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undercurrents festival: Jerk It is a straight to the point exercise in storytelling

By Diane Lachapelle on February 20, 2015

The concept of Jerk It: A Collection of Masturbation Stories (by Tony Adams, Madeleine Boyes-Manseau and Cory Thibert, of May Can Theatre) is a straight to the point exercise in storytelling: anonymously crowd-sourced personal stories of masturbation are read by five different performers; no sets or costumes, just unselfconscious readings of unselfconsciously written stories, a collaboration between anonymous writer and reader. Adams and Thibert acted as Masters of Ceremony and Boyes-Manseau read the final piece. Since each night will feature different stories and different readers I can’t spoil it for you so here are some highlights, and if the subsequent readings are anywhere near as funny as the ones I saw, you’ll certainly have a good time.

Pat Gauthier, Festival Director of undercurrents started off the show with his reading of “Jay-Z Jumping,” the tale of a pre-adolescent boy prone to “naked missions” around the house who innocently discovers the possible by-product of jumping around naked in his room to Jay-Z and spends several anxiety ridden days convinced that he’s dying until he finally gets up the courage to ask his mom if he is to which “she said I wasn’t and we never spoke of it again.”

That reading was followed up by two performers from Marathon, Merav Dagan reading “My Growing Libido,” the tale of a depressed young woman on Prozac attempting to master masturbation through its libido killing side effect. “I heard it was healthy for the body and mind” by googling “how to masturbate, always with a picture of a woman; men just seem to figure it out” (for evidence to support this theory one need only look to the ten year old jumping around naked in his room to Jay-Z). “I had no idea how the vagina worked,” Merav explains, charmingly pronouncing it with a hard G. The writer discovers the importance of fantasizing, for which she chooses the image of “Peter Pan taking me to Netherland.” Again, accent at work, but it works so well both as Nether-Land or possibly simply as the Netherlands, which I understand can be quite a fun place.

Ilya Domanov, reads “Cat,” starting off with: “Privacy: the most quality aspect of a masturbation session” which is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say in a Russian accent and ends on possibly the most heartbreaking note of stories with the poignant reminder that you can play with yourself anytime and therefore it should never come at the expense of quality time with those you love (cats included) while you still have them.

Geoff McBride from Far & Here & Near– relates the story of a turn of the century adolescent girl who, in the course of helping to care for her ailing grandmother, discovers a pristine, in-the-box “handheld massager; matte, black and phallic shaped from Costco” in a closet. Things start out innocently enough but “before too long I was masturbating every Sunday” on the bathroom floor with Grandma downstairs watching the Jays game with the sound turned up high. The massager gets her through many adolescent ups and downs, up to and including “my confusion surrounding 9/11.”

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Madeleine Boyes-Manseau finished off the show with “Butt City,” the story a man who decides to explore a certain undiscovered country, meeting some resistance on the way, “physical, psychological”. The location he chooses for introducing himself to this particular body part, “like a child who has never met his father” is that most open-minded of cities: Montréal (in a private location; the shower of course). He takes missteps along the way, castigating himself for his clumsiness, “feeling pathetic; of course it’s this way dummy” and though he doesn’t enjoy it all that much in the end, comes away from the experience feeling as though he’s grown personally.

I was impressed by the quality of the writing and by the people out there willing to sit down and write a heartfelt essay on this most personal of subjects, even anonymously.  All of the readers were engaging in their respective presentations. The atmosphere was friendly and the crowd was invited to post locations they’ve jerked off in on a map of the world near the entrance (Canada was looking well represented and we were assured that half of Russia is covered, so we’re off to a good start). The show ends on a nice note with a reminder that however you choose to love yourself is perfectly all right.

Jerk It is presented by undercurrents theatre festival, taking place at Arts Court Studio (2 Daly Ave) until February 21, 2015. This performance is Pay What You Can or buy an afternoon/evening pass for $25. Three performances remain:Friday, February 20 at 8:15 pm, Saturday, February 21 at 2:15 and 8:15 pm. The bar stays open for the duration of the performance and live tweeting is encouraged. Click here for a detailed schedule.