Sex With Strangers makes some poignant observations, through Olivia’s eyes, of what it’s like to be a female writer. Still, Eason pushes back on the idea that, because she is a woman who wrote a female leading role, somehow Sex With Strangers should be seen as an autobiography, with Olivia standing in for Eason. In an interview with The Interval, Eason made this very clear: “People would be like, ‘You’re Olivia, right?’ And I’d be like, ‘I wrote the whole other character, and actually there’s as much of me in him and maybe even a little more than in her.’ And that’s hilarious to me. I wrote the whole play—I didn’t just write her.” In fact, Eason sees this reading of Sex With Strangers as a vestige of misogyny, indicating that such a literal interpretation of the text implies, “that we [female writers] don’t have the imagination to make things up.”
At the same time, Eason certainly relates to Olivia’s unique challenges as a female writer. In the play, Olivia struggles to recover professionally after her first novel is a critical flop, and Eason notes that female playwrights face similar challenges: “If you’re a female playwright, and if you have a production in New York and it doesn’t go well, the chances of getting another production in New York are really challenging. So, I think that struggle of women making work and the questions—of how do I get it out there, how do I get it seen, how well does it have to do, how well does it have to do to get another chance—are very interesting to me, and something I think about myself a lot.” Furthermore, Eason and Olivia share the struggles surrounding coded gender language in criticism (“I really think there’s a significant gender bias in the way women playwrights are evaluated. […] I feel like [critics] bring a set of tropes and stereotypes to the lens through which they view the show, and it makes it really hard to view the work.”), and pushback from colleagues about accepting women as authority figures (“I feel like, as a woman, I have to tap-dance a little bit, and that can be a double-edged sword, because I feel like I’m undermining my own authority to be pleasing so people can hear me. It’s complicated and hard to navigate.”).
For more on Eason’s thoughts about gender parity in theatre, check out the rest of her Interval article: http://theintervalny.com/interviews/2014/12/an-interview-with-laura-eason/
And, be sure to catch Sex With Strangers, currently running at Geva through April 30th!