NOT SO WARM AND CUDDLY Stevie and friend.
Don't go listen to Stevie Jay if you want demure talk about sex, less than X-rated language about relationships, or polite, unemotional monologues about anything else he cares to tell you about. Call his one-man shows performance art or call them unbridled rants, but if you see Life Love Sex Death . . . and other works in progress at Perishable Theatre (September 16-20, perishable.org), you're certainly going to be telling people about it afterward.
He promotes it as a "multi-chakra experience" about "the endless struggle to remain spiritually oriented and irresistibly gorgeous at all times." If you check out the more than 30 minutes of excerpts of the show on YouTube, you'll get the idea.
Stevie Jay (his last name is Savit) has been doing "one-man show type stuff" since high school. He quit in his 20s, sidetracked when he joined a community that he now describes as a bunch of "little consciousness Nazis" whose main practice was tearing down people's self-esteem. What shook him out of that nonsense in the early '90s was the reaction of the audience at a poetry slam to a long piece of his titled "Miss Idaho," about the pressure to maintain a social façade. "It tore the house down," he recalls in a recent phone interview.
With resurrected self-confidence, he began developing performances and seeking audiences again. One matter he keeps coming back to, like some authors keep rewriting the same book under different titles, he says, is how people keep strictly categorizing others, tossing them into cubbyholes.
"People don't want to know that," he says. "They want black and white, Jewish/Christian, male/female, gay/straight. They can't embrace that we are just human. Period. But we must embrace that. So I use the sex stuff to get into that topic.
"Sex is a good [example], because everybody cares about sex," he continues. "All this gay straight shit, I hate it. I hate it. Alfred Kinsey back in like 1948 came out with all these studies after interviewing thousands of people and declared to the world this shit is made up. There's no such thing as gay and straight."
Since the observation is something we've heard before, what he does to drive it through our yeah-yeah dismissiveness is put it "under a magnifying glass.
"By using ridiculous, hard-core sexual humor," he says. "I mean, it is hardcore. I was recently canceled in Rehoboth Beach. It's like, 'This is too racy for our venue.' "
Perhaps the main example of this sticking-people-in-boxes habit that makes him the most furious is the tendency to classify people as either straight or gay. "That is ridiculous. We do this day in and day out. We walk around and ask each other about this shit that doesn't matter. It's like: 'Do you fold or crunch your toilet paper?' What are you talking about?" he says, and gives an example from his act about a little old lady who came over when he was otherwise having a good time at a picnic. "I'm at a picnic and you're asking me if I suck cock? What are you asking me? 'So what do you do in bed, lady?' You know?"
What a species. If he were God and could change us in any way, would he? After thinking out loud about that for a couple of minutes, he says, "Sometimes I feel: 'Oh God, the human race is evolving one . . . step . . . at . . . a . . . time.'
"Apparently this is some cosmic plan; we have to go through this suffering to finally realize we are all one," he says. "I don't get it, but for some reason something tells me that we have to go through it."
After a pause, he adds: "It crushes my heart."
So how has performing his sort of intense psychodrama about how we behave changed Stevie Jay himself over the years of acting out such concerns?
He laughs. "There's been an incredible synthesis of me on stage and off stage."
After a few minutes of other discussion, he comes back to the subject on his own. "How has the show changed me? I think a big part has been to stop tearing my hair out about the human race, and embrace this weird thing called humanness. My own and that in others."