Please Mom….Don’t Embarrass Me

Leah Joki reviews & interviews

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When Jeremy Sher asked if I would be in his cabaret style play, The Dirty Sexy Chocolate Show, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I had worked with Jeremy as an actor and found him delightfully brilliant.  I was a little baffled however when I found out I would be playing Dr. Buena Buena, a Dominatrix of Chocolate. “Are you sure you want me for this?”

“Of course I do,” he replied.  “You’ll be perfect.” Oh no, I thought, here we go again.  My 60th birthday is just months away and I don’t want to embarrass my son.  You see, I play a Dominatrix!  You know… leather, blindfolds, slaps here… and there.

My children have already been tortured enough.  It started in 2009 when I played Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Grandstreet Theater in Helena.  My children had never seen me on stage before: While they were growing up in California, I worked in a state prison as an arts administrator and theater teacher.  They had no idea what I did.  But when I saw the audition announcement for Edward Albee’s classic play that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton immortalized on film, I couldn’t resist the temptation to audition.  Martha was my dream role and I was the perfect age to play her, fifty-three.

If you don’t know the play, it is about the volatile relationship between hard drinking Martha and her passive aggressive husband/professor. They love to play games with guests: games that include humiliating each other, seducing the guests and even sleeping with them to get back at each other.  It is one of the greatest roles for a woman in American theater.  In eighty pages of dialogue, the same lines are repeated in countless different ways because they are all getting so drunk.

When my high school age children came backstage with flowers after the opening, they looked at me and said, “You are sooooo… scary!”  Later I found out that during the play my son had texted a friend; “My mother is on stage making out with some young guy on a couch.  My life is over!!!”

Three years ago I was enrolled at the University of Montana completing an M.F.A. in Acting.  For my thesis role, the faculty selected Perfect Love in Mary Zimmerman’s The Arabian Nights. Perfect Love is the epitome of sexuality and is typically played by an eighteen or nineteen year old; I was fifty-six. Apparently the joke was on me. There I was prancing around like I was hot stuff when I actually had shin splints from rehearsing barefoot on concrete floors for six weeks and was twenty pounds overweight.  I had been struggling to lose that weight because I had broken my ankle a few months before. Its tough to lose weight when you are limping. In addition, unbeknownst to the director at the time, I was struggling with cataracts.

Perfect Love weaves an erotic tale for the Mad Man, with whom she ends up passionately in love. The final scene is a theatrical dramatization of making love that ends up with a poetic, but loud, orgasm.  My final lines during this climax were “A benediction! Oh, benedic, dic, dic!”  

I was reluctant to have my eighty-eight year old mother see the production. I didn’t think that my mom would be comfortable with her daughter having an orgasm on stage.  My sister’s advice:  Just tell her it’s a seizure. She’ll be fine!”  My mother enjoyed the play but never mentioned the “seizure.”

My son, who was then a freshman at the University, was very polite and complimentary after the performance. When I got home, however, his sister called me from Los Angeles laughing about a selfie he sent to her after the play. The look on his face was complete horror.

So here I am in 2016 reprising the role of the Dominatrix of Chocolate.  Those unwanted twenty pounds came back to visit after I broke my collarbone, detached the tendon from my left pinky and had two eye surgeries. Still, I’m prancing around in a corset and white doctor’s coat. I am far from the epitome of sexy, but I do know this… the audience laughs, and laughs out loud! If my sexiness has become a joke, then so be it.  By golly, I think I’ll make a reservation for my son.  He is twenty-three years old now. We’ll see what his look is this time: one of horror or one of amusement?  No worries though.  I am getting a kick out of threatening people to indulge their fetishes (preferably chocolate)… or else!

The Dirty Sexy Chocolate Show is, as described on their website, a sexy cabaret meets hilarious cooking show.

Imagine a live cooking event. Throw in some fabulous characters, a loose-knit story, a live '70s soul band and an actual dessert made on stage in front of you. Add in food, drinks & cabaret-style seating and this is what we've created.

With the help of a raucous ensemble of dancers, actors and singers, the audience is transported into a timeless lounge of smart and tacky indulgence.

Of course you're treated to the finished dessert as the show culminates in an ecstatic tasting party.

There's no nudity but plenty of adult themes and language. And chocolate. And tight pants.

Probably best to leave the kids at home.

The show will run in Missoula, Bozeman, Whitefish and Seattle next month. Check out their website for dates and tickets!


About the Author

Leah Joki

Leah Joki is an actor and writer. She is the author of JUILLIARD TO JAIL: a memoir about her eighteen-year career in prison. It is being developed into a feature film by Joe Manganiello, and his production company. Her one-woman show Prison Boxing was produced at the Skylight Theatre Company in Los Angeles and ran for seven weeks with rave reviews.

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