Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sit down, you're rocking the boat: Theatre Thursday

When people find out that I'm an actress and my husband is a pastor the question that most often follows is some variation of "how does that work?"

To begin with, I am not what most people think of as your average church goer, let alone your average pastor's wife. You've probably picked up on that already. But faith is obviously an important part of my life, and I haven't done any shows that conflict with that. Sure, I've played characters that aren't model citizens doing things that are highly questionable, but as an acting teacher once said "I don't have to like Jason to play him and tell the story of Medea." It's about the story.

When I'm working on a show we don't advertise it at church. It doesn't go in the newsletter, I don't hang up posters. Largely this is because we can't do that for everything that everyone is involved in, and so we don't show special favor to my activities. Also, it helps control the information.

Most people know I'm an actress. Some of them keep abreast of what I'm up to, and a lot of them don't. I will always share what I'm working on when I'm asked. I know who is most likely to come see my show, either because they are regular theatre goers or because they are friends who want to support me. Those are the people who get sent e-mails and handed postcards inviting them to the show and giving them the details.

I always warn people about anything they might find shocking - language ("I use the f-bomb. A lot"), sexual situations, kissing, creating my own raunchy lyrics, etc.

The kissing seems to be the hardest thing for most people. I had a huge group of friends from church come to my last show, and their reaction to the kissing was pretty funny. They hid behind programs, were shocked that it looked like I enjoyed it. One 17 year old boy commented "I'm scarred for life." (His mother, on the other hand, said "I was just happy for you that he was cute.")

I've never been naked on stage. I have a general rule against it, although might consider breaking it for the right show. (Not that people are beating down my door asking me to do nude scenes. Although I did turn down the chance to be topless in an independent film about 8 years back.)

So far nothing I've done on stage has caused a problem.

I have done some shows that could be controversial - sexy, scandalous shows that have some pretty serious things to say about sex and politics and war and disease. Ive also done shows that are pure entertainment. And lots of shows in between.

Holly asked some interesting questions after my last Theatre Thursday post.

I'm intently curious with thoughts on how your congregation took in the triumvirate of controversial shows [The Vagina Monologues, Cabaret and Angels in America]? All have historical and political significance -- but do push socially touchy buttons. Did they just sort of take it in, in order to support you, and then shake it off later? Or did it make an impact in the sense of changing how they may think about war, or disease, or sexuality?

I'm not sure that the shows themselves had a huge impact, at least not that anyone shared, but I would say that being friends with me may have. I know that the people who came to my shows knew about many of my politics. They met my gay friends and in some cases welcomed them into their home, something that had never happened before. They heard me talk about the shows and why they were important to me. So it's hard to say where the impact of the show begins. Certainly there were folks who never would have gone to those shows had I not been involved. I do like to think that I broadened their minds a bit.

My husband has never had a problem with any of the shows I've done. We do talk a bit about how much to talk up certain things and around whom. Neither of us are afraid to rock the boat a bit, but we're also careful in how we do it. Maybe someday the boat will tip over. But so far, so good.


As long as I'm answering questions, Erin asked:
Now, about that naked man...
In Angels in America there is a scene in a hospital where the nurse (me) is checking out Prior's lesions, and he has to disrobe. It's not a sexy scene at all.


Maddy said...

I could do with an outlet myself, but on stage probably would produce too many butterflies.

alejna said...

Painted, these posts are so great. I found this one especially fascinating.

(So your title makes me wonder if you've been in "Guys and Dolls." I have done 3 plays in my life in really low-budget community theater productions, and 2 of them were "Guys and Dolls." Once high school, once as an adult. Once as a showgirl, once as a missionary. I don't believe I wore pants in either production.)

kaye said...

I like these posts too, I like reading about your experiences.

Did you get to Harry Potter? What did you think? I loved it.

Controlling My Chaos said...

"I don't have to like Jason to play him and tell the story of Medea." It's about the story.

I loved that. I can imagine you've played lots of characters that you don't particularly like.

Kat said...

I have never done a controversial show and I wonder how my family and friends would take it. I think if I went back in to theater now my hubby would have a problem with it simple because every role I have had I've had to do a lot of kissing on stage. I think that would make him vomit. A lot. ;)

Chantal said...

Very interesting. I never really thought about it. Glad it is working for you guys. The choices you are making are obviously the right ones :)

All Rileyed Up said...

I think that's a great attitude to have. And wonderful that you've been able to bring people to these shows who otherwise might not have gone. I've read the Vagina Monolgues but not seen it yet. I would love to see it and/or be in it.

I had a good laugh at your friend who said she was just glad you got to kiss someone cute. When I was 18, I was Liat in production of South Pacific and had to kiss some guy was, like, 30 or so (I realize that's not such a big deal now, but hey, I was 18), and not at all attractive. I was horrified at the time despite it being the most minimal of kisses. He enjoyed it quite a bit. Too much, in fact, but oh well, I guess should be flattered.

Anjali said...

You and your husband sound like a match made in heaven!

Louise said...

"His mother, on the other hand, said 'I was just happy for you that he was cute.'"

That would be my concern!

Magpie said...

somehow, i didn't know your husband was a pastor. go figure.