Out Broadway actor and singer Beth Malone is bringing her deeply personal one-woman cabaret show “So Far” to the Rrazz Room in New Hope.
Malone is probably best known for originating the role of cartoonist Alison Bechdel in the stage production of Bechdel’s autobiographical musical “Fun Home,” which earned Malone a Tony Award nomination. She has also starred in Broadway, Off-Broadway and national productions of “Annie Get Your Gun,” “9 to 5” and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” to name a few.
Considering her busy theater obligations, Malone said it takes some work to schedule her one-woman performances into the mix.
“If I look at the calendar and carve out some dates, then I know that they’re there long in advance and can plan things around it. But it’s getting harder,” Malone said. “Things go in seasons in the acting world so it makes it harder to get out of town.”
Malone has told a lot of people’s stories on stage through her acting but putting her own life in the spotlight took some getting used to.
“It doesn’t make it easier to do your own story,” she said. “You kind of get used to the proximity of being one person removed from telling someone else’s very personal life stuff, but when it’s your own, there’s no way to keep that distance. In a way, [“So Far”] is very much like a conversation between the audience and me and that intimacy … I have a hard time playing the character of myself. A lot of these stories happened a long time ago so I can sort of objectify my life a bit, but as the story goes on and it gets more intense two-thirds of the way through, it’s challenging to make it through that part of the show without succumbing to the feelings as if they were happening presently. You have to keep pushing through the emotional parts of the show. But that’s part of what makes it cathartic for the audiences: They know it’s real and it cost me something. Everyone pays a price for certain things that they get to do in their lives, so a lot of people relate to that part of the show in particular.”
Malone said that starring in a highly acclaimed Broadway show like “Fun Home” has helped attract audiences to “So Far.” She said the two productions share many elements.
“A lot of people who know ‘Fun Home’ will come out for it,” she said of her one-woman show. “It crossed right over into ‘Fun Home’ fan-friendly territory. It’s like my own journey, just like Alison. At the exact same time in my life, I started looking back and tried to figure out how I got from there to here. That’s the impetus that started Alison writing ‘Fun Home.’ It’s a completely different story but, just like ‘Fun Home,’ the more specific it is, the more universal it is.”
Malone added that she still considers “So Far” a work in progress, as she has been refining elements of the show since she first started performing it.
“I started putting it up way before it was ready, because that is part of figuring out what you’ve got, what to cut and what to build,” she said. “I start writing down ideas and strung some songs together with some monologues about five years ago. After a while, I started hacking it down and honing it in a way where it didn’t make me nauseous to do it. Every time I would do it, I would be so nervous because I knew it wasn’t ready and I wasn’t prepared. But there was no way to get from there to here without going through that awful adolescent period of a show.”
Malone said that part of the reason the show is constantly changing is to help it keep up with the times in which we live, which she acknowledged have changed drastically in the last year.
“Now I’m making really specific changes,” she said. “Since the election, I’ve had to rewrite the end completely because everything is different. You can’t just ignore that because the now is always changing. In 2016, the ending was ‘Aren’t we proud of ourselves?’ and ‘marriage equality’ and ‘Everybody is so progressive.’ And now is now. There’s a whole different story and a whole new set of circumstances. You have to take that and treat it with the respect it deserves.”
Malone spent her youth and formative years in Nebraska and Colorado before her acting career whisked her off to more metropolitan places like New York City and Los Angeles.
Elements of her rural upbringing, for better and for worse, stuck with her.
“When you come from a ranching background and the culture and society that goes along with it, it’s like when you are raised in a religion; it’s in your DNA. You’ve been programmed to respond to things when you’re young,” she said. “I feel the same way about cowboy culture. I’m as vastly liberal as a person can get, but if you play me a country song I’m going to cry, and there’s nothing I can do about it and I wish there was. I find it fascinating. And my wife can’t go to a rodeo. She finds it barbaric and I find it horribly satisfying to go to a rodeo still. I wish I didn’t but I do. It’s part of my upbringing and a culture I understand. Ranching people in general are really decent, honest, hard-working people. When you start to put religion on top of that, it gets squirrely. People can start to have attitudes about you that are based in these old ways of seeing other human beings, through laws and rules of the Bible. That’s exactly what this show is about. My father is a cowboy and he revered rednecks and I love him and I can’t stop loving him. And he’s done things that are unforgivable. And yet I forgive and love him and understand. This election has taught me about unconditional love. Human beings are harder to love than animals because we’re so ugly and flawed. My father’s Trump vote and my mother following him into that vote devastated me, absolutely gutted me. It took me a long time to recover but ultimately I chose to pick up the phone and reconnect and just move forward with the relationship and try as hard as I can not to talk about it with them when I’m with them. Yes, it enrages me and there is no reasoning with it. It just baffles me. Really, do they just not watch the news or not think? My show is about my redneck father and me, and how I can continue to talk to him every day. I can’t just write him off.”
Despite the inner turmoil she struggles with in her familial ties, Malone said “So Far” comes across as a genuinely funny and entertaining experience.
“It’s hilarious,” she said. “That’s the funniest part. All of this you can make jokes about. That’s the best part of it. If you deliver the truth right, it’s funny and sad at the same time. Everyone has this in their family. It’s a really interesting thing. How do you keep a sense of humor in the light of all this insanity? It’s unlimited comic material if you treat it right. It’s not hard to keep this in the musical-comedy vein that it lives in.”
Beth Malone performs her one-woman show “So Far” 7:30 p.m. Aug. 25 at The Rrazz Room, 385 W. Bridge St., New Hope. For more information or tickets, call 888-596-1027 or visit www.therrazzroom.com.