SOTA’s “The Life” portrays sex work in 1980s

By Sarah Buchmann Nov22,2019

The Life, the latest musical presented by the School of Theatre Arts (SOTA), takes a look at some dark themes. 

The show, which opened Nov. 20, focuses on prostitutes and pimps in 1980s New York City, and is based on interviews collected and then fictionalized in order to paint a picture of the era. 

While the subject material may seem mature for most audiences, Director Scott Susong said he was not worried about the students’ ability to handle the content. 

“The theatre department picks their shows with students in mind,” Susong said. 

He said this is to challenge the students and give a good platform for the casting pool, opening up roles for actors of color. 

The Life features women of color and feminist themes. The show follows a character called Queen, who is a young black prostitute trying to work her way out of “the life” of being a sex worker. 

She and her sisters, which is what she calls her fellow hookers, form powerful bonds because of their work and stick together. 

“There are very few musicals that center on a female friendship,” Susong said. “The Life focuses on marginalized women who, while dehumanized by their profession, still forge an amazing friendship.” 

Susong said that despite being written nearly 30 years ago and taking place in a completely different generation, The Life has messages that can still be applied to today’s society. 

According to Susong, the slums of New York are not at all what is “normal” for a Broadway musical; Susong wanted his actors to leave their suburban upbringing and “experience” something new. 

“Actors want to do gritty work,” Susong said. 

The Life is written entirely based on interviews from real sex workers in the 80s, so the source material is raw and uncharted territory. 

Sophomore Deontae Mitchell plays Snickers, a thug working for the notorious pimp Memphis. 

“These people did what they did to survive and during that time that’s all that truly mattered,” Mitchell said. 

The show focuses on lives that are not considered glamorous in the public eye but are necessary to spotlight in order to educate viewers on an experience they will likely never know themselves. 

“This show puts you in the lives of those people and makes you see the gritty and dark light that they had to go through,” Mitchell said. 

Students interested in seeing The Life can view the show on Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm, and Sunday at 2pm. 

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