Sex Ed as you have never seen it presented before. Playlets that will astound, ranging from belly laughs to tears. The script is wonderful and the acting sublime. What more could you want from a play? At the Wilma in Philadelphia, we know what that means – always on the cutting edge, and this is know exception.
Excerpt from Wilma Dramaturg Walter Bilderback’s interview with Playwright/Director Robert O’Hara.
Wilma Dramaturg Walter Bilderback sits with Playwright/Director Robert O’Hara. This is the first part of his interview.
WALTER BILDERBACK: Let’s start with the basic: What’s Bootycandy?
ROBERT O’HARA: Bootycandy is the name that my grandmother and mother used for the penis when I was a little boy. After seeing the world premiere of this play in DC, my mother turned to me and actually said “It was BooBoo Candy why on EARTH would we call your penis Bootycandy?” and my response to her was “Oh Boo Boo Candy makes oh so much more sense, right???” Regardless I heard Bootycandy… all my life. So I think my Mother is making up some Boo Boo Candy … that just sounds crazy. Now, Bootycandy… I can kinda understand. LOL…
WB: The play has been described as semi-autobiographical. I’m guessing the stress is on the “semi.”
RO: When I watch the play I can see where most of the scenes come from… they are all from real life experience and most of the more surreal things are absolutely true…
WB: Bootycandy is not a conventional play in structure: although the character Sutter shows up in several scenes, there’s no “one story” for the audience to follow. You’ve said the play was somewhat inspired by George C. Wolfe’s The Colored Museum. Wolfe was an early mentor of yours. How isBootycandy related to The Colored Museum?
RO: The Colored Museum explored a conversation surrounding race, gender, history and sexuality among many other things. And just like when you walk through certain exhibits, the narrative comes from your experience rather than someone telling you “this is the beginning middle and end…” Bootycandy is also a conversation surrounding race, gender, personal history and sexuality. And yes, George was an early mentor to me and it was an overwhelming experience… He is a fierce, complicated Genius. PERIOD.
I chose to drag Sutter through the piece by way of his experiences with sex, authority and race. I don’t know if there is a unifying metaphor: the one I’m using for the Wilma production is Vaudeville, but I think good plays allow many different metaphors to be found inside. Each production should find their own. I will say that on the front door of the Bootycandy exhibit is the sign, “Everyone is Welcome, No One is Safe”.
WB: What’s important to you about Vaudeville as a metaphor?
RO: I think it’s really the “idea” of Vaudeville, rather than Vaudeville in reality… I like the idea of it being sort of popular entertainment as opposed to the “High Art” that theater sometimes becomes. In Vaudeville there are Acts or Sketches, there the a “Straight” man, the Clowns/Fools, Animal Acts . . . it’s all over the place. Vaudeville’s motto was “if you don’t like those apples I got others.” It reminds me of the Sundays after church with my granny and gramps sitting watching these different shows that made us laugh. . . like the Carol Burnett Show,which I watched religiously with my grandparents, as well as Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk. I am interested in the average person’s idea of Vaudeville and what links to our contemporary entertainment it has. . . so this is contemporary Vaudeville. . .
WB: You have an active career as both a writer and a director. How did you build your career? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each?