Fringe festival production “stimulates the mind and the heart” 

By Ted Simpson –

“A fully immersive experience, putting you and your desires at the center of it all,” is the kind of service Autoerotic advertises on their website before enticing you to: “Book your appointment today.”

Sounds a bit scandalous and probably quite troubling, but don’t fear, there is no bordello going in  Wellington West. Autoerotic is a work of fiction, but the social media marketing campaign built around it is very real. They have even set up a real telephone number to book a faux appointment: 613-721-0281. [story continues below video]

What Autoerotic really is, is the newest brainchild of Hintonburg theatrical duo Sterling Lynch and Wayne Current. Lynch is the writer and Current is the director, and they have been doing this since their days at Connaught Public School.

For this year’s Ottawa Fringe Festival, the pair is playing on the idea that sex sells.

Autoerotic director Wayne Current; actor Linda Webster; and writer/actor Sterling Lynch. Photo by Ted Simpson.
Autoerotic director Wayne Current; actor Linda Webster; and writer/actor Sterling Lynch. Photo by Ted Simpson.

They’ve put together a love story based on the relationship between a man and a sex worker, or a sex worker and her client, depending on the audience’s feelings about it. (More about that in a moment.)

The story itself however, is not as sexualized as the marketing campaign, says Current.

“There’s a touch of risqué to it, but the sexual esthetic of it is more pre-internet, prime time TV than HBO. It’s going to stimulate your mind and your heart, and just a little bit your libido.”

In the story, a relationship based on money starts to morph into something a little more familiar. “I think people are going to see a lot more of themselves in the play than they might immediately think,” says Lynch.

The female lead is played by award-winning actress Linda Webster, a veteran of the Ottawa Little Theatre and Hintonburg’s own Orpheus Musical Theatre. Her character begins the story as a typical call girl, a true professional. But over time, the male lead, played by Lynch, starts to cross the line between sex and love. As the relationship changes, Webster’s character changes as well.

Selling sex is easy, but in the end the audience wants a compelling story. One of the tools that Lynch and Current utilize is called a fourth wall break. They stop to address the audience and give them a chance to decide: Who is the hero of this story, the man or the woman? Based on the vote, the story continues towards that chosen end.

To emphasize the idea of connection, Current and Lynch have foregone posters and handbills in favour of creating a real life infrastructure for their fictional bordello. A blog at www.autoerotic.space written by head mistress, Ms. Autoerotic, introduces her staff of ladies and offers to, “discretely connect you with the lady of your dreams.”

“You can show up on opening night, see a show and enjoy it, or for those who want to have a little more fun and dig deeper, you’ll find these little Easter eggs that we reference,” says Current about the expanded world created around the play.

Of course the world of sex work is a foreign one to most people, and its portrayal in entertainment is often plagued with stereotypes and misconceptions. Lynch says he’s done his due diligence to keep the story as real as possible.

“I’ve known some people who have worked in the sex industry, I talked to them, I ran the play by them to get their feedback. I know people who work in sexual education and I got feedback from them.”

“The character that Linda is playing is very strong, confident. We’re not doing cardboard stereotypes here, you see a full, real person on stage,” adds Current.

For the play’s run at Fringe, which begins June 18 and end on June 28, the crew is using the Arts Court Library as a space to stage their story.

“It’s a very intimate venue with a capacity of 60. I’m used to performing to 600 plus,” says Webster. “It’s going to be a wonderful experience. I think this play will lend itself very well to that.”

With the shock value of the sexy marketing put aside, in the end the crew is focused on telling a good story that brings the audience into the performance and sends everyone home satisfied.

“That intimacy, that focus on the relationship, that relationship between the characters and the audience,” says Lynch. “If we can evoke hearts and minds and not just libido, everyone is going to have a great time,” says Current.

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