INTERVIEW: Playwright & filmmaker Caytha Jentis

(Caytha Jentis)

Sugar Daddies, porn stars and a divorced Brooklyn Mom take center stage in the new comedy Sex Work/Sex Play, from award-winning playwright and filmmaker Caytha Jentis. Sex Work/Sex Play will have its Off-Broadway World Premiere in the Fall at 28th Street Theatre (TADA) in Manhattan. 

Caytha is the writer, director and producer of films, plays, and short series such as And Then Came Love, The Other F Word, Bad Parents, and Pooling to Paradise. Her stories challenge the old tropes of motherhood with pathos and heightened reality humor.

She has produced storytelling events called Women at the Crossroads. She recently co-chaired the Gold Standard Arts Festival, a week-long festival that celebrates film, theater, and comedy emerging and established artists who are a minimum of fifty years old.  

Caytha began her career as a literary agent in New York. She has an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA and a BS in tv/film from Syracuse University. Caytha was profiled by the Writers Guild as well as Screenwriter Magazine. 

The mother of two, Caytha lives on the Upper West Side and is working on her memoir, Promising Older Woman.

What inspired you to write Sex Work/Sex Play? 

During the pandemic, I was commissioned to write a monologue for an actor.  It was about an anxious man at a barber shop preparing for a date with a woman he’s met on an app. He yearns for romantic love. We learn at the end, that he is a porn star. 

Was there a specific event or idea that sparked your creative process?  

A conversation with the actor who made a joke about his fantasy was to be a porn star triggered the monologue. The theme is that sex has been unrealistically idealized by porn and romance has been unrealistically idealized by social media and apps.

How would you describe the overall theme or message of the play

I went deeper into the theme of the internet’s impact on romantic love and sex, that everything and everybody is a swipe away and that nobody tells the truth. The cast grew to five. The tone is humorous and philosophy non-judgmental.

Can you tell us a bit about the characters in Sex Work/Sex, Play? What makes them unique and interesting to you?  

The love-sick porn star with a heart of gold needed the perfect foil – someone down on love – it didn’t take long for me to imagine a divorced sardonic middle-aged over-worked mother! As someone who writes through “the mother gaze,” this character anchors the play.

The ensemble also includes her feminist ivy league college-aged daughter who dates transactionally; the daughter’s sugar daddy, a neurotic suburban father in a sexless marriage, who we learn has an unusual connection with the mother; and lastly his depressed de-sexualized stay-at-home suburban mom wife. Each represents a different point of view on the themes tackled. They are people I would know.

What challenges did you face during the writing process, and how did you overcome them?  

I needed to find a way to connect all the characters and have them all meet up at the end like Crazy, Stupid Love and Love, Actually. It was a fun challenge.


Off-Broadway plays often have more intimate settings. How did this influence your approach to storytelling and character development?  

I prefer intimate settings and contained stories. My last play took place mainly in a car. I also like using the monologue device where the character breaks the wall with the audience allowing them to be part of the story. My plays are written to be produced in smaller theaters. I am a fan of existentialist absurdist playwrights like Albee, Becket, and Sartre.

Were there any specific real-life experiences or personal anecdotes that influenced certain scenes or dialogues in the play? 

Absolutely.  Once I knew the world I was writing about, I deep dive into research. Saying you are writing about sex is an easy conversation starter! I did a lot of sex research through books, podcasts, and connected with experts in the field.

I also created characters who are composites of people I know – especially the suburban husband and wife. The daughter is inspired by an overheard conversation by young girls talking about sugar-dating and discovering it was a trend.  I interviewed a successful earnest male porn star to be as authentic as possible with his character.

What do you hope the audience will take away from the play after watching it? 

I hope the audience laughs since there’s quite a bit of humor and have a fun escapist night.  I also hope that I’ve destigmatized and presented in a thoughtful way some taboo topics and that I humanize sex work in a way that creates dialogues and better understanding.

How does this play differ from other works you’ve written in the past? What sets it apart?  

It’s similar in structure to other things I’ve written both for film and the theater.  I like to write ensemble stories on contemporary themes that intrigue me. The only thing that sets this one apart is the world of the play.

Off-Broadway productions often have smaller budgets and resources compared to Broadway. How did this affect the creative decisions you made while writing the play?  

As an indie filmmaker, I’m used to small budgets! And I tend to be pragmatic and write things that are easy to produce. Characters and dialogue interest me more than sets.

Can you share any memorable or funny moments that occurred during the rehearsals or the creative process?  

When telling friends “I wrote a play” and them asking “What it’s about? Then respond “sex” and seeing their reactions. Also, I never realized how funny Oreos could be!

What was your favorite part of the writing process for this play, and why? 

When I figured out how to bring all the characters together in the end in a funny satisfying way, it was that magical moment because when I started the play, I had no idea how they would all come together.

As a writer, what are your long-term goals and aspirations for your work in the theater industry? 

My long-term goal/hope is that this play is a success in New York and leads to other productions.  It would be great to write another play that gets produced.  

The eight-week run plays from September 6 to October 29, with opening night slated for Wednesday, September 13 at 7 pm. Rosie Gunther directs, produced by Emerging Artists Theatre.

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1