Full Frontal … does the phrase alone make you curious? Are you wondering what could possibly be going on here? Two simple words which can conjure up so many things. Does “full frontal” always need to be about nudity? In the case of Eddie Antar’s new work FULL FRONTAL – A Naked Exploration of Sex and Sexuality the answer is quite possibly no. In this group of five short plays “that lay bare our most primal desire” Antar is more interested in exposing people’s feelings, motivations, and inner intuitions about sex and sexuality. Settle in with this concept for a minute and it doesn’t take long to understand that sometimes it’s easier to bare your body than it is to bare your emotions.
“It’s a vertical journey through the stages of maturity,” says Antar. “It starts with two late teen fumbling through the awkwardness of “First Time” and ends with a middle aged Jewish woman musing about why she was transfixed by the site a young Latino on the subway platform.
“But it also moves horizontally: Two young office workers who kiss on impulse but refuse to be labeled, a young man who can’t sustain a marriage working overtime to cover up the real object of his desire and a sexually free bodhisattva rambling explicitly in the car back seat while a middle aged couple whose sex life has grinded to a halt sit in the front.”
I had to know more!
So, Eddie Antar – you’ve got five short plays all about sex seen through some very different eyes. Were all of these conceived of as short plays as we’ll see them at The Workshop or were some of these originally intended to be longer shows?
EA: No. All were conceived as short plays. When I get an idea I almost immediately decide whether it will be a short play or a full length.
The five scenes take us from a fumbling first time couple all the way though to an older woman who experiences sex in a new way after she’s long past menopause. In between there are a few different scenarios that deal with the fluidity of sexuality. How personal are these stories? Or are they simply universal?
EA: Wow. I guess you’re asking me to go Full Frontal. Well, both. My own first few sexual encounters were filled with awkward scenes that included ”missing the target”, “what does this do?” and even failure to launch. I was the last of my friends to be “made” and all of them talked like sexpert Valentinos who hit it out of the park first at bat. It took years (and some therapy) to understand that they were probably stretching the truth, to say the least. As for the other stories, I think they do send universal messages in a sense because they deal with the dilemmas we encounter in the sexual arena… same sex attraction from (or to) a buddy, the friend who has no verbal filter, fear of being outed (outing having many variations) and so on.
Two of the plays deal with same-sex attraction – one male, one female. Each gender reacts quite differently to the realization that their sexuality may be more elastic than they would have others believe. Talk a little about highlighting each side of that spectrum – and do you think your plays would have worked if the genders were reversed?
EA: I think they would be very different plays if I reversed the genders of those two plays. Two dudes has a quality, a bro energy that, according to the accepted boundaries, never cross into romantic attraction. As a writer, I get aroused by those possibilities. (Yes, word chosen intentionally.)
I believe that the women deal with that fluidity easier. Same sex experimentation is more common. So I just took it beyond something fleeting to the possibility of choosing it as a life style.
With the girls’ story, I also wanted to deal with “Impulse Attraction”, straights that suddenly find themselves turned on by a same- gendered person. They’re not gay, but they’re not sure what to call it. So they refuse to label it.
As you assembled your team of actors was there any trepidation on their part to embrace their roles? Any moments of hesitation or confusion?
EA: Yes! Totally. First, trepidation on my part, especially in the first story. And especially in a very intimate space like the Jewel Box. In fact the actress we wound up casting asked “How are you going to stage this?!?” And waited for my reply before she would audition. B.T.dubs, no worries from the guys. Typical, right? Yet, I’ve seen guys freeze up with the material as well when asked to bare that much soul. (Yes, word bare chosen intentionally.)
Leslie, my director and I had many conversation about how to keep the actors safe and feeling respected, BUT also adhering to the truth of the moment. We didn’t want to pan away. Especially emotionally.
Out of the five plays, what do you like best about each one?
EA: For the kids in the car, I like how it shows a side of that act we hardly see, mixed with the expectations we tend to have.
With the two woman on the roof, the courage it takes to refuse to be labeled.
With the free spirit in the back seat, the unforeseen balm that can occur from an innocent, unplanned, unwelcomed event.
With the two guys on the train, the private moment in a public space. And, the mystery of a stranger who can read truth into a situation that those involved can’t see.
With the middle aged woman, the mental collage effect of jumping from one trajectory to another, yet ending up at the same destination by the end.
As a reviewer I often see shows where there’s flat out gratuitous nudity. Sometimes it serves the plot, other times it’s merely a device to get bigger audiences. In your plays, however, it’s obvious that your characters are getting a lot more naked – but it’s all emotional. Tell me, if done correctly, what emotions will be out there – bare – on the stage the night of your show?
EA: Courage, awkwardness, embarrassment, fear, bravado, and balls… to name a few.
In a similar vein, while you were putting together a show about sexuality was there any thought about writing one of the scenes as a full-frontal nude scene? Just a “let’s get this over with” kind of tactic?
EA: I wrote the pieces separately thinking that they might show up in some one act festival (which, by the way, this is not) which usually means small venues. I just wouldn’t want to do that to an actor in that setting unless it was totally justified.
Now a days there are so many more sexualities that are being discussed – even “bi-sexual” doesn’t cover it all in a world where there are those who identify as pan-sexual, gender queer and even finer gradations such as Sapiosexual and Demisexual. Do you think as you continue to write plays will you perhaps focus on these areas as well?
EA: Yes. Not that I’m aware of all the terms you’ve listed, but I do see Full Frontal growing to include more subjects. I’m currently toying with a transgender piece.
In fact, when published, the collection will contain stories not included in the current show.
Even as your characters are exploring or questioning their sexual emotions, identities and natures, overall these five plays give a rather positive message. We know that when dealing with sexuality this is not always the case – not even if the battle is within oneself. So I’m wondering – was there a play that had a darker message that didn’t make the final cut? Or do you think it would have felt out of place among these five stories?
I have one short play that is about a major league baseball star that sexually abused a mentally challenged boy when they were teenagers. It’s a play a love but it didn’t quite fit the evening format. I have other ideas that might lead to darker places, but for now I wanted to deal with stuff general public might relate to.
If you were doing an interview on a morning talk show and could magically bring one of your characters to life from the play to come sit with you and field questions, which character would you take with you – and why?
Wow. I think I would pick Ellenore, the middle aged Jewish woman who had the courage to follow her impulses without knowing why.
Thanks, Eddie Antar! We can’t wait to see this fantastic set of short plays. For the rest of you – see below for more details. See you at the show!
A Naked Exploration of Sex and Sexuality
Written by: Eddie Antar
Directed by: Leslie Kincaid Burby
April 3, 2014 – April 12, 2014
WorkShop Theater Company – Jewel Box Theater
312 W. 36th Street
New York, NY 10018
Click HERE to purchase tickets
PARENTAL ADVISORY: FULL FRONTAL contains sexually explicit language and is not recommended for anyone under 16 years of age.