Sometimes a Bad Notion…Polly Frost’s one-woman show explores great ‘Bad’ Decisions

Erik Kragh photo
Erik Kragh photo

As writer and performer Polly Frost tells it, helicopter parents — those very worried people who dote on their children up to and through college — would never have approved of some of the people she met growing up. There was the riding instructor who, despite being influential and great in her job, also knocked back whiskey and smoked in front of her young charges. There was the 22-year-old lover who seduced her 16-year-old self, but because he threw some Johann Sebastian Bach onto his turntable while they made out, he started Ms. Frost’s lifelong love of classical music.

“Who do you actually learn the most from?” Ms. Frost rhetorically asks. “It’s not the so-called ‘good role models.’ They only show you their success and not the problems getting there. The people who really gave me wisdom about life were very imperfect and let me see their mistakes.”

In “Bad Role Models and What I Learned From Them,” this Monday evening at Oreana Winery, Ms. Frost will tell humorous stories of the people she fondly recalls inspiring her growing up. It’s an evening, she says, that usually ends with the audience also sharing their tales of “bad” role models.

Ms. Frost’s writing career includes humor articles for the New Yorker, erotic and horror short stories, plays, and a written and co-produced burlesque sci-fi web series called “The Fold.” She also wrote a series of “sexy audio stories about Hollywood” called “Sex Scenes” available from the iTunes store. “Bad Role Models” marks her return to Oreana — the owners and Ms. Frost share mutual acting friends — where wine and monologues pair well together.

“I love spaces like Oreana, because it’s really more immediate and intimate,” she says. “As much as I love theaters, this show belongs in these kind of spaces.” When she performed in Altadena, Calif. — her childhood home — she chose a stable, where the braying of a donkey interrupted her talk.

“Some of the best experiences I had as a kid, parents today wouldn’t even allow their kids to have,” she says. “My riding teacher would have been in trouble just for the second-hand smoke!”

After her Altadena childhood, her family moved to Goleta, a place she still loves because it reminds her of the old Santa Barbara vibe, before the million-dollar homes and the mall. “You could afford to live here and pursue your dreams as an artist, becoming a bad role model basically!”

In her Oreana show, she’ll go into her life here during the ’60s as a teenager. Ms. Frost is 60 now, married to her occasional writing partner Ray Sawhill, and has no kids. For this she gets criticized for her opinions, with friends telling her how much more dangerous the world is today. “I grew up during the Manson Family murders,” she says.

“I wouldn’t trade my childhood for anyone’s today,” continues Ms. Frost. “And I don’t need children to remember what it was like.” The secret, she says, is building communities full of diversity, not locking ourselves away behind gates.

Splitting her time between Santa Barbara and Greenwich Village in New York, she’s busy writing and performing. And the person who got her into writing? Another bad role model. She won’t name names yet. You’ll have to wait for the show.

“He’s actually become very successful,” she says. “It’s very funny when you find out.”

Bad Role Models and What I Learned From Them
When: 7:30 Mon.
Where: Oreana Winery, 205 Anacapa St.
Cost: $15 door. Reservations required at website

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