The show that TheaterMania called “One of the best date-night shows you'll see this year” is on its way to Nashville for a two-night-only showing that is sure to set the buckle of the Bible belt all atwitter. That’s right, churchmen, when your wives go missing on November 4–5 they may be heading off not to knitting circle but to Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s James K. Polk Theater to catch the Off-Broadway hit comedy, Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man. You’ll thank us later….

As a stage show, Sex Tips got its start a few years ago during a conversation between playwright and producer Matt Murphy and his wife. “I was talking to her about doing a show centered around a faux sex tips sort of seminar, and she said that there was this book that she and her friends had been talking about back in college, Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man.”

The book version of Sex Tips, written by Dan Anderson and Maggie Berman, was first published in 1997. Championing the straight girl/gay guy friendship in mainstream pop culture, Sex Tips went on to become a national, and international, best seller and cult classic. The book was praised by the New York Daily News for “offering witty—and yes, explicit—descriptions of all manner of how-to’s;” by The New York Post as "straightforward and saucy ... a play-by-play account of how to make the most of every moment;" and by Salon.com as “a cannily entertaining romp through the nuts and bolts of sex from the male perspective.”

Murphy immediately looked the book up on the internet. “I thought to myself, ‘I have to get my hands on this book,’” he explained. “I got in touch with the authors’ agent and told him I was interested in adapting the book for a staged romantic comedy. I chatted with the authors—Dan, who is, of course, the gay man, and Maggie, the straight woman—and explained to them what I wanted to do. I told them I loved the witty, charming, nurturing voice of the gay man, and said I felt it was a great voice—and would be a great character—for the stage.”

In the process of writing the show, great care was taken to preserve that authentic voice, while also avoiding making the character into a stereotype. “Our gay lead, the author Dan Anderson, is not written over the top,” Murphy said. “He’s a normal guy, he’s charming and caring individual who happens to have some great advice of those in the audience and on stage. Then we put him in the middle of a rom com as a kind of mentoring voice for the mild and unassuming female lead who had not yet grasped her own inner goddess.”

The resulting play plays out according to the premise that had originally inspired Murphy. It is set in a local university auditorium where the English Department holds its monthly meet-the-author events. Robyn is the shy and studious moderator of the event, and this month’s featured author is Dan Anderson, author of Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man. Thwarting

Robyn’s attempts to moderate a scholarly discussion of his book, Dan aims to entertain those in attendance with a highly theatrical, audience-interactive sex tip seminar.

At the heart of this show is the premise of the book that inspired it: “Let’s have a frank discussion about how to be better in bed!” Murphy summarized. “That’s the central focus of the show. We don’t highlight the fact that he’s gay for its own sake, either—the main focus is on the positive influence and what gay and straight, young and old, can take away from it.”

“We’ve had a great run in our off-Broadway production at 777 Theatre in New York,” Murphy said. “When we started off our tour, though,” he added, “our first stop was Des Moines. And I thought, ‘Here we are, bringing *this* show to Des Moines? The audiences was double the age of what we averaged in New York, and included a lot more couples, people with season passes.”

The result confirmed the wide appeal of the show. “Our run time in Des Moines was fifteen minutes longer than in New York, mostly because there was so much laughter that it took longer to get through. They ate it up, and we sold out shows. We extended, and they kept selling out.”

That pretty much set the pace for the tour. “We’ve been selling out all over,” Murphy said. “People are really responding to it. In part it’s because it’s a staged rom com like people haven’t seen in a lot of years. Plus, the title just sells it: you read that and you know you’re in for a great time.”

“We’ve taken pride in the show’s ability to attract diverse audiences, and not just in New York but in every city on the road,” Murphy said. “From eighteen to eighty, men and women, birthday and bachelor parties, gay and straight … it’s just one of those shows that speaks to everybody.”

Bringing the show to Nashville has a special significance, as Murphy and his wife have a Middle Tennessee connection. “My wife and I have a home in New York that we purchased from Marilyn Bryant. We had become good friends during her last year in New York, and when she decided to leave, she wanted to sell her home to a young family. And we were the lucky family.”

Bryant left New York just before Sex Tips was developed, and Murphy has invited Marilyn, as well as her mother, Hattie, and some of her friends to the show, and he’s eager to see how they will respond.

In a broader sense, it will be interesting to see how Middle Tennessee at large responds to this play, however comic, which puts a gay man in such a positive and nurturing light and celebrates the wisdom he might have to offer mothers, wives, and daughters. Broadway World’s characterization says it all, calling the show “a night of fun and exhausting laughter that makes

you feel good in all the wrong places.” For some it may be too wrong, but we’re betting that it’ll be just right for the audiences it will draw.

For more information on the play, please visit SexTipsPlay.com. Remember this is a two-night-only event at TPAC’s Polk Theater on November 4–5. Visit TPAC.org for tickets and additional info.

 

 

 

PHOTO: Mat C. Leonard, Sam Tedaldi, and Grant MacDermott. Photographer: Jeremy Shaffer

Photo courtesy of Red Bull

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Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville

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