Ashley Jacobson and Elizabeth Sarkady, photo by Lauren Hamilton

Ashley Jacobson and Elizabeth Sarkady, photo by Lauren Hamilton

Ruin Porn and Britney Spears and Theatre

By Gili Malinsky

MAN 1: These kids are nothing but fucking punks. Let me show them what a REAL man is like. Fucking children. I will fuck them up so much worse than they ever could do to some skinny chick. 

WOMAN 1: Listen, threatening violence against these men only perpetuates the problem. When will you men learn that you can’t just fix violence with violence. Your part of the problem. 

MAN 2: Fucking feminazi over here. Next your going to say that there’s NOTHING fishy about the fact that she put herself in that situation to begin with. I’m not sure I buy everything she’s selling. 

These are snippets from Ashley Jacobson’s The American Play, which asks what happens when two college freshman take American Psycho’s tenets as credo, applying them to life in general and, specifically, to interactions with a girl in class. It’s also, unfortunately, excerpts based on real internet conversations about rape (above), which Jacobson found no shortage of as she wrote. The play ends with a powerful, disturbing and incredibly gray rape scene, part of the bigger conversation of rape culture. The American Play won Overall Excellence in Playwriting at the International New York Fringe Festival last summer and got an extended run Off-Broadway at the Soho Playhouse this fall.

Jacobson is one half of indie theater company The Dirty Blondes, whose mission is to “produce theater that furthers the right conversation at the right time with the right people,” says its website. Over the past four years, her and partner Elizabeth Sarkady have ventured out both to tap into larger conversations with their shows, and to build a vast community of artists creating subversive, refreshing theater. Other than their own original productions, they put on reading series with meaty talkbacks and Play In A Day Festivals in which writers, directors and actors come together to create and perform short pieces over the course of a day.

“One of my favorite projects that we’ve done,” says Sarkady, “back in 2013 there was that whole bankruptcy of the city of Detroit… We were reading a script about [imagery of broken down buildings, or] ruin porn and ruin tours through decrepit buildings—they were doing tours through these buildings as a tourist attraction. We had this one script that beautifully went through the ramifications of that. Ashley was like, ‘I really like how it’s post-apocalyptic. Maybe a couple years down the line this could happen.’ And [our co-producer] Darren and I were like, no, this is happening right now.”

“There’s something about underground theater that feels very on the ground,” she says. “It feels reactive to our current political state or issues. Once you get to Broadway it takes so long to produce a play. It takes years. But there’s something beautiful about going to a play that’s based on presidential debates literally happening right now. Indie theater has its hand on the pulse of what’s going on in a way that bigger theater just can’t.”

Michael DeBartolo and Jen Jacob for The American Play, photo (and front page photo) by Melissa Balan 

Michael DeBartolo and Jen Jacob for The American Play, photo (and front page photo) by Melissa Balan 

This Monday, May 9th, at 8pm, The Dirty Blondes will be holding a fundraiser, the Bombshell Benefit, to kick off their fifth season, with a scene from The American Play and work from past Play In A Day participants (presenting pieces about the subway or the news or the internet). The Blondes hope to raise $5,000 to cover expenses for their entire year (yes, their entire year),  a solid base to get more projects off the ground and pay their artists. Another scene presented will be from Jacobson’s forthcoming The Britney Project, which celebrates the iconic Britney Spears and scrutinizes her treatment over the years. Britney uses text from interviews with Spears, performed as part of a courtroom drama. Here’s a snippet:

ROY / DIANE SAWYER: (to the jury) And it all happens as she’s starring as a kind of villain in the tabloid accounts of supposed jealous arguments and then a horrible break-up with her self-proclaimed first love, Justin Timberlake. (to Britney) You’ve had a rough year.

LAURA / BRITNEY: It was pretty rough, yeah. Yeah, it was kind of weird (starts to cry) Oh weird. Hello. Oh my goodness, hello. Ok. Strong Britney.(holds back the tears as much as she can) Yeah it was a weird time. Oh, can we stop this?

Be sure to check out the Bombshell Benefit this Monday, and keep up with The Dirty Blondes for relevant, subversive theatre.