Proud Mary Theatre Production Still Selling Out Shows
BY SANDY STAGGS
Proud Mary Theatre Company’s production of “Southern Baptist Sissies” has set off a tidal wave of controversy on social media in the Upstate, though you would never know by watching local television outlets or reading area magazines or newspapers.
And it’s not so much the “gay” thing, or the mature content, or the brief nudity. It’s the sacrosanct Baptist topic, or rather the anti-Baptist topic.
The play’s title alone threatens to unbuckle the Bible Belt, and most area media outlets are afraid of offending viewers or readers, or due to their own personal religious beliefs, unable or unwilling to give the show any coverage as they normally due for EVERY other theatre in the Upstate, including innocuous, mediocre high school productions.
I get it. As a former Southern Baptist myself, I understand the beliefs and customs inherent in the Baptist faith. I don’t agree with some of them: homosexuality, gay marriage, conversion therapy, women’s rights issues, be it freedom to minister or be a deacon, or the right to make decisions concerning their own bodies.
Yes, this play does mock some of those beliefs as four young men struggle with both their faith and their confusion in that awkward phase of sexual awakening. However, this play is not blasphemous.
But on the other hand, “Southern Baptist Sissies” is no more graphic than say “Spring Awakening” or the flamboyant “The Rock Horror Show.”
I do want to commend the Spartanburg Herald-Journal for supporting Proud Mary Theatre Company since our very first production of “I Am My Own Wife,” which won top honors at both the South Carolina Theatre Association Festival and regionally at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in Mobile, Alabama.
The Greenville News did a wonderful spread on that production as well and fellow thespian Amy Heider at 103.3 Earth FM has always invited us on for her Sunday morning show “Earth Changers.” And Jennifer Martin at the now cancelled “Scene on 7” featured us in a brief segment during “5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche.”
But almost NO ONE would touch “Southern Baptist Sissies” expect for Amy (love you girl!) and the Herald-Journal albeit briefly, IT’S JUST TOO DAMN HOT!
Proud Mary is a unique company in that we focus exclusively on LGBTQ+ stories and works, the only such theatre group in South Carolina. Many, but certainly not all, of our actors and our production team are LGBTQ+. And the more we grow and show the community the level of quality theatre we are capable of, the more people want to work with us and experience our productions.
We are a young company (our one-year anniversary is fast approaching) and a niche company. We will never achieve the level of success or public adoration of some of our wonderful bastions of theatre that have been creating art for 70-90 years in some cases. Nor will we be able to sellout 500-seat auditoriums like the newish Mill Town Players in Pelzer.
You will never see “Oklahoma!” or “Annie” on our stages (unless the former is an all-male production like the one presented this summer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, or the latter is a drag queen in a curly red wig).
Any theatre can tell those stories. Most of our plays will never be seen on any other stage in the Upstate aside from an occasional edgy show at The Warehouse Theatre like the “The Cake” or “In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play.”
And that’s okay. Queer theatre is a niche market even in cities like San Francisco or New York City. The very fact that We exist and are thriving is history-making in and of itself.
The theatre community is known for being progressive, but most community theatres are comprised of volunteers who work, live, raise children and attend church in our communities.
I want to extend a fig leaf to them, our Upstate community at-large and, most of all, the media. We at the Proud Mary Theatre Company are serious about theatre and possess impeccable talent and tenacity. Our productions are high in quality and production values. We work wonders on a tiny budget.
Hugs and Kisses and eternal gratitude to ANYONE who has ever attended one of our shows. Thank you from my big ole gay heart.
Do come and experience Proud Mary for yourselves.
When you open your Bible next time, open your heart and mind. You may be surprised.
“Southern Baptist Sissies” sold out opening night and is almost sold-out tonight (Saturday, August 4, 2018). There are plenty of seats for our Sunday matinee August 5 in Spartanburg at the West Main Artists Co-Op at 578 West Main Street, and many, many seats available August 10-12 at the much larger venue at the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 1135 State Park Road in Greenville. All shows are at 8 p.m., EXCEPT for two 3 p.m. matinees: Sunday, August 5 and Saturday, August 11.
Tickets are $10 General at the door or at http://www.proudmarytheatre.com.
“Southern Baptist Sissies” is recommended for ages 16 and up.
Sandy Staggs is the founder and Artistic Director of the Proud Mary Theatre Company.