On Saturday nights this September, a show I created returns to Chicago’s Under the Gun Theater. It’s called “Porn Minus Porn.” I give a group of actors a real porn movie script they’ve never seen before. They have to read the lines, but there’s a twist. I’ve removed the sex scenes.
“Porn Minus Porn” began as one of eight competitors in Under the Gun’s 2015 Tournament of Shows. By popular vote over three performances, it was crowned the champion.
Here now, is an interview with the creator: me.
Boiling Point: Thank you for joining us.
Ben Bowman: My pleasure.
BP: Why should we see this show?
Bowman: It’s completely absurd. The actors are reading along when they hit an idea that seems to come out of left field. They have to overcome their surprise to finish saying the line while remaining in character. They break. A lot.
BP: Can you give us an example?
Bowman: In one of our shows, a bar employee walks up to the bar owner to tell him they’re out of rum. The two go to the storage room where he tries to grab a box off a shelf and ends up smashing her in the face with his elbow. He apologizes and she says that she likes that he’s clumsy. Then they have sex. Just out of the blue. Reading it on the page, there’s no hint a sex scene is about to happen, but it does. It has to. It’s porn.
BP: How did you come up with this idea?
Bowman: I used to watch a TV show called Up All Night. In the mid 1990s, the USA Network would show two really terrible movies back-to-back every Friday and Saturday night. One was usually a bad horror movie where teens on Spring Break were stabbed. The other was usually a soft core porn movie, like “Bikini Car Wash Company” or something. When you’d watch these on basic cable, they couldn’t show the sex, so you’d see the bad dialogue leading up to the sex scene , then it would cut to a couple lying in bed together after the deed. It was ridiculous. This show brings you the same experience.
BP: Where do you get the scripts?
Bowman: I actually have to transcribe them.
Bowman: Believe it or not, the internet doesn’t seem to offer any adult film scripts for download. So I have to watch these things and transcribe all the words.
BP: That must be time consuming.
Bowman: It takes about one hour of transcribing for every ten minutes of screen time.
BP: How do you select the films?
Bowman: It was tough in the beginning. I didn’t know how long a script would be once you took out the sex scenes. Eventually, I settled on the old Cinemax soft core series, “Life on Top.” I’ve been using those scripts and the cast seems to like them.
BP: So you’ve been using multiple episodes?
Bowman: We present each episode in its entirety, but if you come back week after week, you’ll be able to follow the characters as they have new adventures. The first show we ever performed, an erotic model named Bella had a huge crush on her photographer, Vincent. He shot her down and slept with another model. Bella was heartbroken. The next week, Bella made no mention of Vincent and he didn’t appear. The cast was asking me whether we’d see Vincent again. Vincent does reappear, but much later in the series. The people making the show seem very disinterested in episode-to-episode continuity.
BP: What can the audience expect at these shows?
Bowman: It’s a great time. The dialogue is stupid. There’s no way those words would lead to sex in the real world. The actors are fighting to stifle laughter. And we have an audience participation portion, too. It’s just a night to celebrate silliness.
BP: Why only four shows?
Bowman: As I said before, this is really time-consuming. If this run goes well, I could dedicate more time to it, and we could do it more regularly. It all depends on the audience reaction. It’s been overwhelmingly positive so far, but Under the Gun is a young theater in a city with tons of comedy theaters. This is something unique, so I hope people come to see it and tell their friends. It’s the perfect way to spend an hour in Wrigleyville. It also makes a great date night.
BP: How do we get tickets?
Bowman: This link will do the trick. It’s a bargain at $12 a seat.
BP: Is there a way to learn more about the show?
Bowman: Follow @MinusPorn on Twitter and like the show on Facebook. I’m hoping to turn the live shows into a podcast to spread the word.
BP: Thank you!
Bowman: No problem.
Read more about the show in Newcity Stage, The Columbia Chronicle, Cusp Magazine and at Under the Gun Theater’s News Site.
You can see Porn Minus Porn at Under the Gun Theater (956 W Newport, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL) on Saturdays. Tickets are $12.