Cameryn Moore's award-winning solo play Phone Whore comes back to the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Pete Shaw placed a call to find out more about this returning hit and why Edinburgh is worth the airfare.
Edinburgh Fringe remains the time and place with the greatest concentration of decision-makers from all over the world. It just does.
Tell us about your Edinburgh show
“Phone Whore is a one-hour, slice-of-life play in which the audience is basically hanging out with me while I'm on call. I'm making toast, drinking cold coffee, taking a leak with the bathroom door open... just puttering around, telling the audience about my art and my love life and my clients. It starts out pretty mellow, and funny, too; when I describe it to people, I call it ‘a drama with funny bits.’ Because of course sex can be hilarious, especially other people's sex. But the phone keeps interrupting the conversation, and the audience hears my side of four different phone calls, ranging from very vanilla to no man's land. By the end of the play, the audience is in a very dark, uncomfortable place, because here's the thing: much of phone sex is not what people imagine it to be. Much of our imagination is not what people want it to be. Phone Whore offers audiences this question: what is acceptable to do in your head, and what is not, and why?”
What is the draw of the Fringe that makes you bring the show back again?
“I have been sitting with this question since last September, when I decided that I was going to bring Phone Whore back, this time to a more central venue. The truth is, Edinburgh Fringe creates a real quandary for me, as a performer who wants to make my living doing this work. I can do that in the Canadian Fringe circuit, which I toured from 2010 to 2012. I can make decent money there, I can find artist community and a fan base, I can drive The Deerinator (my banged-up 1991 Toyota Corolla). But Edinburgh Fringe remains the time and place with the greatest concentration of decision-makers from all over the world. It just does. I may resent the airfare to get over here, but I can't deny facts: in Edinburgh I stand a much better chance of finding my people, the people who will see Phone Whore and recognise the value of it, and are in a position to share that work with their people. It's not a huge chance, but it's still my best option, at this point.”
Tell us about the involvement of the International Sex Workers Foundation for the Arts, Culture, and Education.
“ISWFACE (pronounced "ice-face") has been my fiscal sponsor since 2009. On the practical side, ISWFACE made it much easier for me to accept individual donations, back before I learned about indiegogo and similar crowdfunding sites. What was equally important is that they understood the significance of what I was doing, in terms of presenting a play based on sex work, that was actually written by a sex worker. I really needed that support. There are so few of us out here doing that, speaking our own truths. ISWFACE and I are parting ways this year because the results of my, uh, energetic fundraising efforts turned out to be a challenge for their quarter-time staff to keep up with. But in the beginning they were the one non-profit organisation that I knew would not give me grief, either for the content of my show or for the fact that I continue to do sex work.”
You've been touring the UK for the last couple of months on your way to Edinburgh. Are the UK audiences very different from the US?
“Short answer: no. Now, the venues have been very different, and the cities. I have traveled all around North America, but it's mostly been Fringe festivals in medium-to-large cities. What's been fantastic about the last two months of my UK tour is the variety of venues, from a queer cabaret stage in London to a cozy salon above a Thai take-out restaurant in the two-year-old Ludlow Fringe. I did a one-night-stand in a proper 95-seat theatre in Bath and nearly filled the joint; I did a show for 27 people in a Brixton kitchen--in someone's house!--and packed that space, too. I've gotten a lot more … flexible?… experimental?… with my venues over here, and it's really paid off, in terms of the audiences that I can reach. But the audiences themselves, they are pretty much the same. UK audiences are maybe a little quieter in their responses, but at the core, the people who come to my show tend to be the adventurous theatre goers, the thoughtful ones, the ones who are looking for a challenge, and they can sit with that challenge when it comes, even though it may not be what they expected it to be. These people manage to find me, wherever I perform.”
Finally, what's the strangest call you ever received?
“I prefer not to think of calls in terms of ‘strange’, because one person's strange may be another person's Saturday morning brunch in bed with the crossword puzzle. I think of it more like ‘surreal’ or ‘absurd’, and by far the most surreal call I did was a few Christmases ago. It was with a regular of mine, a cuckold. For months we had been talking about how his wife was going out and sleeping with everybody, from a butch lesbian lover to the lover's friend, a big black guy named Jamal (of course). Sometimes my client climaxed during these calls, sometimes not, but they were always fairly baroque tales, and always sexual. For this call, though, he just wanted my opinion about what he should buy for Christmas for his wife, her lesbian lover, and Jamal. I was a personal shopper for a cuckold. (My recommendations: crotchless panties for his wife, a leather halter top for her lesbian lover, and for Jamal? Two slave collars, with the lead-rings fashioned from my client and his wife's wedding rings. Oh, and a 12-pack of Jamal's favorite beer. It's the perfect gift for the man who has everything, including your wife.)”