Gary Winter (Rail): When you were researching the play, did you speak to any women who sold their virginity?
Miranda Huba: In terms of research I did not speak to anyone who has tired to sell sex or their virginity online, but I became very interested in cultural and historical obsessions with virginity. The play started with this idea of selling of virginity and then branched out into how women’s sexuality is represented in media culture in general.
The play was inspired by one woman in particular (Natalie Dylan) who sold her virginity online and legally through a brothel in Nevada. When I started writing this play and I told people the topic, they would say things like, “Yeah I think a woman actually did that once.” Once!
Women’s virginity/sexuality has been packaged and sold for centuries. There has been this obsession with keeping women pure and there are traditions that send the message that virginity and purity are products. Your virginity belongs to your future husband, God, etc. Well actually it belongs to you and it’s yours to give away, sell, etc.
Rail: You belong to a theater company in Vancouver called TigerMilk Collective. Can you briefly talk about the different challenges and/or thrills you’ve found being a playwright in Canada vs. working in New York?
Huba: Interestingly enough I actually find there is a lot more space in New York for artists to present work. When I was working with TigerMilk we were always struggling to find space to present work.
At the time I left Canada I had a lot of support as a writer. I was working with Playwrights Theatre Centre, a major play development center in Canada. I worked with TigerMilk Collective and could apply for provincial and federal funding. But a mentor I had at the time said, “When you feel the most supported is the perfect time to leave.” So I thought why not do it, come to New York and see what happens.
Rail: In Candy, as in much of your work, you use heightened language and an absurd style. You often invoke myth. Could you talk about your approach to writing plays in general and in regards to Candy?
Huba: I don’t use any specific myth in Candy Tastes Nice, but there are many, many myths and rituals surrounding women’s virginity (the idea of virgins having mystical powers, or the ritual of hanging up bloody sheets to prove you married a virgin). In Candy Tastes Nice I use a lot of modern mythology surrounding celebrity and pop culture. That for me was a kind of environment: the TV cameras, the entourages, the outfits, and the melodrama. I love creating alternate universes based on our world to examine social issues. The way I see it everything is source material—TV, bar conversations. It’s true I do work a lot with myth, but environments often inspire me first.
Rail: I liked how feminist blogger (thanks for the link!) Vanessa Shanti Fernando describes it: “I believe in a feminism that supports my contradictions and my choices, growing and changing to accommodate me instead of holding me accountable to a brittle party line of ‘acceptable’ feminist behavior.”
Huba: Part of feminism for me is about feeling comfortable in your skin. One of the reasons I wanted to write the play in the first place was because I saw Natalie Dylan being interviewed on a talk show. I was highly offended by the way she was being addressed. Everyone wanted to let her know what a big deal her virginity was and that she was making a huge mistake. Do you think it would be the same reaction if it were a guy doing it?
The talk show host was trying to impose her view of an empowered woman onto Natalie. Some people have asked me if I agree or disagree with this concept of auctioning off your virginity. People make money every day packing women’s sexuality up in pretty little packages, so to be honest if someone wants to take advantage of that system and make money off of something men have been making money on for years, then why not.
Rail: Tell me about the venue.
Huba: Madame X has a real old-school glamor feel to it mixed with a sexy, gritty edge. For me as a performer it will change the intimacy level of the show. It will still be theatrical, but less presentational. The space itself will become a character in the show, it will really feel as if I have invited the audience to my elegant sitting room to tell stories and sip cocktails.
Candy Tastes Nice written and performed by Miranda Huba, directed by Shannon Sindelar, runs February 26 - March 23, Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8pm at Madame X. For further info, visit: www.candytastesnicenyc.com