Sex and violence are often inescapable cultural forces. Whether it’s a lavalife ad on the bus or a sensational newspaper headline passed by, it’s no secret that most people’s day will almost always involve some kind of brush with their most base emotions. While often romanticized or dressed up pleasantly, 8-0-8 Productions’ latest pair of one-acts, Fetish and The Fifth Option take a different tack in examining the human side of sex and violence, and the palpable consequences.
“Daily, I feel like I barter my sexuality without meaning to,” says Michaela Jeffery, the writer of Fetish. “It isn’t about pointing a finger, but it is about making it something people can engage in. It’s amazing how genuine some elements of the story are, but there are obviously some fictionalized portions as well. I’ve never sold my underwear online… or so I want you all to think.”
Fetish, the first of the two pieces, is the darkly humorous, melancholy story of Julia, a teenager who sells her used underwear over the Internet–a surprisingly large real-life industry. Though it’s certainly the attention-grabbing portion of the text, the panty-saleswoman element of Julia’s character becomes incidental as the focus shifts toward her poisoned affair with an older, married man.
“The more I edited the piece, the more I found myself taking out panty stuff,” says Jeffery. “I was just talking about it because I thought it was cool at first, but it wasn’t really furthering her story. It’s just a matter-of-fact aspect of her life.”
The Fifth Option, on the other hand, follows a man who’s become obsessed with torture victims and their vivid descriptions of what happened to them. Rather than bombard the audience with pornographic imagery or coarse grabs for their sympathy, The Fifth Option attempts to remain unaligned with its principal character.
“I really think that being artistically viable is different than being shocking,” says William McCormick, lead in The Fifth Option. “I think if someone is shocked by something, that usually means they don’t have the breadth of experience to deal with or understand that. We know this isn’t stuff that people don’t usually deal with, but it’s just presenting an issue.”
The refusal to manipulate or direct audiences is a uniting element for the show; both performances make special effort at moral neutrality despite their potential crassness. That said, they accept that reality can still be disturbing.
“I think sometimes the truth is sensationalist,” says Jessica Robertshaw, who plays Julia in Fetish. “Some of it is based on truth. Not on a particular person, but there are people who sell their underwear online, and I’m sure there are people who have experienced these kinds of relationships.”