Artfully curated by Culturadar
February 23, 2013
Miranda Huba likes candy
Everyone knows that candy tastes nice, but Canadian-born actor/writer Miranda Huba is about to turn that notion on its head. Starting February 26th, she’ll be bringing new meaning to that tried-and-true phrase with her solo show, Candy Tastes Nice, in which a young woman attempts to auction off her virginity to the highest bidder in order to pay off her debts. If that sounds like potential reality TV fodder, well, Huba’s got that angle covered too: Candy Tastes Nice catches America’s scandal-hungry, lowest-common-denominator media and TV culture right in the crosshairs as it examines our country’s societal prejudices towards women. But in a funny and sexy way.
Huba took time out from rehearsals for the show, which runs until March 23rd at Houston Street hotspot Madame X, to talk about her inspiration for the story, theater school stereotypes, how she feels about the phrase “women’s issues,” and – of course – reality TV.
Culturadar: Here’s the first question I want to ask you: is the show factual or fictional?
Miranda Huba: I’ve written a fictional story. However, I was inspired by people who have done this or attempted to do it. There’s a woman I saw being interviewed. Her name is Natalie Dylan and I saw her being interviewed on The Tyra Banks Show about three or four years ago. First of all, I felt the whole interview was quite condescending. I felt like this woman clearly knew what she was doing. She had a marketing machine behind her, she had a publicist, but there was this sort of attitude like, “We’ve got to save her.” I know it was all part of the show, but to be so shocked by it, I thought, was a little bit ridiculous. So this woman in particular did it out of a brothel in Nevada called The Bunny Ranch, where it’s legal. So she did it legally and originally it was reported that she got $3.7 million for it.
Anyway, when people ask me about this, usually I say, “Yeah, but women’s virginity has been bought and sold for years.” There are areas of the world where they have lavish weddings and all these gifts are bestowed for upon the groom just for good luck, and also to guarantee [the bride’s] value and her purity. So I just got really interested in that. And also, with these online and TV auctions, it’s kind of gotten into the reality TV world. So the show is about this virginity auction, but it’s also a lot about how women’s sexuality is bought and sold for the reality TV world.
CR: Was it one of those instances where you saw this interview and you immediately said “Oh, I want to do something with that!”?
MH: It was funny because my roommate at the time – we were watching it together – and he was like, “Oh, you should write about that. You write about women’s issues.” (Laughs.) And at first I was kind of offended. But then, a day later, I was just kind of writing in my journal and I was like, “Oh my gosh!” It almost kind of wrote itself. There was so much material. So I originally wrote it quite quickly, and it came quite easily.
CR: Let’s go back to something you just said. Your roommate thought this might be a good thing for you to work on because you write about women’s issues. What does that mean exactly? Or is that even true?
MH: (Laughs.) Well, the last few shows he’d seen of mine – I’d written a play about human trafficking, I wrote a play about the fashion industry – and a lot of my plays do explore the kind of skewed world of media culture and how people’s identities are sort of packaged and sold. Especially for women, you’re very quickly put into a box: you’re the good girl, you’re the slutty girl, you’re the nerdy girl. So I always have sort of been writing about that.
When I graduated from university I had a lot of female friends who were actors – I was in school in Vancouver, Canada, and it’s a small theater community. There’s way more women actors coming of the acting schools than male actors, and fewer female parts. So I just started writing shows for my friends and when I was looking for interesting material often it would be about what they were dealing with.
But it is true, I do hate the term “women’s issues.” (Laughs.) But, whatever you want to call it – sexuality, gender politics – yeah, I do explore a lot of those.
CR: What is it about these topics, especially the themes covered in Candy Tastes Nice, that speaks to you?
MH: I feel like every woman has had an experience where they’ve been judged for their sexuality. So either you are not sexy enough or you are too sexy, you’re too slutty. And especially when you’re younger, I feel like you’re trying to figure that out. I remember that a lot, especially in theater school. It’s a very confusing time and you’re young, and all of a sudden you go to theater school and you have to express a lot of feelings. There’s a lot of vulnerability. You’re just trying to figure out who you are and find your voice. So I went through lots of experiences where I was like, “Oh, I need to be sexier,” especially as an actor. Then you try to do that and someone else tells you, “Oh no, that’s too much. You can’t do that. You need to bring it down.” It just came very natural to me to explore that and write about it.
CR: I see that the show has a previous production history. You’ve done it here in town over at HERE a couple of years ago. How did that go?
MH: It went really well. It was only a five night run, so we didn’t have a lot of time to pull in audience, but it was a great experience. HERE is an amazing space. But one of the things Shannon Sindelar, the director, and I wanted to do when we did the show again was we wanted to move it into a grittier or sexier location that supported the imagery of the show.
CR: I saw you were doing the show at Madame X. I haven’t been there in a million years, but I’ve never seen a show there or heard of anyone doing a show there, so I thought that was kind of interesting. Why did you pick Madame X?
MH: Well, we were looking for bars. I kind of wanted to combine nightlife and theater. I wanted to play with environment. When you walk into Madame X, they have this upstairs lounge and it’s very sexy but also kind of has this feeling like maybe a lot of crazy stuff has happened there.
CR: Yeah, it’s a great room. It has a little bit of a film on it.
MH: Yes! So it’s kind of got this sexy glamour, but it’s also kind of gritty. I originally kind of wanted to find a cigar club or more of an old boys’ school bar, but it was hard. We looked at a lot of spaces, but Madame X feels like it has this sort of beautiful mystery to it, but it’s a little bit darker. It seemed like it’ll work for the show. Everything kind of came together. And they’re very into performance. They do actually have a lot of shows in that upstairs lounge area. And the audience can get drinks upstairs before the show, but we’re not going to have the bar open while the show is happening. It’s nice too because it’s very intimate and it’ll feel like I’m inviting them over to host them.
CR: How’d you get hooked up with your director, Shannon Sindelar?
MH: She was working at the old Ontological-Hysteric Theater, which is now the Incubator Arts Project at St. Mark’s Church. That’s when I was kind of fairly new to New York, and I set up a meeting with her just to talk about doing theater in New York, who I should be talking to. I had also invited her to a little evening of work that I’d organized, very simple, just two of my one-act plays. She had come to that and she had enjoyed that, so we talked. I said, “Yeah, I’m working on this one-woman show,” and she said, “Do you have a director?” And I said, “No,” and she said, “Well, I really liked that piece that I saw, and I’d be interested in directing it.” So, it worked out really well. She’s very visual and she understands the writing style, so we connected.
CR: How would you describe your style?
MH: It’s a little bit magical realism. It’s kind of poetic but also graphic, so it’s very pretty but then, all of a sudden, you’re wondering what the hell is going on. In some ways a little bit David Lynch-ian, in the way that it jump cuts. It moves very quickly. I’m very inspired by Salman Rushdie or Jeanette Winterson, but there’s also a lot of humor. The work I do is really funny. I like to try and catch people in that uncomfortable place, like make them laugh but then they go, “Oh shit! That’s really dark!”
CR: Canada, from what I understand, has a great scene up there. What made you decide to come this way?
MH: I was working with a mentor, a playwright in Vancouver. And I was kind of like, “Maybe I should move to New York, maybe I should move to London,” and he was like, “You’re young. You should experience another city. You should go and try doing your work somewhere else.” I’d been to New York, and I just like the energy of this city. For me, coming from Vancouver – which is very laid back – I felt like this city was more my speed. It actually felt more relaxed here, so for me I felt like it was a good fit. And I’m very lucky because my mom is American, so my sister and I both have American citizenship. The competition here is very intense and intimidating, but in a way I also think I kind of needed that.
CR: Why so?
MH: I don’t know. I’ve always been really disciplined, but in New York I feel like people aren’t so scared if it’s not perfect or totally ready yet. I feel like people are always putting stuff out there, and when I was in Canada I always had this sense like, “Oh, if it’s not perfect I can’t show anything. I have to get it to this perfect place, and I have to find the perfect producer and the perfect circumstance.” Here, there’s more risk-taking because you have to. So that kind of pushed me a little bit more.
CR: What are you hoping people get out of your show or the experience of seeing your show?
MH: A few things. I hope that when they see the show, maybe it begins a discussion about how women are treated. Just little things, like noticing how a woman is really asked different questions – like a woman politician is maybe asked different questions than a man, or you’re watching reality TV and going like, “Wow, I just think of this as fun, coming-down-from-work trash TV to watch, but actually this is really judgmental and kind of unhealthy.” And that judgmental attitude that is perpetuated – and a lot of it towards women more so than men – I would like people to think about that, and engage in a discussion about it.
But I also hope they just have a great night. They come out, they have a drink, they see a piece of theater that they like, they can talk – I’ll stay, the director will stay. I hope I create an evening that you feel like it’s intimate, it’s close. I want to create a nice evening for people.
*******Michael Criscuolo is a New York-based writer. He writes periodically for American Theatre magazine and has written extensively for nytheatre.com, where he was a staff reviewer for nearly a decade. He holds a BFA in Drama from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
Posted at 12:20 PM