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A Play About Porn, Shame and Anal Sex

Canada- Calgary playwright Stephen Massicotte has always tried to give his girlfriends fair warning when he’s written dialogue based on real-life intimate conversations. “I usually explain to them, ‘It’s because life is where you get all your best lines from.'”

But sometimes he has forgotten, making for a few awkward moments in the theatre as his squeeze of the moment recognized a piece of pillow talk.

His current girlfriend, Toronto actor Jayne Collins, can claim no such ambush. Massicotte, 35, makes his Toronto debut this week with The Dirty/Beautiful, a dark comedy that’s variously about porn, shame and anal sex in straight relationships. Says the playwright, “A lot of stuff from my new girlfriend has arrived in the play.”

Central character Tim works the graveyard shift in a porn shop, just like Massicotte did five years ago. “I turned 30 working there, had no prospects in acting or writing,” he says. The weirdness was only heightened as he witnessed how people chose their porn.

“A lot of renters would chit chat and didn’t care whether you cared what they rented,” he recalls. “You didn’t feel it was dirty at all. But the people who would steal a video and would be secretive and ashamed, they’d make you feel dirty.”

Massicotte realized he had good fodder for a play. Calgary audiences seemed to agree when it debuted in 2004 as Pervert, selling out even with competition from the Calgary Flames, who were in the finals for the Stanley Cup. Pervert won the local Betty Mitchell Award for best play.

It’s just one of Massicotte’s post-porn successes. His highly acclaimed Mary’s Wedding, from 2002, has been produced from San Jose to Scotland. He’s also known for his Star Wars-inspired Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook and, in general, for somewhat Mamet-ian dialogue that manages to sound both natural and highly stylized.

On the cinematic side, he co-wrote the third Ginger Snaps film and he’s got a vampire flick in the works with Copperheart Pictures (which produced the Oscar-winning animated short, Ryan). Massicotte says producers are checking out The Dirty/Beautiful with a possible eye to adapting it. Certainly the reaction of Calgary audiences suggested to Massicotte that he’d struck a vein in the Zeitgeist.

“You’d see a lot of couples nudging each other, and a lot of guys looking at me like, ‘Dude, don’t tell the girls everything. Don’t tell all of our secrets.” GORD McLAUGHLIN

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