It’s a Sex-Positive Party, Not a Play – The New York Times

Diana Oh at the Infinite Love Party. CreditCreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

It’s a Sex-Positive Party, Not a Play

At Bushwick Starr, Diana Oh and her team of “super queero heart questers” welcome guests to a night of dance-filled revelry. (Yes, there’s a sleepover option.)

Diana Oh at the Infinite Love Party. CreditCreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

  • Jan. 10, 2019

Afterward, Diana Oh took the New Year’s Eve sex party as a sign. Just over a year ago, this multi-hyphenate artist rang in 2018 so near the Bushwick Starr theater in Brooklyn that she wondered, when she got the address, if the secret party was actually at the theater.

No such luck. But Ms. Oh — who is 32 and probably best known as the creator and lead performer of the protest piece “my lingerie play” — fondly remembers that evening as “very queer” and “super consensual.”

And when, a week or so later, the Bushwick Starr’s artistic director, Noel Allain, invited her to make a work for this season, the confluence of events inspired her own sparkly revel.

The Infinite Love Party, Ms. Oh’s contribution to the Bushwick Starr’s winter lineup, begins on Friday. Billed as a celebration of queer people, people of color and their allies, it’s a party, not a play. But there is a definite structure to the proceedings, and on Tuesday night, wrapped in a silky robe and with lacy black kitten ears on her head, Ms. Oh welcomed an invited crowd to a kind of dress rehearsal: a practice run with the same sleepover option that regular guests will get.

“You all made it,” Ms. Oh said from the stage after she had sung her delicately pretty first song of the night. Looking out over the full room — its ceiling strung with white lights and festooned with iridescent streamers — she seemed genuinely choked up as she added, “I’m so happy you’re here.”


Bloom Davis, upside-down, with ukulele.CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times
CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

If you saw Ms. Oh — defiant and in her underwear — in “my lingerie play,” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in 2017, the gentle bliss she radiated onto the Bushwick crowd might come as a surprise. So might the ultra-mellow vibe, especially if you know that her initial concept for the party was an evening of what she called “adult sex education,” with a team of “sex docents” shepherding the guests.

That idea has morphed significantly over the course of a year in which she met her romantic partner at a conference of queer and transgender Korean-Americans. In a party that is now focused on affirmation and affection, the friendly supporting players are known as “super queero heart questers” or “Infinite Love docents.”

“You can tell them your dirty secrets if you want,” Ms. Oh said from the stage, but the questers’ main task is to lead the merriment. Getting out on the dance floor is a big part of the job.

Ms. Oh, who studied theater at Smith College, then learned songwriting at the Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program at New York University, is so cheerfully sex-positive that her default email signoff is “Hot Regards.” Yet her Infinite Love Party is hardly a bacchanal — though it might get wilder once the real parties begin, on weekend nights, without a reporter and photographer to inhibit the proceedings.

The dress code is whatever you like, as long as you’re barefoot or in stocking feet, and at the practice run, ensembles included micro-minis, Mickey Mouse ears and, for a number by the quester Bryce Nice — footwear allowed onstage — an impressive pair of thigh-high platform stilettos. Kevin Hourigan, who met Ms. Oh at Rattlestick and is the party’s co-creative director, wore an orange knit cap, a hot-pink bra and red overalls, one strap dangling to leave a tattooed shoulder bare.


Bryce Nice performing.CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

The feel of the evening was part sexy (there’s no alcohol, but the urn of earthy-tasting “Aphrodisiac Tea” got a lot of takers), part crunchy (dinner is potluck, with guests’ star signs used to assign the dishes they bring), part return to childhood (with finger painting to do, swings to swing on and — a hallmark of a Diana Oh event — plenty of bubbles to blow).

With guests agreeing at the outset to “practice consent and ask before touching people or things” — this is in the contract written on a wooden pillar that each person signs with a candy-colored thumbprint — it felt like a safe space in the least rigid sense of the term: a place where the agenda was the joyous freedom to be yourself, whatever pronouns you use.

“This would never happen where I’m from,” said one guest, Lexie Bean, a nonbinary transgender children’s author who grew up in Michigan, lives in Queens and seemed to encapsulate the spirit of the party with a tossed-off line during an open-mic segment: “Crushes make the world go around. You don’t need a life coach. You just need a crush.”


CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

CreditNina Westervelt for The New York Times

The party is studded with songs by Ms. Oh, while her collaborators may be chosen to take part in the open mic — the portion of the program she calls “liberated performance.” This is where one quester, Bloom Davis, did a ukulele number while dangling upside-down from aerial silks. A fellow quester, Shelley Fort, picked one audience member, Ned Donovan, to sing the Elvis Presley song “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and another, Jesse Cameron Alick, to slow dance to it with her.

The effect was surprisingly moving, as were some other musical interludes in the Infinite Love Party. This is the kind of art that Ms. Oh makes, its fluidity somehow allowing moments of quietly blindsiding communion.

“Diana is a supremely brilliant artist,” said Mr. Alick, the company dramaturg at the Public Theater, where Ms. Oh is part of the Emerging Writers Group. “It’s actually difficult to understand why she’s brilliant. You can’t put the dramaturgy on it. Aristotle doesn’t work, you know?”

What could the dramaturgy possibly be for an event that ends with more than a dozen guests bedding down on the dance floor like well behaved children at a slumber party? Number of dinosaur pajamas: one pair. Number of pillow fights: zero.

Ms. Oh washed the shimmery makeup off her face and got under the covers beside her partner. The room fell quiet, the string lights mere pinpricks in the darkness, and sounds of sleep filled the air.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Call It a Sex-Positive Party. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe


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