“What you owe an audience, is to make them feel something, I would never be arrogant enough to say what the audience should feel, just that you should give them the opportunity to feel something,” and that says playwright and director Michael Phillips is what he, producer Larry Minion and actress Sonia Maslovskaya accomplished with the one person play Anais: An Erotic Evening With Anais Nin, which debuted at the Sherry Theatre in Los Angeles on in September 0f 2010.
Sonia Maslovskaya, who portrays the celebrated French author Anais Nin, well known for her published erotic journals and letters, shared her thoughts about opening night, “I know Anais more intimately than a fan admiring a celebrity. I thought, ‘I am going to go up there and let my Anais live, feel and love. I only have one hour.’ I stepped on the stage, sensed the electricity and the excitement, and it just happened. My Anais was born.”
The play focuses on a fictional
weekend encounter between June Miller, the wife of American author Henry Miller,
with whom Anais Nin had an affair, and Anais Nin in
Playwright and director Michael Phillips says, “Let’s put it this way, it may or may not have happened, but it should have happened. I have felt after all of my reading and research that Anais never had a chance to talk to June about what happened. It was like a huge, empty, hanging thing in her life. It was the elephant in the room if you will and the feelings that were brought up, were intense, strong and fundamentally life changing.”
“What Michael did was to come up with a very clever idea of what the weekend might have been about. It was about Anais visiting June and about June wanting a very special favor from her. Using the diaries and such, Michael has created this imaginary weekend visit, so it is not really a show about the erotic writings. That still gets talked about, but this is a very interesting story of what happened that weekend,” says producer Larry Minion, who has gained a reputation for his cutting edge productions.
Contrary to what the title of
the play may lead some theatergoers to think, the play does not have any nudity
and the erotica arises from the journals and letters of Anais Nin. Larry Minion
also echoes those thoughts, telling us that this is not about creating some kind
of pornographic adventure and it is instead about exploring the depths of a
woman who had much more to offer the world and an individual whose life breathed
sensuality and erotica.
“You don’t think of it as dirty, ever, it is artful and poetic. It is definitely not pornographic. Some people think that anything that has to do with sex is dirty and it is pornographic. For me, erotica is very artful and she was a master of that. She portrayed erotica in a way that only an artist can portray it. She really plays with the readers’ imaginations by all means, it is not dirty. It is innocent and curious,” says Sonia Maslovskaya.
Although, there is no nudity in
Anais: An Erotic Evening With Anais Nin
Ms. Maslovskaya spends a lot of time naked on stage. She explains, “I call it
emotional nudity. Yes there are a lot of naughty parts and there are a lot of
erotic descriptions in this play, but I find emotional nudity to be more
challenging in having to reveal the fears, insecurities and the pain. I think
that is much more challenging than talking about intimate, sexual things.
Anytime that I have to go up on stage, I am moved by the performance if the
actor, himself or herself is moved by the performance and if they are able to
open up emotionally and they are not afraid to show primal feelings, the
insecurities, fears that we have to fight in our everyday lives, failures in
love or in achievement. These are all things that we do not want to talk about
in everyday life, but that is why people come to theater for some honesty. That
emotional honesty or that emotional nudity, is what I have been working on in my
portrayal of Anais Nin. The association that a lot of people have when you first
mention the name Anais Nin is erotica, but they don’t know what is underneath
it. What was propelling her to be so sensual and erotic? The depths of her
relationships with Henry Miller and with June Miller, a lot of people do not
have that understanding and all that they see is the erotica, the sexuality and
the sensuality that is lying on the surface. It is my job in advocating for
Anais Nin and being her voice (as she goes) through her pain and her struggles,
her losses and her heartbreaks. That is what I have been working on.”
“Many people have heard of Anais Nin and yet there has been so little about her other than Henry and June (the film). A couple of little things have been done, but generally, this has been the first full production that has been done of such a fascinating character. Her life was so full; she was a dancer and an actor, just everything about her,” says Mr. Minion.
Michael Phillips says of Anais
Nin, “There is innocence to her activity. If there is any place where her
innocence is a little bit cracked, it is in her relationship with her husband
Hugo Hugo (Guiler).
There is a deep sense of shame around
Hugo. Other than that and if we disregard that, I think (she is innocent and
curious). Her sexuality is more sensuality and it is not about perversion. It is
about experience, if that makes any sense.”
Photo: Sonia Maslovskaya, photo by Dania Patrick, protected by
copyright, all rights reserved
Photo: Sonia Maslovskaya, photo by Dania Patrick, protected by copyright, all rights reserved