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Now that's entertainment!


Nicole Blackman's Courtesan Tales


by Tristan Trout and Mistress Rowena



Nicole Blackman's Courtesan Tales is billed as a one-person show performed for an audience of one, but in reality, there are always at least two people involved besides Ms. Blackman: Eve, the lovely and pleasant "assistant" who serves you mint tea, takes your fee ($20 per story), and presents the menu of thirteen tales; and you, the audience member yourself. Because the performance is so personal, your reactions, and what goes on inside of your mind, are as much a part of the experience as anything the "Courtesan" does. There's no voyeurism here.

Likewise, much has been made of the fact that you hear (and feel) the Tales while blindfolded and strapped to an oversized rocking chair, but the show actually begins the moment you ring the buzzer beside PS 122's dungeon-like front door. PS 122 is a former public school converted to a performance space; its prewar, fortress-like stone construction, combined with the repair scaffolding and security grating, are enough to bring back childhood traumas you never knew you had. Behind the heavy door on the deserted and echo-filled second floor, a curtained, dimly lit reception area, filled with soft, ambient music and strewn with cushions, incense, and fake furs likewise sets the scene, preparing you for what will happen when your turn comes to step behind the curtain. (Alas, for those from who were asking: No, you never get to see her, so we don't know if she had nice cans or not. Sorry. However, she does have a very, very sexy voice—and a rather good hand with a feather, as well.)

Those without imagination might compare the Courtesan Tales experience to that old "haunted house" gag where you stick your hand in a shoebox filled with peeled grapes while your creepy Uncle Al solemnly intones, "And THESE were his EYES!" Those with less mundane minds, on the other hand, would probably prefer to liken it to ancient mystery religions, where it was utterly forbidden to speak of the rites that went on behind the veil of the sanctum sanctorum. Unlike other reviewers, we'll respect the admonition not to give away any secrets. Tristan has to say that he, personally, wasn't turned on by the particular Tale he heard—part of the experience is that you become the protagonist in the story, and that particular one just wasn't tailored to the straight male eros—but he could see how the experience could be exciting for a whole lot of people. (In particular, he thinks that if you've been trying to get your girlfriend or wife to agree to that three-way, the Tales are gold.)

Mistress Rowena, for her part, tried valiantly to conceive of the Courtesan Tales as other than a purely sexual experience. She tried to think of it as High Art (and wished she'd come up with the idea first) and she endeavored to see it as a catchpenny (twenty bucks for five minutes, what a racket!), but she always came back to the titilation factor, as the experience reminded her of nothing so much as being a submissive for a dom, albeit with no safe word. You choose the story, but that's the only frision of control you have over the situation. After you pays your money and makes your choice, all you do is follow directions—a twitch of the lips, an unseen raising of the eyebrows or, perhaps, a gasp, your only possible actions. Never having taken the submissive part before, Mistress Rowena found squirming in her seat an interesting new experience. If she could afford it, she would go back and hear the whole baker's dozen of tales—or just for the pleasure of another intimate chat with the Courtesan's luscious-lipped and well-endowed assistant, Eve.

The Courtesan Tales are a terrific experience and a great concept that blur the boundaries between art, erotica, storytelling, healing arts, performance, and sex work. Deprived of sight, forced to concentrate on Nicole Blackman's voice and touch, a reading has the potential to move the audience member to experience a sense of heightened reality that most people usually have to either take large quantities of illegal pharmeceuticals or study Zen for years to achieve. In many ways, they're the exact opposite of the soulless, joyless "virtual reality" of most computer games: Rather than visual and cerebral, they're intuitive and visceral; felt, not seen; experienced, not controlled. They place you squarely back in your body, and, as such, they're a perfect antidote to our modern, high-tech lifestyle. Viewed (so to speak) without cynicism, the Courtesan Tales are a form of sensual performance art with the power to temporarily liberate a person from his- or herself and feel things in entirely new ways. The experience is highly recommended. We recommend couples go together, late at night, and that they choose the same story so that they are not tempted to spill the beans to one another—and so that they can reenact the Tale later on their own.


The Courtesan Tales are playing at PS 122 through November 1. Click here and follow the directions for a reservation.


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Posted October 19, 2003 3:39 PM






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