A Practical Guide to "Sex with Strangers"

Posted 08 October 2015

From its world premiere in Chicago, to the hot television stars in the New York debut and the real-life writer whose story echos a character in Sex with Strangers; this is your guide to the hot new play that The Hollywood Reportercalls, “sexually and intellectually provocative," and "A HELL OF A LOT OF FUN!”


Relationships in the Digital Age

When Sex with Strangers had its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2011, playwright Laura Eason spoke to Artistic Director Martha Lavey about the public versus private self:

LE: I feel like it’s such an interesting time now. People who are in their early twenties have, for the most part, lived a lot of their life online. They know things about people before they meet them, they Google everybody, there’s so much information they bring that the blank moment that used to happen doesn’t happen so much anymore. Those of us who are not in our early twenties anymore came of age at a time where the internet was not so prominent. The experience of encountering someone totally new to you, without being able to read up about them or find out information about them meant that you could meet them in the moment. That experience is going away. Encountering someone really fresh is going away. We used to be able to choose what we would disclose and when we would disclose it and how we would disclose it. Now, particularly with Facebook, you meet someone for two minutes at a function and you can go online and look at pictures of their children. It’s just incredibly interesting how we’re moving through the world and what that means about how we come to know each other.
Read Artistic Director Martha Lavey's thoughts on Sex with Strangers.


Playwright Laura Eason (Chad Batka for The New York Times).


Know Your Partner’s History

You’re already familiar with Laura Eason’s writing if you’re a fan of the Netflix political drama series House of Cards. Eason was a staff writer on the show for two seasons, and has sole writing credits for some particularly memorable scenes (such as Season 2, Chapter 17, when Claire reveals she had an abortion during a live CNN interview). Sex with Strangerswas the writing sample Eason gave to showrunner Beau Willimon to get the gig on House of Cards. Speaking of Emmy Award-winning shows, the 2014 New York premiere of Sex with Strangers was directed by David Schwimmer (who played Ross in Friends) and starred Anna Gunn (best known for her role as Skyler White on Breaking Bad). The Hollywood Reporter asked Gunn about the differences between playing Skyler and being on stage as Olivia in Sex with Strangers. She said it was like breaking new air: "Skyler was so shut down and closed off — that was part of the storytelling and character, so I had to abide by that, that was my job. But then I'm able to take full breaths, stretch and be open, fun and loose and all those different colors — because Olivia changes, she's like a little girl sometimes and then she stands up and roars like a lion."
Read an interview with Anna Gunn about starring in a NY production of Sex with Strangers.


Anna Gunn and Billy Magnussen in the Off-Broadway production of Sex with Strangers
(photo by Joan Marcus).

The Game has Changed

According to Author Earnings’ January 2015 report, 18% of the titles on Amazon’s Book Bestseller List were self-published. That number increases to 33% for e-book titles. Of course, those numbers only represent a small section of the industry, and they’re debatable because all the avenues for production and distribution make output difficult to track. But you don’t need numbers to know the game has changed. Blogs emerged in the 1990s, opening up the floodgates to a new avenue for story sharing (in 2014, there were over 172 million blogs on Tumblr and 75.8 million blogs on WordPress alone). And e-books have become mainstream with the help of brave DIY authors and digital pioneers, such as Stephen King, who became one of the first major authors to release a title exclusively as an e-book in 2000 (his novella Riding the Bullet sold 500,000 units in the first 24 hours at $2.50 a pop). Interestingly, King made headlines again in 2013 when he released the print-only Joyland, telling Wall Street Journal that his fans could, “stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one.” Even for established authors, the myriad options — self-publishing/traditional publisher, e-book/print, blog/novel — provide exciting and daunting opportunities. And then there are the overnight sensations; the bloggers turned best-selling authors. One of the more infamous is Tucker Max, whose tales of sexual exploits spurred on by a bet scored him a long stint on The New York Times’ Best Sellers list — his true tale is much like the path of Ethan in Sex with Strangers. The publishing industry is a complex, ever-changing world, full of hard choices and unanticipated plot twists — a perfect setting for a steamy, layered, provocative drama.
Read a Forbes interview with real-life salacious blogger, Tucker Max.


Tucker Max's I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

Sex with Strangers at Portland Center Stage

For the Portland Center Stage production of Sex with Strangers, Danielle Slavick stars as the gifted novelist, Olivia, and Christopher M. Smith stars as the salacious blogger, Ethan. The production, in PCS's ever-so-intimate Ellyn Bye Studio, will be directed by Brandon Woolley. Sex is imminent!

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