Call Answered: Brooke McCarthy Interview: How to Be an Ethical Slut at NYC's FRIGID FestivalFeb 22, 2023
Relationships are very complicated, whether it’s a friendship, working or romantic.
Brooke McCarthy is an actor, singer, dancer, content creator (YouTube: Bartender Brookie), playwright, and teaching artist.
When I found out that her semi-autobiographical show, How to Be an Ethical Slut, was about a woman who discovered she preferred non-traditional relationships, I was intrigued to find out more.
In this interview, Brooke reveals:
How she came up with the show’s title
What she discovered about herself from writing/performing How to Be an Ethical Slut
How this show has empowered her
Challenges of mounting a one-woman show
How to Be an Ethical Slut is part solo show, part cabaret. It tells the story of an unethical slut named Blake Valentini as she struggles between dating the socially acceptable way - monogamy - or daring to open her mind to unusual relationship pleasures and tribulations. This bold, sexy, and vulnerable story touches upon topics that are often unseen onstage such as sexual health and nonconventional relationship styles. Everyone, including Blake, may learn a thing or two about honesty and sexuality throughout this wild ride.
How to Be an Ethical Slut plays NYC’s FRIGID Festival through February 27, 2023 only!
For tickets & additional information visit http://www.howtobeanethicalslut.com
1. Your one woman show, How To Be An Ethical Slut, is playing at the FRIGID Festival through 2/27. How did you come up with the title for the show? Part of my inspiration for writing the show was the book The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, and even though my initial gut feeling was to name it How to be an Ethical Slut, I was unsure if I should play off the book.
Then one day in rehearsal with my original director Kristin Kundert, as I was reviewing other title options, Kristin convinced me otherwise. I’m so glad she did! Everyone loves the title and so do I! The “how to” part really captures the journey that my character Blake Valentini goes on to become an ethical slut.
2. The show tells a semi-autobiographical story about your own journey with a polyamorous relationship. What did you discover about yourself from writing this show? I discovered the freedom that came along with owning my identity. Writing the show was the first time I began to articulate out loud (and on paper) who I really am. It was the beginning of me fully and proudly owning my identity as polyamorous. The show became a love story to a younger me who was trying…and failing at times…but still trying to discover myself and how to happily exist in the world.
3. Is there anything audiences should know before coming to the show? Besides the fact that it has a mature content rating, there isn’t much else to know. I do like to encourage my audiences to come in with an open mind because you never know how you might relate to my story whether you’re poly or not.
Brooke McCarthy, Photo Credit: Michael Rosas
4. Did writing or performing this show empower you in a way you were not prior to its creation? Absolutely! Not only did it empower me to own my identity, but it empowered me as an independent artist. Most of my performance career has involved me doing other people’s shows (think big musicals at local theaters). This was the first time I realized I have a voice of my own and stories worth telling. I think a lot of humans want to “change the world,” but finding a way to make a positive impact from my own art is so empowering.
5. How do you feel this show will help open up the conversation about unconventional relationships? One thing I think any audience member will see from my show is how conventional Blake (the character) starts out in her journey—much like my younger self. I did not know that non-normative relationship styles were truly possible (outside of hearing a super taboo story about them on a rare occasion). So if I did not know, how could I make an informed decision for myself?
I believe growth is about knowledge, so the more we know, the more informed decisions we can make about how we want to live our lives. I hope my show will help inspire conversations about the way we experience relationships in our lives and especially the possibility of unconventional relationships and all the honesty that comes along with them.
6. What are some challenges in mounting a one-woman show? Ooof! The fact that I do (almost) everything by myself is the biggest challenge. I wear a lot of hats, so balancing everything can be tricky. To be honest, most days I’m flying by the seat of my pants! Getting butts in seats is always the most stressful part because I don’t have a whole cast of people to help spread the word.
When people come to my show they’re coming for Brooke the playwright, Brooke the performer, Brooke the marketer, Brooke the producer, (etc!), so I better deliver! It’s also the most rewarding part knowing that I have the strength to do this (mostly) on my own! Cue the shout outs to all the people who help along the way…like my director Robyn Accetta, my dramaturg John Patrick Bray, my NYC PR rep Andrea Alton, the festival staff that make my lights and sound work, the house managers for corralling audiences, etc!
Brooke McCarthy in “How to Be an Ethical Slut”
7. The show has a mix of music in it - from original tunes to parodies to popular music. How did you decide on the song list to help tell this story? I wanted the show to be as relatable as possible, so I included a variety of music in the hopes that each audience member would relate to at least one song. Additionally, the variety helps tell the story because there is so much emotion in music. When I needed a ridiculously silly song, I leaned towards writing a parody of a popular Broadway tune. When I needed a love song, I went with jazz standards. When I wanted heartbreak, I went with pop.
8. Since the show is partly autobiographical, what was one of your most unusual dates? Oh gosh, what a question! Ha! I wish I had a super juicy answer, but I think the most unusual part about dating is when I tell people I’m poly.
So far I’ve been fortunate in that those conversations have gone really well, but I know from friends that’s not always the case. I strive to live as honestly as possible which can be really awkward at times! Like, “Hey partner who I love dearly, I’m vibing with this other person…and I’d really like to have a sleepover at their place! Is that okay?” *Bring on the awkward nerves!*
9. How do you decompress after each performance? After each show, I like to take a few moments to myself backstage to smile and reflect on my own journey as a human and an artist. 12-year-old Brookie would be so proud if she had half a clue about all of my performance success! Dreams really do come true, and it’s important to take moments to recognize that.
10. What is something we didn't get to talk about during this interview that you'd like my readers to know? One of my goals when writing the show was that people would walk away talking about their own lives and relationships. I’ve heard from so many people that my show does just that. Whether you are polycurious, monogamous, or polyamorous, the experiences my character goes through in the show are very relatable.
She lies, she cheats, she loves, she hurts, and at the end of the day, she is perfectly imperfect but always striving to be better. Regardless of whether you want to have an unconventional relationship, I think people can learn a lot about being better and more honest partners in our relationships and friendships.
Brooke McCarthy in “How to Be an Ethical Slut”
More on Brooke McCarthy:
Brooke McCarthy is an actor, singer, dancer, content creator (YouTube: Bartender Brookie), playwright, and teaching artist. She holds her MFA in Acting from the University of Georgia. She's originally from NJ and currently resides in Charlotte, NC. She is touring her show around the US, so stay tuned for a show near you!