Brandon Crone on Contempt: Provocative IS the new mainstream
by Drew Rowsome-
There are no taboos that Brandon Crone and his company Safeword Theatre won't tackle. All in the interest of dismantling and destigmatizing those taboos. Often what appears shocking on the surface (and particularly in the marketing material) reveals a heartfelt appreciation for the human condition underneath. Donors explored the world of a pedophile and his not-so-unwilling targets; Maypole Rose created giddy comedy out of the intersection of sex and violence in a gay relationship; and Nature of the Beast used BDSM as a jumping off point for heavier issues.
When Crone's newest play was announced, it was impossible not to be curious where he would dare to write next. The tagline:
There is someone for everyone. Except you.
is not much more informative than the blurb,
Freddie is a virgin. His mother has hired a woman to have sex with him. There's just one catch: Freddie is completely paralysed and unable to speak. Writer-director Brandon Crone delves into the complexities of intimacy and romantic love for the physically disabled. **WARNING** This is a mature show with frank discussions about sexuality
The only recourse was to go directly to the source, while also hoping not to create any spoilers.
Drew Rowsome: What drew you to the issue of sex and disability?
Brandon Crone: I feel like I take great solidarity with any sort of, for lack of a better term, 'sexual minority.' I certainly empathize with anyone whose ever had difficulties expressing their sexual needs without judgment. I watched an Australian documentary years ago about sex surrogacy and was very drawn to the material. The Sessions came out shortly after which also brought a lot more attention to the issue. I think it’s always important for sexual oddities to unite and celebrate each other.
All of the previous works of yours that I have seen, toyed with or explored that area where sex and violence intersect. Is Contempt a mellowing?
Not sure, perhaps the audience will have to judge me on that. But I think this particular play is more of an intersection between love and contempt. There are moments where sex and violence occur but love is certainly more the topic du jour this time around.
Andrew Morrison-Gurza and the Deliciously Disabled campaign have been doing great work and opening eyes, but it is still a topic that is often ignored or looked away from, particularly in the gay community. Do you think that the gay community, that people in general, will ever be able to sexualize instead of fetishize those they see as 'other?'
I come from the fetish world so for me, I think a lot of guys often look at me as ‘other.' But there is no ‘other.' It’s simply a matter of perception. I don’t think anybody's sexuality actually differs from anybody else’s, it just manifests itself in different ways. Whether you’ve got a ball gag in your mouth, wearing a diaper or doing plain old doggie style, we’re all doing the exact same thing. We understand so little about sexuality that if anybody out there claims their sex classifies as ‘normal,’ I’d say they’re either ignorant or just contemptuous towards others.
Sex workers often tout their work with those who are disabled or sexually disenfranchised as an essential public service. Are they noble or does this further stigmatize the disabled and disenfranchised?
Not at all. A sex worker helps you experience and explore your own sexuality with another person. It can be very difficult for someone to feel confident with a sexual partner in the real world if they cannot first visualize themselves as a sexual being. It is a service of vital importance in my opinion, and definitely should be recognized for its nobility. But I’m probably the worst person to ask that question a) because I’m not a person with a disability and b) I have absolutely no reservations about paying somebody for sex.
How did you go about casting Contempt? What unique qualities do the cast bring to it?
I always look for fearless performers who are not afraid to tackle big issues. We have a stellar cast, including Benjamin Blais, assembled for the show and I’m particularly happy to have Prince Amponsah involved as an actual person with a disability.
The blurb promises “dance, pop music” and your “unique style of humour.” You are wickedly funny and write deliciously vicious lines in a very dark way, are you aiming to entertain, shock, educate or . . .?
I always want the audience to have gone through an experience. I think the play will conjure up a lot of emotions but all in all, I really want the audience to just have fun. I hope people laugh, cry and walk out feeling like they had a good time.
Your bio on the Safeword website dubs you the “self-proclaimed enfant terrible of Toronto independent theatre.” Your work is deliberately provocative (nb: a compliment) yet Nature of the Beast got rapturous reviews and Storefront has blossomed into a mainstream theatre with a hip edge. Is Contempt a move to the mainstream or a deliberate move away from it?
Have you seen the new Beyoncé video? Provocative IS the new mainstream.
Will audiences require a safe word?
I hope so. It’s always fun to play with a safe word. But only if you trust me.