Updated Fri, May 16, 2014 2:00 pm
In her professional acting career, Shelley Delaney has portrayed Joan of Arc and Lady Macbeth. But there was always one person she wanted to tackle: Tammy Faye Bakker.
Most people know Tammy Faye as the wife of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker and for her extravagant makeup.
But Tammy Faye had a way of staying in front of the camera throughout her life; her final appearance on Larry King Live in 2007 took place hours before her death from colon cancer.
"I had always been fascinated by Tammy Faye Bakker, even in graduate school when I stumbled onto the PTL club quite by accident," said Delaney, an associate professor in Ohio University's School of Dance, Film and Theater. "The theatricality, seeming innocence, and lack of irony riveted me. But it wasn’t until her final interview with Larry King that I got the notion I wanted to explore (as an actor) what made her tick as a human being."
Delaney had worked with area playwright Merri Biechler in the past, directing her play An Appalachian Christmas Carol and acting in Confessions of a Reluctant Caregiver. But Biechler had never written a role specifically for Delaney.
"We’re good friends, and I trust [Delaney's] theatrical instincts completely," said Biechler. "When she said she wanted to play Tammy Faye, I said OK! Then the real work began of digging through documents and hours of video research to find the story beneath the façade."
Delaney agrees: "I’m struck with Tammy Faye’s apparent authenticity, her unflappable nature, and of course the mask of makeup. What's behind it all? I’m only beginning to have a hint, which is what makes it so appealing and challenging."
A first draft of the play entitled Tammy Faye’s Final Audition will be presented as part of Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble’s Free Play Reading Series on Tuesday, May 20 at 8 p.m. at ARTS/West, located at 132 West State Street, Athens.
The reading is directed by Dennis Lee Delaney and features Shelley Delaney in the title role and David Haugen in multiple roles, including Jim Bakker. The play is supported by an Ohio University College of Fine Arts Creative Research Award.
"Brick Monkey audiences are very supportive of new play development," Biechler explained. "Our audience gets the chance to see this very early draft and have the opportunity to watch two talented actors craft their roles. It’s an exciting process!"
Admission is free. Visit www.brickmonkey.org for more information.