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Jane Anderson explores sexual conflict in 'The Escort'

The playwright discusses her inspiration for her new play, which premieres April 6 at Geffen Playhouse.

March 06, 2011|By Maria Elena Fernandez, Los Angeles Times
  • Playwright Jane Anderson.
Playwright Jane Anderson. (Geffen Playhouse )

Quite simply, Jane Anderson wanted to write about sex.

In "The Quality of Life," her first commissioned play at the Geffen Playhouse in 2007, she tackled heavy and heady matters: death, suicide and cancer.

Now, with her second Geffen commission, she wanted to have fun. Not that the sex she writes about in "The Escort: An Explicit Play for Discriminating People" isn't serious. The story about the relationship between a high-class call girl, her gynecologist, and the doctor's 13-year-old son and ex-husband isn't shy in its content or its delivery.

"That last play took a lot out of me," Anderson said. "But I didn't want to write a frivolous play about sexuality. As a middle-aged mother who has a son who is 16 now and has watched him come into his sexuality, you start to view sex in a very different way than you did when you were in your 20s. And I wanted to deal with that conflict because I grew up during the sexual revolution in the 1970s and it was a time that we were all taught as young men and young women that sex was something you should not be ashamed about."

As a lesbian, Anderson says she always thought of herself as liberal about sexual matters. But over time, after she became a mother and because she is monogamous, she realized she does believe in limits and wanted to explore that through the character of Rhona, the divorced doctor, played by Polly Draper ("thirtysomething"). Charlotte, the escort, played by Maggie Siff ("Sons of Anarchy"), challenges Rhona's and the audience's views. (James Eckhouse and Gabriel Sunday are also in the cast).

"Rhona reflects my generation's conflict about sex," said Anderson, whose career as a writer and director spans theater, film and television. "I want to be utterly open-minded, but I do hit walls, and I especially hit walls because I have a son and I want him to grow up with a healthy view of women and sexuality, and the thought of him going on the Internet and seeing some of the stuff that's out there strikes terror. Because our kids have the potential to be exposed to such extremes of sexual conduct, I think a lot of us are pulling back and we want to protect our kids from certain imagery and certain ideas about sexuality.

"At the same time, we don't want to repress them the way our parents did with us," she said.

The play premieres April 6 and is scheduled to run until May 8.

maria.elena.fernandez@latimes.com

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