By S. Asher Gelman
When I first set out to write safeword., my husband warned me that I may be pigeonholing myself as the playwright/director who only makes work about sex. The truth is, safeword. isn’t about BDSM, just as Afterglow wasn’t about polyamory. Both plays discuss those topics, but they are ultimately plays about relationships. While safeword. is an exploration of power dynamics through BDSM and food, it’s also about love – the love we give give to each other and the love we give to ourselves. BDSM is the device, not the subject. This is a play about the sacrifices we are willing (or unwilling) to make for each other and for ourselves.
I’d be remiss to not mention the extraordinary team that came together to build this piece. Whereas Afterglow was derived from my life experience, safeword. is complete fiction. The team was keenly aware of the necessity of making this play as honest as possible. I personally know a lot of people in the kink community.
It is one of the most tender, loving, and caring communities I have ever encountered. It is also spectacularly misunderstood, demonized, and, ironically, fetishized. Popular culture has not done the BDSM community justice; most people’s exposure to it has come through poorly researched books and movies in which it is used exclusively for its shock value and whose creators clearly never bothered talking to the very community they were representing. In addition to doing extensive and necessary research, many members of our team are intimately involved in the kink community; it was important to all of us that we got this one right. safeword. is a love letter to the BDSM community.
Ultimately, all of us are looking for someone else to publicly address the things we privately explore. I remember what shame feels like. I remember what it feels like to not be proud of myself. I know there are a lot of people who are ashamed of parts of themselves they should be proud of. I hope that these plays foster dialogue about issues that people are afraid to talk about.
I hope audiences glean a more nuanced understanding of the world around them from seeing this production. Ultimately, I want audience members to leave the theater and have a difficult conversation; whatever that may be. We live in a time in which the truth has been trivialized. We sensationalize and tear each other apart over minutiae; facts have become irrelevant. The notion that the truth doesn’t matter is terrifying. Honest and open communication will be our salvation.
I look forward to sharing this piece with the world and cannot wait to hear the conversations it inspires.