to jump over the getting to know you part because we already know each other.

I feel like I share my true self on the internet. Of course, it is a little different than my non-internet self because I am often more open talking about difficult things to people I cannot see than I am in person. But both parts of me are real, they are just different in different places.

Reply

2 Lollipop Goldstein May 18, 2011 at 9:42 am

Question 1: Yes, if we're counting friends. Blogs weren't around when I met Josh.

Question 2: Yes, it's definitely a sliver of my true self. Though my true self is much larger than can be contained on a screen. So I think that those who know me also in the face-to-face world or who email with me have an even larger picture. And I think that Josh and the twins and my siblings and closest friends and parents probably have the largest picture. Though that sliver is still contained inside the largest picture.

Question 3: Yes, I think all people are a work in progress and people should change over time, as new information enters. I think there's also a difference between a gradual, natural change, and a forced change.

Going to curate this on BlogHer and send some more people your way to hopefully answer these questions and get a discussion going!

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3 RoseAnn May 18, 2011 at 2:11 pm

I've developed some amazing and long-lasting friendships on the internet. Only a small portion have been possible to turn into RL friendships but they are real, nonetheless.

I just had to tell you that I was so touched by the quote about patience that I used it as my Facebook status this afternoon. 😉

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4 Kir May 20, 2011 at 11:28 am

I didn't meet John on my blog, I started writing after I met him. However I met lots of men I dated through the internet, many I am still friends with. With Facebook being so prevalent, I have continued relationships and friendships that never would have lasted without our on line conversations.

I am SO MUCH bigger in real life than my blog. I LAUGH LOUD, I smile BIG, I CRY DEEPLY, I curse , a lot, I talk and talk and talk..I don't show that a lot on my blog, I am myself but with limitations.

So yes, when people meet me, I think they are surpirsed at how much MORE I am. I am not shy or quiet or "nice" all the time. I can witty and catty and silly…and those are the things I love to show people who come into my life because of the blog.

This is going to give me A LOT to think about this weekend, THANK YOU. That play sounded wonderful, so glad you got to see it.

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5 Lavender Luz May 20, 2011 at 12:20 pm

1. If you count friends. Witness you and some of the commenters of this thread! It helped.

2. My blog represents my true self, but not my whole self. I have cultivated healthy boundaries.

3. Being active in social media allows me to be both the star and the audience of my life. So yes, revising comes differently when you are observing yourself. I do it more consciously now because I'm always on alert for something write-worthy. What are my true motivations? What's going on here? What am I REALLY feeling? I take time to observe.

Much like you yourself did with this post, and encouraged your readers to do.

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6 embracingtherain May 21, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Question 1: I haven't met anyone in person that I initially met through the internet.

Question 2: I agree with Mel. It is a part of me, but not all of me that I share.

Question 3: I think that we are all constantly changing and growing through all of our experiences including the experiences we have online.

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