By Greg Hernandez
It may be a solo show, but Sarah Jones will have plenty of company in Sell/Buy/Date, which opens at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renberg Theatre on September 27. The Tony Award-winning performer portrays an array of multi-cultural characters—19 in all—in a show that is based on the real-life experiences of people affected by the sex industry.
“I feel so much gratitude to the people who have lent me parts of their stories, parts of themselves—my goal is to do them justice,” she says. “The idea is we sell sex, we buy sex, and there are places in the country—when a person is working in the sex industry—you call it a date because it’s one way to help make sense of your work life and not have to reveal it to people if you don’t want to.”
The characters include an elderly woman who wants to spice up her marriage, a young female college student trying to figure things out, and a frat boy sharing his thoughts on gender.
“The show itself uses a version of storytelling that involves walking in the shoes of another person,” Jones explains. “There’s sort of this myth that we’re more connected than ever because of social media. But how much connecting can we really do in a culture that sort of oversaturates us but also almost makes us feel like we’re isolated—even among our thousands of friends and followers? That’s one of the questions I try and pose in the show. Are we connecting? And if we’re not connecting, how can we have empathy for one another?”
Sell/Buy/Date, directed by Carolyn Cantor, premiered Off-Broadway in 2016 at at Manhattan Theatre Club and had an extended run earlier this year at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood before moving to the Center this fall.
“It’s a gift that we get to present this show in a place that values and respects the lives of all the different people in our world who may be affected by this industry,” Jones says.
Jones promises a “new feel” to the production at the Renberg where it will be performed through November 18. Ticket sales will benefit the Center’s programs and services.
“I love the Los Angeles LGBT Center, I love the audience there,” she says. “There’s so much love, there’s so much power. There are small tweaks I’ll be making to the script to reflect some of what’s changed in the world since last spring. We’ll be responding in ways that make sense for the piece.”
Jones received a special Tony Award in 2006 for writing and starring in another multi-character solo Broadway show titled Bridge & Tunnel which was produced by Meryl Streep. Since then, she has given multiple TED Talks that have garnered more than six million views on YouTube and performed at the White House. Her penchant for creating multiple and diverse characters began long before Jones ever performed before an audience.
“I grew up in a multi-cultural family so a lot of my characters are based on real people, people from my life,” she says. “I love getting to be with my West Indian relatives and talking to them (in their accent) when I am at the same table with my relatives from Long Island. I just love them all. It’s a gift to get to take that same energy I’ve had since I was a kid and share it with audiences.”
“I change the names to protect the innocent,” she adds, “and especially the guilty. They need more protection than anybody!”
Originally published September 2018