It'd be easy to think phone sex, like encyclopedias and proper spelling, faded rapidly from existence with the advent of the internet. After all, why pay for something you can easily get for free? "I thought the same thing," says Halifax playwright Lee-Anne Poole, "but it's surprisingly popular."
Poole would know. Her play Talk Sexxxy: the not so sexy journal of a phone sex operator (April 30-May 2, 8pm The Bus Stop Theatre, 2203 Gottingen, $10)—is based on her own experiences in the industry.
Battling a personal and professional funk, Poole spent a considerable portion of 2010 venturing outside her home only for midnight grocery runs or to buy cigarettes. The economic possibilities for a shut-in quickly became a concern. "I was like, 'How can I still pay my bills and never leave the house?'" Her solution: an unorthodox work-from-home opportunity that lasted "about six months." During that time, Poole interacted with a clientele she describes as "either so lonely or socially inept that they can't leave their home to pay for a live human, or whatever it is they need to talk about is so shameful or impossible-to-realize that they need the anonymity."
And while Poole's "whatever" covers a variety of topics that would be difficult to print without attracting the attention of the RCMP, she's careful to point out that callers' slightly more depraved predilections don't weigh too heavily on Talk Sexxxy.
The calls recounted by Talk Sexxxy's protagonist, played by actor Stephanie MacDonald, "are all across the board," Poole says. "There's a lot of humour in them and there's a lot of fun in them" and "you really only see the greys" of the darker subjects.
"I don't want to sell it too much like it's a fun light-hearted comedy and have people see it and end up being horribly distraught. But I also don't want to sell it as this bang-you-over-the-head absolute-worst of human sexuality. It's all the bits (you discover) once you give someone the privilege of absolute anonymity."
Talk Sexxxy began life as an anonymous blog Poole published during her six months as a phone-sex operator, then served as the basis for Poole's The Kinky Kitten Club, a workshop production featuring MacDonald at the 2012 Plutonium Playhouse Sex Festival. It is now in a more "finalized" form at the Bus Stop Theatre as part of the 2014 Mayworks Festival.
Poole would eventually like to take Talk Sexxxy on the road, along with her other monologue pieces Country Song and Short Skirt Butch: "I'd like to buy some sort of vehicle that I could live in and tour in and I'm trying to convince Stephanie to live in it with me for a short period." MacDonald, who also starred in Short Skirt Butch, is dubious: "You said six months."
"In the grand scheme of our lives, that's a blip," Poole responds.