How many insults can you hear before you stand up and defend the woman you love? At some point in our lives we have all been judged or judged others on physical appearance, whether it be good or bad. We have all been in relationships where the battle to obtain power has been woven within. This asks the question, who ultimately has the voice in the relationship? Nevada Repertory Company addresses these issues in its production of “Fat Pig,” debuting Feb. 25.
“Fat Pig,” written by Neil LaBute, has been brought to the stage with the help of Stacey Spain, a guest director selected by the University of Nevada, Reno Department of Theatre and Dance, to direct the show. Spain has worked in theater for 25 years. Her work includes time spent at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Idaho Theater for Youth, Renaissance Projects and Bruka Theater. She received her Master of Fine Arts in acting from Purdue University and has been directing in the Reno area for the past 10 years. “Fat Pig” will be her Nevada Repertory Company directorial debut.
To Spain, “Fat Pig” deals with several complex issues that challenge our social character on a regular basis, and she feels the theater is the perfect venue to address these issues.
“As our lives and culture become more complicated, theater is no longer simply comedy or drama,” Spain said. “Theater deals with issues that we can relate to; it can often be seen as funny, yet heartbreaking, and that’s just what ‘Fat Pig’ gives us.”
“Fat Pig” opened in November 2004 as an off-Broadway production in New York City. It tells the story of Tom, a man in his early 30s who is in shape and a stereotypical professional in a large city who falls for a very comfortable and together, plus-size woman, Helen. After several dates with Helen, Toms appears to live a private and public life as he attempts to hide his relationship from his co-workers due to Helen’s size. The play continues through Tom’s journey towards self-knowledge and Helen’s quest to discover what really matters in a relationship.
“’Fat Pig’ lets us laugh and then demands that we think,” Spain said. “LaBute’s voice highlights issues that are happening right now around us, he speaks from truth and it is not a pretty truth.”
According to Valerie Weinstein, director of the Gender, Race and Identity program at the University, addressing issues of stereotypes and discrimination of body image is important due to its prominence in today’s society.
“Stereotypes and discrimination related to body image are everywhere you look,” Weinstein said. “Our society tends to treat eating and overeating as moral failures — think of how often you’ve heard someone say they’ve been ‘bad’ and eaten too much cake, too many french fries. This is a mindset that causes discrimination against heavy people: a belief that being heavy is bad and that it is their fault for not having more self control.”
‘Fat Pig’ will be the major role debut for the two main characters, Tom and Helen, played by Benn Dyer and Stacy Johnson, two University students majoring in theater. For Dyer, participating in a production written by LaBute is something he has always wanted to do.
“LaBute is my favorite playwright,” Dyer said. “He writes honestly and realistically but leaves the audience wondering; he illuminates the shortcomings in people that we often avoid discussing. My character Tom is very real, but he represents the part of people we don’t want to admit exists.”
To Johnson, there are several key moments in the play that will reach the audience on a personal level.
“When I first read the play, I had to re-read it again to get past the shock value,” Johnson said. “There’s no sugar-coating the real emotions that this play addresses, which is why I think we can all learn from the show.”
Spain and the cast believe Tom and Helen represent real people and real issues. The use of comedy helps address the issues of physical appearance, relationships and the peer pressure to adhere to societal expectations.
“The way the play ends is so interesting,” Dyer said. “It is very similar to real relationships and addresses the ‘elephant in the room’ that we are often so afraid to talk about in our own relationships.”
According to Spain and Weinstein, beginning a dialog with young men and women about seeing people for who they are is very important in today’s society.
“Comedy and theater have the potential to make people stop and think about issues that maybe they haven’t considered before,” Weinstein said.
To Spain, this play goes beyond training and teaching the actors. It deals with modern contemporary issues that we’ve all seen before and we hope it will generate a healthy conversation.
“This type of theater sparks dialog and creates change. This is why I do what I do,” Spain said.
"Fat Pig" will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 25-26, March 2-5 in the Redfield Studio Theatre in the Church Fine Arts Building on the University of Nevada campus. The final performance will be held at 1:30 p.m. on March 6. University student tickets are available for $5, general tickets are $15, and senior citizen tickets are $12. Tickets can be purchased in person through the Lawlor Events Center Box Office. More information on the production is available by calling the School of the Arts information line at (775) 784-4278.