“Tammy Faye’s Final Audition” at Cinci Fringe!

by Merri Biechler

Playing at Cincinnati Fringe, June 2nd-6th.
For ticket info, go here.

Shelley Delaney as Tammy Faye.

Tammy Faye Bakker was the sweetheart of Christian TV in the 70’s and 80’s, until it all came crashing down. As she nears the end of her life, she attempts a comeback. In a fevered dream, she enlists the men in her life to audition for one final TV show.

From a recent preview in the Journal-News:

“When people think of Tammy Faye, they think of the crying and the makeup,” said Merri Biechler, an adjunct professor of theater at OU. “But she was actually the first evangelical to embrace gay people back in the 1980s. (The evangelical movement) was more inclusive back then, the idea that anyone could find Jesus, that Jesus loved everyone.”


David Haugen as Jim Bakker and Shelley Delaney as Tammy Faye.

“Tammy Faye’s Final Audition” is a dreamy exercise where she auditions to create one final TV talk show called “Tammy Faye Wins At Life.” Whether the audition exists inside or outside her head is up to the audience. Throughout, she interacts with all the important men in her life, such as her ex-husband, Jim, her son, Jay, her current husband, Roe Messner, and her one-time co-host, J.J. Bullock, an HIV-positive gay man who also starred in the sitcom, “Too Close For Comfort.” Biechler said the piece was inspired by the fact that Tammy Faye granted an interview to CNN’s Larry King literally seven hours before she passed away from cancer. “She had a real drive to be in front of an audience,” Miechler said. “Call it ego or a last message of love to her fans. It comes from an internal drive that the play tries to understand.” http://www.journal-news.com/news/events/cincinnati-fringe-festival-returns-for-its-12th-ye/nmJ7w/

And here is part of a write up by WOUB abut the inception of the play as it has been developed in the last year:

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. […]

“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.” http://woub.org/2014/05/16/tammy-faye-bakker-subject-athens-playwrights-new-work/