Sarah Jones Wrote a Play About Sex Work That Won’t Make You Want to Die

Sell/Buy/Date returns to L.A.

In her one-woman show Sell/Buy/Date Sarah Jones moves seamlessly through a series of characters, from a Jewish grandmother to a pimp to a Caribbean woman doing all that she can to survive. Each character is so distinct in every sense, but they’re all written and played with the same radical compassion. With each person we get a new story, set of circumstances, and understanding of their place in the world.

In Sell/Buy/Date Jones takes on on the subjects of sex work, sexual exploitation, and pornography. Her characters exist in our now, but in the world of the show, they’re being studied by a college class in the future. Jones vaults us forward so we can look at our present with sympathy.

Following a successful run at the Geffen Playhouse Theater earlier this year, Sell/Buy/Date runs through November 3 at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renberg Theatre. We spoke with Jones about the inspiration for Sell/Buy/Date, self care, and making theater in L.A.

Sell/Buy/Date is about many characters reacting to and being involved in different forms of sex work. How did that become a subject that you wanted to tackle? And why was it important for you to set this in the future?

I’ve always been fascinated by multiple characters’ perspectives on one subject. With the topic of whether we call it sex work or prostitution or commercial sexual exploitation, that told me there is a huge range of experiences and I wanted to explore all of the angles that I could on this topic. My goal was not to tell anyone what to think about any of this. I wanted to create a play that unlike some of the work that I’ve seen on this topic, you didn’t leave the theater wanting to die. I didn’t want anyone to think this topic is impossible to look at or is so painful there is nowhere to go. This subject is closer to all of us than we realize.

How has the play evolved from the show at the Geffen Playhouse Theater to the Renberg Theater?

I can feel the climate we are in intensifying. The times we’re living in are a character in the show, they are a part of what the characters are looking back on, so its necessary that it’s different. After I invent the world I become a documentarian. It is a documentary of the world I created looking at the world we live in now. As women’s lives continue to hang in the balance of the news cycle, I get to respond to that as needed.

How does your social media presence come into play in your work?

I think there is a direct relationship between how hopeful I’m feeling and how able I’m able to give over to my process. Based on what’s going on for me personally and whats going on in the world, those two things are always connected and I’m putting them in the play. The play and I are in an ongoing debate and dialogue. I want this play to have a longer life.

How do you prepare to talk for 85 minutes? What is your self-care routine?

I have to get sleep! I have to sleep for 20 people. I feel responsible for these 20 people so I have to treat them well and exercise well. I meditate and go to therapy twice a week if I can because its a lot to feel. I’m feeling people’s experiences every time I do the show.

How has living in L.A. informed your work?

This is an amazing place to be a storyteller in theater.

Buy/Sell/Date, Renberg Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood; through Nov. 3. 

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