From the “G-Spot Cha-Cha-Cha” to “The Beat Banger”, theatre artist Sara-Jeanne Hosie has had a riot coming up with song titles for her new musical Talking Sex on Sunday. But there’s something she’s had even more fun doing: naming the sex toys In a show set at a themed home party, one device even makes a theatrical reference: the “Glengarry Get Off”.
Still, don’t get a completely wrong idea about what the Vancouver stage veteran’s first gig as a playwright is really about. “Truthfully, the circumstance is a sex-toy party, and the sex toys are a wonderful way in, but the story is really about marriage,” she explains. “It’s a comedy with a deep, deep heart.”
Hosie, a director-choreographer-musician-actor well-known in this town for iconic roles like Mary Poppins and Patsy Cline, got the idea for Talking Sex on Sunday from firsthand experience. “For some reason a lot of my friends were getting married and I kept getting invited to these hanky-panky sex parties,” she recounts.
Hosie started to see a cast of compelling characters at the gatherings—”the oversexed woman who wanted to share, or the one who was shy”—and she soon envisioned the setting as a rare safe place for them to open up. “It’s this extraordinary situation of looking at vibrators, and adventures and truths and insecurities come out.”
Soon, Hosie was trying to get herself invited to more and more, pen in hand. “I went to a few where I barely knew anyone in the room,” she says, laughing. “It was like being a detective—being at the party and watching these women share and asking vulnerable questions and finding out if other women had experienced these things.…And I realized with my mom’s generation, you kept your questions or issues between you and your sex partner.”
The lead character of Margo came easily to her—a woman throwing the party because she’s in a sexless marriage and looking to give it new spark. But Talking Sex was, at this point, still a play.
“That’s when my dramaturge Shawn Macdonald said, ‘This is an amazing story, but it’s a musical,’ ” says Hosie, who has an album of original songs called In case you didn’t know. “He said, ‘You can write music, so write music.’ ”
Hosie phoned her friend, composer-musician Nico Rhodes, and soon they were coming up with songs for the show.
“It’s been the hardest and easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” reflects Hosie, a Vancouverite based in Stratford, Ontario, with a commitment to returning to her hometown as often as possible. “Other than being born and marrying my extraordinary partner, I think this is the most vulnerable and exciting thing I’ve ever done.”
Hosie explains that, as a veteran musical-theatre performer, she had strong insight into how to weave the songs and text together: “I wanted to marry the scene with the song as a writer as much as I could, because I find so often that seamless transitions between what we’re singing and speaking are some of the most challenging moments a musical actor can face.”
In the end, Rhodes and Hosie also moved toward unexpected instruments for a show about sex toys: piano, cello, and violin. That tells you a bit about the nuance the pair is going for in this Donna Spencer–directed production starring big local names like Janet Gigliotti and Jennifer Lines.
“At the end of the day it’s this woman who’s lost and needs to find her voice,” says Hosie, who stresses that men might get great insights by coming out to the show. “For me, the stories I love to see have laughter and tears.…I am overjoyed when I’m watching a very sad story but for some reason I’m laughing at the same time.”
Talking Sex on Sunday is at the Firehall Arts Centre from Friday (February 14) to March 8.