Permission Premiere Tonight

Permission 2013

Of all the real-world manifestations of spanking, Christian Domestic Discipline is the one that really makes my blood run cold, thanks to its assumption of male supremacy underpinned by a crudely fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible. But it is the subject of Permission, the new comedy that premieres at the Lucille Lorter Theatre, New York, tonight – and if you want to see a play with a lot of spanking, that’s where you need to be.

The playwright, Robert Askins (born 1980), grew up in a Christian environment in Texas, and his work has been described as ‘faith-based’ – but it’s also unconventional and a little edgy. Permission is produced on the back of a previous success, Hand to God, a comedy about a glove puppet possessed by the devil – and no, Askins doesn’t treat the theme as merely ludicrous. Likewise, CDD, which must strike liberal New York audiences as either a crackpot form of social conservatism or a hypocritical justification for sadomasochism, gets a fair but not uncritical run in Permission, an everyday story of whacking wackos in Waco.

Askins wrote the play in July 2013 at SPACE, the program at Ryder Farm in Brewster, New York, which offers artists residency to concentrate on developing and workshopping their projects. He worked with a director and five actors, some of whom were presumably spanked. The play then got a late-night public tryout on September 5 at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, New York, with a cast comprising Brad Anderson, Stephen Stout, Layla Khoshnoudi, Katherine Folk-Sullivan and Teddi Millan – some of whom were certainly spanked.

Permission Layla KhoshnoudiPermission Katherine Folk-SullivanPermission Teddi Millan

It was then selected from 500 entries to be showcased at the 2014 New Works Festival at the Ojai Playwrights Conference in California. The cast is unknown, but as it was only a reading, presumably none of them were spanked. And now it has got its first professional production, Off-Broadway; the official opening is tonight, following the usual three weeks of previews from April 29.

So who’s going to be spanked? The first publicity image to be issued is slightly misleading in that respect:

Permission Publicity

CDD may indeed be for dummies, but one thing we can say for sure is that the production does not in any way feature the Finnish photographer Vika Valter, who graces the faked book cover with her fine photo and her fine form!

The sorest bottom of the evening will belong to Cindy, a thirty-something wife who’s between jobs, slightly depressed and in love with her underachiever husband Eric but not with her life. They are both looking for some direction in their marriage, when Eric’s friend Zach reveals that he and his wife Michelle are practitioners of Christian Domestic Discipline. Maybe Eric should give it a try?

In the current production, Eric is played by Justin Bartha and Cindy by Elizabeth Reaser, who’s best known for her role as a waitress in Mad Men. Here she is:

Permission ELizabeth Reaser

Eric sees the mess Cindy’s in, neglecting her household chores and her ambition to write a novel and instead lazing around drinking wine. Clearly she deserves a spanking. And so…

Permission 2015 2 Justin Bartha & Elizabeth Reaser

Cindy may look puzzled and bemused there, but as the play goes on she is spanked and spanked and spanked again, with hand, hairbrush and belt, and as you can see, it does eventually make an impression:

Permission Elizabeth Reaser & Justin Bartha

The marriage is turned upside down, but it seems to work for them…

But Eric and Cindy aren’t the only spanking couple in the play. Zach is played by Lucas Near-Verbrugghe and Michelle by Nicole Lowrance. Here she is:

Permission Nicole Lowrance

Zach isn’t as smart as Eric, but things seem to work out for him. But his problem is that he’s also not as smart as Michelle. She’s a feisty one, as seen in this rehearsal shot of her about to do violence to Eric:

Permission fight

Even Zach doesn’t escape:

Permission Zach & Michelle

And when a CDD wife tries putting her hands round her husband’s neck, there can only be one outcome:

Permission 2015 1 Lucas Near-Verbrugghe & Nicole Lowrance

The awkwardness of the OTK posing may be meaningful. Michelle is spanked in the play, but it’s nowhere near as effective as it was on Cindy, because of the root problems in the marriage: Michelle is in charge even when she’s not in charge, and that opens up the play’s analysis of the power dynamics within CDD.

And that’s not all. A third character gets spanked too. And since the play is a five-hander, I’m hoping it will be Gennie, Eric’s office assistant, played by Talene Monahon:

Permission Talene Monahon

But for that we’ll have to wait and see…

Most of the spankings are done fully clothed, but even when we don’t actually get to see the girls’ panties, we do know what they’re wearing. Here’s costume designer Paloma Young showing off a pair:

Permission Costuming

Obviously in this age of health and safety you can’t reasonably ask an actress to be spanked hard and often in a show that runs eight times a week without offering her some protection, so for Permission it’s reinforced panties all round. Nicole Lowrance posted an Instagram selfie of her ‘derriere padding’:

Permission Nicole Lowrance padding

Elizabeth Reaser modeled hers:

Permission panties Reaser

And here she is rehearsing in them with fight director J. David Brimmer:

Permission 2015 rehearsal

Paloma’s problem was to supply panties that would diffuse the sting of the spanking but still make an authentic sound under the smacking palm (and hairbrush, and belt…). And that meant she had to do some road-testing – so she got herself spanked by the set designer, David Hyman. Several spankings later, she found the right brand…

But there is also one scene where Cindy is spanked, twice, without padding – and we know what that must mean. ‘Funnily enough, it’s not that bad,’ Elizabeth Reaser told the press. ‘If I wasn’t onstage in the middle of that scene, it would really hurt.’ Doctor Theater cures all ills – including sore bottoms!

Permission was a success even before it opened: it was granted a week’s extension to its run, so it is now scheduled to close on June 14. For more information and to buy tickets, please pay an online visit to the show’s production company, MCC Theater.

5 thoughts on “Permission Premiere Tonight

  1. Dan Rivera says:

    Sounds like a play we’d like to see. I noticed that at least one person on these boards (presumably a spanko) denounced this play, claiming it promotes Christianity. My feeling is that, whatever your religion, you will probably enjoy watching the spanking scenes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Harry says:

      The play got lukewarm notices, which the theater naturally cut to the most complimentary soundbites. Some reviewers found the spanking scenes (mainly in the second half) to be tedious and repetitive, so if you’re a spanko in New York, maybe you should make the effort to see the play so that the cast can have an appreciative audience for that aspect of their work!

      A trailer with some OTK material has been posted here:

      I’m not sure that the play does promote Christianity – the reviews think it satirizes CDD – but everyone’s entitled to a fair hearing, right?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Harry says:

    Yesterday Elizabeth Reaser was interviewed about the play on the NBC chat show New York Live, and talked about her apprehension before the first spanking rehearsal and the fact that she couldn’t sit down after one of the spankings. You can watch the interview here.


  3. Matt Carobini says:

    Now that “Permission” has reviewed, and presumably some of our friends in spanko world have seen it, can you give us your opinion(s) of:

    (1) The play in general.

    (2) The play as seen by a spanko.



    • Harry says:

      Thank you for implying that my opinion on the play in general might be worth something!

      However, since I haven’t seen the play (I now live on the wrong continent to do so) and since I also haven’t read the script, I can’t give you my own opinion – the best I could do would be to tell you at second hand what other peoples’ opinions are.

      I can say that it sounds as though there may be some updates/corrections needed to my preliminary post. It seems there are four spankings in the play, one to Nicole Lowrance (Michelle), variously said to be with her skirt up or her pants down (i.e. on her panties?) and three to Elizabeth Reaser (Cindy), though only two are OTK. Presumably the play has been revised since the 2013 tryout performance in which three characters are spanked. The reviewers found the spanking rather boring (and felt that the ending still needed work), whereas at least one spanko audience member enjoyed the spanking but disliked the play.

      I do know that Richard Windsor is planning to see the play (he may already have done so by now) and he will no doubt favor us with his firsthand views on his blog. I will revisit the play properly, as part of the Sunday series, in the event that the script should cross my desk. I’m sorry I can’t be more help than this. I would have liked to see the play in New York but sadly it just won’t be possble.


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