I’ve Got Your Hand Prop Right Here
A leer back at OC’s history of theatrical naughtiness, nastiness and outright sexual perversions—from orgies to orgasms to . . . Oklahoma?
Many years ago, while pondering moving to Hollywood, I interviewed with the manager of an apartment across the street from the Church of Scientology headquarters. I told the manager that I was a playwright of sorts, and he said that the church’s facilities included a theater that was available for outside productions.
“But it’s owned by the Church of Scientology,” I said. “What kind of plays do they allow to be produced?”
“Well, they don’t do two dogs onstage fucking, but they’re pretty liberal,” he replied.
In 12 years of covering theater in Orange County, I’ve yet to see two dogs fucking on stage. I’m still holding out for it, but I have seen a medley of shows that have certainly pushed the raunchy envelope. Funny thing is, these were shows that weren’t puerile to be puerile; most were incredibly provocative on an intellectual level and possessed considerable literary merit.
But, boy, were there moments that were just plain fucking dirty. And God bless each and every one.
Most happened in the cloistered confines of the Rude Guerrilla Theater Co.’s space on Broadway in Santa Ana (a theater that unfortunately closes in March; however, some of the principal members are reforming as the Monkey Wrench Theater Collective and hope to have a new space later this year). Artistic Director (and longtime Weekly contributor) Dave Barton never shied away from plays that pushed, poked, prodded and penetrated.
There were plays that included lesbians kissing, guys fucking other guys in the ass while chatting on their cell phones, gang rapes and incest, dudes wearing Teletubby masks while getting blown by other guys and a seemingly never-ending litany of nookie, shtupping, and otherwise gettin’ it on.
The most unforgettable moment, however, happened in 2001 during Mark Ravenhill’s stupendously written and uncompromisingly hard-core piece about some shabby denizens of London: Shopping and Fucking. You can see it yourself later this year (it’s going to enjoy an open-ended run at the aforementioned Monkey Wrench Theater Collective), so I don’t want to spoil the fun. But it basically involves two men, a bloody asshole and a bloody nose.
Was it great writing? Perhaps. Great theater? Maybe. Absolutely and utterly unforgettable? Yes, absolutely. And utterly.
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A particularly vicious strain of perversion surfaced in the Insurgo Theater Co.’s 2003 production of William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. It’s one of the most blood-saturated plays ever written to begin with, and Insurgo’s production amplified the already harrowing tag-team rape of a woman, whose hands were cut off and tongue was ripped from her mouth. (This play is not for the faint-hearted—viewers, actors or directors!)
There was always a seductive sheen surrounding the Hunger Artists’ 10-year run of an annual Halloween blood-and-gore fest, Madame Guignol’s Macabre Theater, since it was usually presided over by Kimberly M. Fisher, an actress who filled out knee-high black boots and a sexy costume as well as anyone in this county’s theatrical history. In 2002, however, Mark Coyan upstaged even Fisher by slithering out of a woman’s womb fully grown and wearing nothing but a satanic scowl. In his review of the show for the Weekly, Rich Kane called Coyan well-hung—definitely better than the alternative.
But the absolutely most sexuality-drenched production Orange County’s ever seen was staged at a most unlikely venue: the Huntington Beach Playhouse, in 1998. It began with a woman methodically pumping an old-fashioned butter churn, whipping the frothy, sticky cream to a viscous consistency. Shortly after, a dude named Curley showed up singing a lovesick ode to a herd of cattle he just passed. It’s the start of Oklahoma!—that evergreen chestnut of American musical theater. And whether intended or not, the entire show, which was filled with sexual metaphors, situations, wisecracks, oversexed milk-fed prairie beauties and sexual trysts, seemed proof positive that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II weren’t just the godfathers of the American musical: They were also raging sex addicts.
They’d fit right in around here.