If you’re one of those people, like me, who makes their fringe-play selections based on the adult content warnings, I’ve got a suggestion for you this season. A Story of O’s, by Tonya Jone Miller, is a one-woman show about the adventures of a phone-sex operator.
The title of the play caught my attention so I got in touch with Miller to find out more. It turns out that it’s mostly autobiographical. Miller has been a phone-sex operator since 2004. “I was going to acting school,” she says. “One of my fellow students mentioned she had applied for phone-sex work and it piqued my interest. Within a year, I was a partner in the company.”
With her background in acting and playwriting, it wasn’t long before she began thinking about turning her experiences in the phone-sex world into a show. “It only took a couple months for me to realize that my callers and their fetishes were immensely fascinating to people,” she says. But unlike some other plays and movies I’ve seen that depict fetishes and the people who have them as incomprehensibly bizarre and ridiculous, A Story of O’s just might give us a more realistic, human portrayal.
Tonya’s respect and even admiration for her clients was apparent when asked what her biggest learning from this industry has been. “Every single phone-sex call can be reduced down to the same thing, regardless of fetish or fantasy,” she says. “One human being’s need to be ‘seen’ at what they perceive to be their weakest, lowest, most unlovable and to be accepted for it.”
Perhaps the play will give us something beyond lurid tales that satisfy a sense of prurient curiosity. Perhaps there will be something intrinsically human in these stories that we can all relate to. “People can draw their own conclusions,” Miller says, “but I wanted to make sure I celebrated my callers as opposed to making them the butt of the joke.”
She points out that the show is very entertaining and even hilarious in some places, “Because sex is hysterical sometimes, especially when you take it to extremes.
“I hope audience members leave the show, go have in-depth philosophical discussions about fetishes and fantasy over a bottle of wine, and then have super hot sex that night.”
This will be Miller’s third visit to the Edmonton Fringe. She brought her play Inviting Desires in 2009 and Threads in 2012. The fact that we are the biggest Fringe in North America with a huge built-in audience keeps her coming back here from Portland. It’s also the food.
“I’m addicted to the kimchi soup at Steel Wheels,” she says. “Seriously, it’s the picture on my Facebook profile.” V
Brenda Kerber is a sexual health educator who has worked with local not-for-profits since 1995. She is the owner of the Edmonton-based, sex-positive adult toy boutique the Traveling Tickle Trunk.