BY LYNSEY G.
Hi, Madison! Thank you for taking some time out of your very busy schedule to talk to Luna Luna! We’re here to talk about your upcoming theatrical work, Reveal All Fear Nothing, but first: What else have you been up to recently?
Well, I’m working on this play, and I just finished two manuscripts. Two books. They’re coming out. The DIY Porn Handbook: Documenting Our Own Sexual Revolution is coming out through Greenery Press, and The Ultimate Guide to Sex through Pregnancy and Motherhood is coming out through Cleis Press.
Wait. You were working on two books at the same time?
Yeah. Because, why not? Because I’m Madison Young, and I have to overfill my plate!
That’s amazing and insane at the same time. Do you have some secret behind your boundless energy that you’re hiding from the world?
Well, with the writing, it was really being offline. If you want to create more time in your life, I feel like removing yourself from the screen and turning off the internet is so key to that. I feel like, after I did the Unplugged project [a life art project and experiment in which I went offline for six months], that it really helped in having more time in my life and feeling less stressed. So when I sat down at the computer to write, I had less creative blocks. I was able to focus more on one thing at a time, and really get myself into a project and compartmentalize my focus, rather than being scattered. I feel like that really added a great deal of time to my life. I highly recommend it to people, although I had to come back online to really promote this theater piece. I need to be the one actually doing the social media and networking and promotion around it.
What is it about Reveal All Fear Nothing that makes you feel the need to be so hands-on about it?
Well, I’m producing it. So as the producer it, I’m not just writing it or performing it. It’s kind of one of those things like when I’m producing a film, but on an even larger level. And it’s been quite a while since I’ve done theater. I do a lot of performance art in different spaces, but I haven’t done theater in a while, although that was my major in college and it was really my root in the arts. It was my first medium that I really sunk my teeth into. And then from there, it got more and more experimental.
There are so many details involved in Reveal All Fear Nothing; there’s a lot of networking with new groups and new community, and a lot of hands-on marketing, and building up the website, and social media, and things that are a little bit more challenging for me to hand off to an assistant or an intern. It’s a lot of work!
The next show I’m definitely going to be doing at a theater-theater. But this is going to premiere at the Armory, which I really wanted. It’s such a historical space, and it also has so much emotion for me, as well. So much of my history. So many of the things I’ll be referencing in the piece started there, so much of my kinky evolution and my sex life has been documented there, and at that company [Kink.com].
I’m essentially going to be doing a pop-up theater in the Roman Bath at the Armory. And then we’re doing a VIP after-party and Q&A at the Armory Club across the street. So it’s really, really good to do it in this space for the world premiere, to start it here. And then we’ll be taking it to different cities. We’re planning on bringing it to New York in April, and then we have Chicago, maybe, and then we’re bringing it to Europe this summer.
And, hey, if you want avant-garde theater in Montana, Lynsey…If you’re looking for something really out there…You know, graphic sexual theater…If there is a space, you could try to do a night or a program at another, existing space. Or, you know, doing a barn theater…
Actually, where I live, in Missoula…It’s a small city, but such a sex-positive community here. It might work!
I grew up in Ohio. And there were many things I didn’t like about Ohio, but one of the things I thought had a lot of spirit in it was that there were communities everywhere. Sex-positive and DIY communities everywhere. And because there aren’t really spaces in southern Ohio, things happened at, like, punk shows and house parties, and taking over Mr. Tuxedo, and taking over different legion halls. Taking over those spaces and bringing your community into them. And, in my younger years, I went to quite a few raves. A lot of that happens throughout Ohio.
This movement was going to happen, whether it was in a corn field or in a basement. Carving out these spaces for alternative culture to exist. I think there’s something really gritty and spirited about that.
I talk about the Ohio scene in my new DIY book, as well.
You said that Reveal All Fear Nothing is more theater than performance art. Can you pull apart those ideas and tell us what this play is?
I knew that I wanted to write a play and perform an experimental theater piece this year. I wanted to pour myself into that. My idea was to do something that was kind of rooted in much of what I explored in Daddy: A Memoir. Last year I was out camping with [legendary porn star, performance artist, activist, and badass] Annie Sprinkle and [Annie’s wife and art partner] Beth Stephens, and [my child] Emma and [my husband] James. We were all camping out in Santa Cruz, and I told Annie that goal. And she said, “Oh my god, you should use the Post Porn Modernist Show script! I’ve been wanting someone to do this for years!”
We’d actually talked about it years ago, back in 2005. We talked about Post Porn Modernist: Next Generation. I thought that could work. So she gave me the script and we started talking about it and developing it. So really, this is exploring my story and feminism and porn and sexuality and BDSM, but through the same format as Post Porn Modernist.
I don’t know how familiar you are with Annie’s show that she did twenty-five years ago, Post Porn Modernist. A lot of it is really well-known performance pieces that were a part of the show, like the Public Cervix Announcement was a part of that show. The Bosom Ballet was a part of that show. The Sacred Neoprostitute Ritual that she did, the Orgasmic Energy Orgasm that she did. That was a part of the show. There’s also the Porn Statistic that she did, where she showed how much penis she had had penetrate her, and it was as tall as the Empire State Building. She had this graph!
So I have something like that, but it’s anal scenes—how much penis I’ve had in my ass for art—and it’s as tall as the Coit Tower. I’m also doing the Blow Job Ballet, and Anal Awareness like the Public Cervix Announcement, which is going to be just in my ass. So there’s all these references.
And I’m really dwelling on format, but I’m also telling my story. It’s really going through my whole career and following the larger story of porn and feminist porn as well. It’s really about the evolution of feminist porn over the past fourteen years in this industry, doing this work. I think it’s really lovely. It’s such a joy to look at twenty-five or twenty-six years ago, where things were, and what’s the same, and what emotions we’re still going through in this work. What’s still brought up for us, and what tethers unite us. And then our differences from that time, as well, and how far we have come.
And Annie has been such a huge part of blazing that trail for the entire feminist porn movement, which blossomed in that time. When you read an interview with nearly any feminist porn or queer porn director, they reference Annie and her influence on them, and how empowering her work was.
And actually, she was very subversive about it. Our styles are very different, and our theater voices are very different, but she brings her feminism in exactly what she’s doing. She doesn’t even need to use the word "feminism." I think I use that word a lot more in my piece. I think also my piece goes into BDSM a lot more. I also illustrate the differences between mainstream porn and feminist porn. I really talk about that. Whereas with Annie’s piece, there really wasn’t much feminist porn back then. She says "sex-positive" at one point in her theater piece, but she doesn’t really use the term "feminist porn" because I don’t think it was really being used at that time.
Yeah, feminist porn was there but it wasn’t the thing that it is now.
So you’re calling it a play. Is it a one-woman show, or are there other performers working with you?
No, it’s a one-woman show. It’s an experimental theater piece one-woman show. It’s me playing with myself. laughing
I like it! I’m glad that you said so much about Post Porn Modernist, because I had known about a lot of those pieces you mentioned but I didn’t realize that they were all part of one show. And I really liked what you said about how Annie didn’t really use the term "feminist;" I guess one of the things that’s happened since she put on Post Porn Modernist is that the public consciousness about feminism has changed so much.
Yeah, I think if she had used the term "feminist porn" back then, there just wouldn’t have been much of a reference point for that. So, because I’ve been involved in making feminist porn and producing it, and bringing my feminist ethos, very intentionally, into mainstream porn, I created a meme around that, as well. I really delve into that.
Annie also had a piece in Post Porn Modernist in which she invited the audience to come up and to take photos of her, and she modeled for them, like "Come be on a porn set with Annie Sprinkle!" So I do a similar thing, where I’m directing them, like, "Okay, this is how we do feminist porn." So I play both director and model for you, because that’s often what I’m doing on set [in making films].
What has it been like working with Annie on the script for Reveal All Fear Nothing?
We’re having a really fun time. I just met with her again last night. We’re on one of the final drafts of the piece, which I’m sure we’ll be perfecting up until the curtain rises. But I’m really excited.
It’s going to be a really difficult performance. There’s a lot of the body-based performance art that I really enjoy doing, and just in bondage and performance in general, I like endurance work. I like pushing the boundaries of our body. Finding our strength, what we’re capable of moving through emotionally. Experiencing things really physically and viscerally makes the audience feel something emotionally. And there’s a lot of that in this piece. It has some funny parts, like the Blow Job Ballet, and it has some parts that are really intense, and it deals with some not-so-great sexual experiences that happened, too. It really tackles all those things, both emotionally and visually, and also physically. It’s going to be a really unique experience for everyone who’s there.
I think that’s important. There can be a desire to paint everything in a positive light, when you’re trying to be sex-positive, which makes sense. But you can’t gloss over bad things that do happen, or you risk letting them happen in the dark. So it’s really important that you’re including those experiences and encouraging audiences to move through them with you. As an artist, it’s really brave.
Thank you. I’m excited. And it’s been really nice to see Annie reading over it and seeing how she felt about it. I was so nervous. Annie is my fairy art mother, but I get a little nervous doing creative work based on something that she made years ago! I feel like she’s really passing the torch to me with this, and I really want to do it justice!
That’s intimidating! How can I direct people to see the show in the Bay Area or if they’re not?
The best site is revealallfearnothing.wordpress.com, and there are different ticket options. There’s the VIP experience, where they get the after-party, grab bag, and Q&A as well. And then there’s the regular ticket.
And then there’s the virtual experience, in which there’s going to be a live streaming of the piece so that people can watch online.
Great! Thank you so much, Madison! Good luck! I can’t wait to see it all via the Virtual Experience!
Madison Young is an author and radical feminist performance artist and director. Her breadth of work in the realm of artistic intersections within the fields of sexuality, identity, and pornography spans from documenting our sexual culture in her internationally screened and award-winning feminist erotic films to serving as the Artistic Director of the forward-thinking nonprofit arts organization Femina Potens Art Gallery. Young has curated over 500 performance art and visual art exhibitions and has exhibited her performance art, video art, and photography internationally. She is the author of Daddy: A Memoir, and two forthcoming books from Greenery Press and Cleis Press.
She is currently in preparation for Reveal All Fear Nothing: A Journey in Sex, Love, Porn and Feminism, a one-woman, multimedia, experimental theater performance, which will have its world premiere at the San Francisco Armory, home of Kink.com (where Madison has filmed a lot of her sexual life) on Valentine’s Day weekend, 2016.