Play Explores Phone Sex and Urban Life

By Sabine Poux, Staff Writer

What do you get when you cross three upperclassman actors, a red prop phone and gardening sex metaphors? You get Does This Woman Have a Name? — a short and energetic play by Theresa Rebeck that follows two enterprising women who turn to phone sex to make some extra cash. The show was acted and directed by Matthew Blake ’17, Paige Guarino ’18.5 and Mariah  Levin ’16.5, and was performed in the Hepburn Zoo Nov. 18–19.

The project came about spontaneously when Blake, Guarino and Levin auditioned for the First Year Show and were turned away because they were “too old.” They still wanted to pursue an acting project, however, which is how they stumbled upon Does This Woman Have a Name?

“The three of us really wanted to do some theater this semester, but the right opportunity didn’t already exist anywhere,” Guarino said. “Not willing to give up on the idea, we decided to create our own opportunity and put the show together ourselves.”

The trio had the help of First Year Show director Rebecca Martin ’04.5, who acted as consulting director for the performance.

“My goal was to help them with their acting,” Martin said. “A couple of them had never done a show before, so I wanted to teach them the basics of acting and just guide their process. I directed their acting but other than that, they did all of the rest.”

Does This Woman Have a Name? follows the lives of two friends, Mel and Sarah, who are struggling to get by in the city. To solve their money problems, the duo team up to work a phone sex line, using their writing and acting skills to create scripts and act out callers’ fantasies.

The line soon becomes successful, much to the dismay of Mel’s boyfriend Jon. Jon insists on financially supporting Mel, but Mel wants to be independent, and she tries to reassure him that phone sex is not as bad as he thinks it is. The couple’s relationship is called into question, all the while Sarah and Mel learn the ropes of their new business.

The show, while light and humorous at the surface, is actually a source of deeper social commentary. The cast excitingly and masterfully grappled with themes that ranged from intimacy to occupational independence.

“I think it’s easy to see this as a play about phone sex, but there are underlying issues of power dynamics and whether it’s important to take care of ourselves,” Levin said. “Especially at this age, we’re getting to that stage where it’s like, do we rely on our parents, do we rely on our significant others or do we rely on ourselves?”

“This is a complicated play that reflects how we all speak different languages of love and all have different understandings of empowerment,” Blake added. “Communicating these contrasting views of success and love is difficult but necessary in order to have healthy, interpersonal relationships — and who doesn’t want those!”

Does This Woman Have a Name? was Blake’s first show at the College.

“It was a special opportunity to have such a personal, active and engaged role in my first show at Middlebury,” Blake said. “This process has definitely inspired me to do more acting. Acting allows you to live inside another’s mind and soul. It sharpens your empathetic faculties and encourages you to see the world through different eyes.”

Nothing like a show about phone sex to really dive headfirst into acting.

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