I Would Be a TERRIBLE Tracy Turnblad: Being Plus Sized in Theatre

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My whole world is a stage.

It has been my entire life.

I’ve been performing since I was a kid, joined drama club in high school, chorus, community theatre, college theatre, improv classes, became a blogger, instagram, etc.

I’m not unfamiliar with being in the spotlight. It’s something I’ve chosen myself.

I’ve been doing theatre since I was a child…and pretty much since I hit puberty, I began getting ‘fat girl’ roles.

This was a lot of villains, mothers, aunts, queens, bad guys, witches, sad and lonely sidekicks, and characters that never got love.

So, as a person who has spent the last 15 years of my life dedicated to molding all these characters – my weight has always been a very present part of my journey.

So today, I wanted to talk about the things plus size women in theatre experience all the time.

And these are just some of my personal experience. Everyone has different ideas.

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1.) People will ALWAYS tell you that you would be amazing in roles that you can’t play.

For example, people often tell me I would be SO great playing Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray. She is a triple threat, belting, dancing, 16 year old. Her biggest physical trait is that she is fat. That’s approx. half the plot is her being a plus size young lady. However, I cannot dance at all. Nor am I 16. And my belt is…okay.

But I’ve been told that I would play a LOT of wonderful old ladies. Again, I’m in my twenties.

Now don’t get me wrong, some of them are GREAT roles that I would die to play.

Anybody who is ANY kind of minority in theatre knows WAY too well – that people will tell you that you’d be great in roles…that aren’t in your voice range, dance range, age range – as long as their fat, theoretically, I should be able to play it.

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2.) No one in the (community theatre) world knows how to costume you.

This is a 100% true story. I do a ton of community theatre – so there is not a full time costumer on hand.

I’ve done about 70 shows at probably 15 different theatres in my time. That’s a pretty good cross section.

But everyone I have ever worked – costuming is my worst nightmare.

I’ve been told to provide my own shapewear (which I don’t keep on hand, that I have to special order, wait for shipping, and pay between $60 – $100), my own jean shorts, my own lingerie, my own blouses (for Victorian England era), work boots, specific dresses, etc.

It is so stressful that you find my body so stressful.

I almost ALWAYS am asked to provide my own costume, even in really specific situations. Even when other actors have had their costumes, down to their jeans supplied, I have been asked to bring my own costumes. And sometimes with only a week or two of notice, asked to pay for it myself, which involves shopping online, paying more, and

And nothing makes you feel like ‘other’ than having a physical marker of ‘I don’t fit in.’

Just for any costumer – I’m not putting you on blast. I SWEAR. I respect you. I know that some costumers have bent over freakin’ backwards to help me. And I love and appreciate you. I will say that most have not. So thank you to those who have!

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3.) People assume you can’t dance.

In my case, they would be right. Just being honest.

I am a TERRIBLE dancer. Legit terrible. Unless it’s like just free dancing, in which case I am a GREAT mover. But, zero percent dancing ability.

But there’s usually a perception that heavy women are fat, lazy, out of shape, etc. I’ve seen some awesome plus size women KICK SOME BUTT as a dancer, but they have to work twice as hard to prove it.

I’ve seen some GREAT plus size dancers bumped to the back of the line. And that’s a shame.

4.) You’ll definitely question if you’re meant to find love.

In Hairspray, Tracy is being persecuted for her size and not getting the guy she wants until at the last moment, he shows up, does the right thing and they live happily ever after.

Yeah, that’s pretty much the ONLY fat happy ending.

Helen in Fat Pig gets abandoned because she’s too fat, Martha in Heathers attempts suicide after some bullying from a guy she likes for her size, Nadia from Bare is told she cannot play Juliet as a love interest.

When the character calls for ‘big’ they usually will end up alone.

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5.) If it specifically calls for fat – their whole character is probably ABOUT being fat.

No one in these shows are just like cool, chill, people, who have successful relationships and people like them.

Nope, they are slovenly hags.

And all ANYONE ever talks about them is that they are fat. They seldom have any other characteristics. And if they do – they are second to the one you can see.

And all of their problems, issues, etc. all stem from that and OTHER PEOPLE’S PROBLEM WITH THEIR WEIGHT.

Here’s what I have to say to those characters. Get a job. Buy your own shit. Stay out of the forest. (again, from my fave podcast, My Favorite Murder). But seriously, characters, get a hobby that’s not coming up with REALLY clever ways to fat shame people.

Example:

Jane’s song in Bare is Plain Jane Fat Ass.

Fat Pig…it’s literally called Fat Pig.

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6.) If it does NOT call for them being fat – they probably are jerks.

If the role is not specifically written for a plus size actor…they usually are no one’s favorite.

Some favorite roles that people love to cast plus size women in are Ursula from Little Mermaid, Patty Simcox in Grease, Paulette in Legally Blonde, Flannery in How to Succeed, The Witch in Into the Woods, etc. Lots of witches, stupid, mothers with complexes, authority figures, and things like that. They don’t NEED to be plus – but that’s often where these people end up.

People who are mean, bullies, tight up, no fun, grouchy, villains. And those are nice names. There’s a TON of ‘played fat’ roles that are abusive, mean, cruel, awful women.

I would just like to mention as a plus size person, I have NEVER been a movie villain.

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7.) It’s a ‘statement’ if you’re cast as a leading lady.

I remember once I had a friend who was a director, and I was auditioning for Legally Blonde (he was NOT directing) and said,

“I hope they cast you as Elle. Because I want to diversify the beauty blonde”.

Which would be totally killer, right?

But then it’s kind of not.

The fact that it’s a STATEMENT to have plus size women in your cast kind of sucks.

I just want to be amazing as Eliza Hamilton. And her songs are right in my range.

To give fat woman a chance you are openly taking a definitive idea, a position on the matter, and feeling the an advocate.

This past fall I got to play God. Because that’s awesome.

But think if they had a size 24 Juliet in Romeo & Juliet. She’s supposed to be 15. Even if the girl was literally a size 24 teen – audiences would spend the WHOLE show thinking about that.

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8.) “Brave” becomes a VERY loose term.

I have had WAY too many people comment that something I’m wearing on stage is ‘brave’ and that I was so ‘brave’ to wear that.

A specific time that I remember is when I did Tommy this past spring. I wore a bra, a skirt, and an over shirt.

You would have thought I walked on stage COMPLETELY nude for how people responded.

TONS of women calling me brave, saying that I was so brave and confident to wear that, and good for me.

First of all, if theatre is a job – costumes are a uniform. I usually have no say in it.

Second of all – I thought I looked great. I did not feel like I was taking a risk.

Third – there were LITERALLY people on the stage with me in that same scene wearing less.

Fourth of all – I’m not brave. Firefighters are brave.

And this does not just apply to women. I did a play this past fall. One of the men in the show wore knee length shorts and had a bit of an older guy pot belly. This dude is 60 years old, he’s got a bit of a gut. And a female family member of mine said, ‘Wow, he was so brave for wearing that in his shape.’ – In the SAME scene was a 24 year old woman that was COMPLETELY nude. A full frontal nudity. Not a word about her.

Here’s the costume in question:

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But NONE of this has EVER made it not worth it. I love it. It’s my passion.

There’s NOTHING I love more than being on stage (except  Preston) and it has been my whole life. It’s what brought me to Preston. It’s what brought me to my career path. It’s what has brought me friends, an understanding of people, and my unbridled need to be in the spotlight.

All of my world IS a stage…and that’s perfect by me.

 

Here’s a few more fun stage stills:

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So here’s the “end of blog” spiel!

I’m thinking of going to the thrift store this weekend. And as soon as LindyBop restocks, I’m going to grab a few things from them as well and review!

Follow me on Instagram: @Abby_Hoy

If you want to follow my darling, Preston – you can click here!

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Follow me on Snapchat for a more ‘day to day’ look at mine & Preston’s life!: @abby_cadabra

I have my next few weeks of programs all planned out – I’ll be doing, NYE fashion, teaching, etc. Do you actually want to see a post about selling my underwear on Craigslist?

I’d really love to do that Barbie post. If anyone can seriously sponsor it – let me know. I think that would just be the coolest and most fun to do.

Subscribe for updates!  I did my fall fashion for some pumpkin spice fall looks! Be sure to lap it up, baby, with my Heathers Lookbook: How Very! Did you get a chance to see my travel blog? Be sure to check out my recent fashion posts that shows off my Dress-Pocalypse and my twelve tips for thrifting!Check out my adorable post about Preston and I rocking some adorable famous couple inspired outfits! Check out my earlier post about your summer reading list,my top 10 plus size stores, or my thoughts about loving your body!

Comment for topics you would like to see me cover! Like to help my self esteem! What do you think so far? More fashion? More lifestyle? Do you like the mix?

My next few blog ideas: Do you want to see my new house stock pile? Seasonal transition? Another haul? Maybe one about those ten pieces that make up a wardrobe. But I’m not sure. I want to know what you are interested in hearing about? My Top 10 Embarrassing Stories? 20 Facts from Your Blogger? A team up with another blogger? Haul? A show off of my Barbie lot? Want me to style you? Let me know!

Love all you wonderful ladies (and gents!) out there!

How Very,

Abby❤

5 Comments

  1. Matt Briner

    I’m not going to try to relate to being a plus-sized woman in the theatre, obviously; just like nearly every other field in western culture, it’s harder to be a woman than to be a man. Hell, my first play back after a thirteen-year hiatus, I got the lead; she asked me which of two parts I wanted, I said “Jordan,” and I got Jordan. It was a comedy, and not only was my character married, but I was the straight man; nobody said a word about a fat guy not only having a wife, but not being the bumbling idiot of the play. I’m not trying to rub it in, I’m just emphasizing your point.

    That said…the costuming is all too real. All three shows this season are set in Britain in the past, and I have no period wear. Luckily, there’s a big-and-tall clothing shop about fifteen miles away. It’s expensive (and cramped; it’s about as big as my living room, but there’s tens of thousands of dollars worth of clothes in there, mostly hunting wear), but it helped a bit for ‘The Mousetrap’. For this next one, though…I doubt they have a corduroy suit and pajamas with a nightcap.

    Liked by 1 person

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