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FRIGID New York Festival 2011 – Five Questions For: Hi, How Can I Help You?

by Karen Tortora-Lee on February 13, 2011

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Welcome back to another installment of FRIGID New York Festival 2011 Q&A!  We’ll be running these throughout February until the Festival starts, so be sure to check back to read all about the great shows that will be taking part in the festival.  Also – don’t miss the winner-take-all game of Rock Paper Scissors! Today’s Q&A is with Scout Durwood who is the Writer and Performer of Hi, How Can I Help You?

The silly side of the sex industry: a one woman musical. Six women at a NYC house of domination navigate the volatile economy of the sex industry during a recession, the night of Barrack Obama’s 2008 presidential election. They laugh, they cry, they roller-skate and hula-hoop.

Hi, How Can I Help You? featuring Scout Durwood (Photo by Helene Delillo)

Hi, How Can I Help You? featuring Scout Durwood (Photo by Helene Delillo)

answers by Scout Durwood – Writer/Performer

Antonio Asks: What makes FRIGID such a warm and welcoming experience for your production?

Frigid is a super artist-friendly festival. It’s financially easy to produce and there is such a sense of community within the festival and all of its participants. I tend to be a fan of most things Horse Trade in the first place, and this festival is a great example of what they do best. And I love The Kraine. It’s an amazing space.

Diánna Asks: What about this play do you feel most drawn to personally, and because of that, what message do you hope the audience walks away with?

This show took over two years to go from first draft to opening night (which we did at The Edinburgh Festival this past August.) Because of that, the characters have been in my life for long enough that I’ve really grown to love them and have had the opportunity to live in their bodies for much longer than I usually get to with a solo show, so they have a whole heap of backstory. Every voice and character in the show has been with me through all the blood, sweat, temper tantrums and tears it’s taken to get the show this far, so at this point (and without sounding totally nuts-o) they’re about as close to real people as fictional characters can get.

I have a lot invested in this show emotionally and otherwise, and it’s fun as a performer to get to play with stakes onstage when they are as high as they are in Hi, How Can I Help You?. I think the audience knows that. Audience members tend to respond to and connect with one character in particular, different for each person, but when we’ve talked to past audiences, they’ve all had strong opinions about conflicts that come up in the show.  It’s awesome to hear people express genuine concern for Charlotte, contempt for Genevieve, or empathize with Jane.

Karen Asks: That’s some title.  How did you come up with it – and what does it mean?

Ha. Well, the show was originally concieved to be a story about “children at play.” Early in the writing process, I came across an article in The Post about a dungeon and mistresses that had been arrested, and I thought, what better playroom than a dungeon! So I spent about nine months in and out of a dungeon poking my nose around and trying to sniff out the lay of the land.

“Hi, how can I help you?” is what the phone girl says every time she answers the phone, so on a busy day, it became like a constant little background noise for everything else that transpired.  My favorite times were watching that poor phone girl run around like a crazy person answering the door, the phone, keeping clients from bumping into each other. It was really freakin’ hilarious. That dungeon was one of the least serious places I have ever been, so it was funny to me to think that in session these women were being so hard core because in the staff lounge, it was a laugh a minute. And the fights between mistresses were always amazing. Women know how to freakin fight, emotionally, physically and otherwise.

Stephen Asks: You must have a favorite part of your show.  What makes it your favorite?

There’s a song that I sing towards the end of the show called “Whiskey on the Brain” that just breaks my heart every time I sing it. I sing the song accompanied by rhythms I make on my body, and it’s one of the few dramatic points of the show. I think the combination of its being so raw and so sad and so dear to me, personally, makes it my favorite part of the show. Sometimes it feels good to just fuckin’ sing.

Lina Asks: How much of your show was inspired by true events?

The actual overarching plot of the show is entirely fictional. Most of the “based on a true story stuff” I borrowed from the women I worked with in writing the show is in the details: little things they said that I thought were funny or poignant or important. None of the characters are based on any actual people. Most of them are pieces from different women that I smashed together to make a cohesive show. It’s always funny to see what people think is real and what is made up. They’re usually pretty off base, but I have been caught a couple of times and had to lie my way out.

THM Bonus Question: If you could play a virtual game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with another FRIGID Show which show would you take on?  And what would you throw?

I will take I Don’t Think I Like the Way You Licked Me on any damn time. I’ll be throwing scissors, and I will cut you, Bricken. Your name rhymes with “chicken,” and I adore your work, but you’re going down.  This party is BYOB: that’s bring your own boo-yah!

Thanks Hi, How Can I Help You? – for participating in The Happiest Medium’s FRIGID New York Festival 2011 Q&A.  And for playing our game!  You’re officially SCISSORS.  So you may win TWICE.  Or, not at all.  This is how it works in the crazy world of the VIRTUAL ROCK PAPER SCISSORS TOURNAMENT!

Meanwhile, for the rest of you – don’t forget to check out Hi, How Can I Help You?

Hi, How Can I Help You?
Written by Scout Durwood & Directed by Lucile Baker Scott
Presented by Mighty Little Productions Brooklyn, NY
The Kraine Theater (85 East 4th Street) $12
Thu 2/24 @ 10:30pm, Sun 2/27 @ 7pm, Tue 3/1 @ 9pm, Fri 3/4 @ 4pm, & Sat 3/5 @ 8:30pm

FRIGID New York Festival 2011 will run February 23-March 6 at The Kraine Theater & The Red Room (85 East 4th Street between 2nd Ave and Bowery) and UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place between 1sr Ave and Ave A). Tickets ($10-$16) may be purchased online at or by calling Smarttix at 212-868-4444. All shows will run 60 minutes long or less.

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