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For Sandra Tsing Loh, all is fair in love and war and everything in between

Ben Gibbs

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Sandra Tsing Loh is a writer and performer who shifts between radio essays, print articles, books and stage shows. And the common denominator is ... herself.

Loh eats, sleeps and drinks as a memoirist, meaning that pretty much everything that happens to her is potential material. She famously wrote about her extramarital affair in The Atlantic magazine, and she currently has a solo show called “The Bitch is Back: An All Too Intimate Conversation” at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. 

The show, based on Loh's life, features content that she pulls from her daily experiences, as well as the experiences of her friends and her daughters.

Loh recently came to The Frame's studio to chat with host John Horn. 

At last night's show, in the audience were your two daughters. At one point in the show you're talking about your older daughter's boyfriend and you say some not nice things about him. How do your daughters react to their being included in your act?

I said, "To me he seems kind of gay." That's true. The first time I met him he knocked on the door and [it was] a gay knock. I've discussed it with her and she admits that he seems gay. He knows that everybody in his whole family thinks that he is gay. He loves his nice knapsack that he has decorated he loves to cook and he loves floral design. He plays with it too. He says, "Look at my little gay dog." I vetted it with her. So I did do that. 

So you vet some of this material so that your children know what you are and are not going to use. Do they ever veto any of that material?

She didn't veto. I think she's fine with it. I think if you're 13 or 14 it's pretty horrifying to watch your mother take off her top — part of her top. I think the whole thing was kind of horrifying for them, but they're good sports. 

You said last night at the premiere of your new play that you could do an entire show about your father. Are there any things in your life that are actually off-limits to fictionalizing, talking about or sharing?

Well I always say sex. Actually, sex in the bedroom because I don't really enjoy hearing — whatever people do, that is fine, but I don't want to know about it. I know because I was interviewed for a women's magazine and they were trying to do their big sex issue and I could feel the editor just kept going, "We really want an article about masturbation." I could see they couldn't get any women writers.

They wanted you to write a first person story about it?

Yeah, and I'm like, What? No! I mean, I did a show called "Bad Sex With Bud Kemp" off-Broadway many years ago. But the point was that it was bad sex ... where people are sitting in their sweat socks at midnight on opposite ends of the bed crying. It was that kind of bad. I think that is the one thing.

If other people are going to have a glass of wine with you and talk about their sex lives, that is material. But if you talk about yours then it is not?

It is. But I'm telling you, these women that I was talking about last night who are in their 50s and 60s and having all this sex on OkCupid and Tinder —they're drinking wine and they want you to know. There is some confessional thing in the theater that people really want to share.

You must like that — as somebody who has made a career out of confessing?

Yeah, but that is how you get started. The very first time you go, Talking about myself, that seems very narcissistic and I'll be very vulnerable. But you find the first time after you do it, people afterwards start almost doing their own shows to you. That is part of the link. 

Is it actually therapeutic for you?

Well, I think that I've done it for so long it's just part of the whole flow. It can be just as therapeutic to have a really good conversation with a friend. That is almost the most fun and that is part of what you're getting to in theater: creating just the pleasure of having a great conversation with a great friend where you tell them everything. That is what we're trying to recreate.  

"The Bitch is Back: An All Too Intimate Conversation" is at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica through August 2. 

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