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 Strangers. Yes, 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.
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.