BWW Interview: S. Douglas Egge of SOUTHERN BAPTIST SISSIES at Proud Mary Theatre Company
S. Douglas Egge plays Preacher in the Proud Mary Theatre Company production of Del Shores' Southern Baptist Sissies, which played to sold out houses last weekend in Spartanburg, SC. The show continues this weekend, August 10-12, at the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.
We asked Doug to tell us a little about his background and his approach to the character.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was raised in a military family, an "Air Force brat." The time I remember most was my Dad's last assignment, Ellsworth AFB in Rapid City, SD. We spent a lot of time outdoors when my dad was around, and a lot of time fighting, and waiting for punishment for misdeeds when he was gone for a week at a time. I was one of 5 kids, and our mom was a stay-at-home mom. She didn't drive, and so we rarely ventured away when Dad was gone. Mom was hyper-religious and we spent a lot of time at church. Interestingly, I was baptized at Calvary Baptist Church (the setting for this play) after a church youth summer camp in the Black Hills. I believe I was about 11-12 years old, so about the same age as Mark, the narrator that Del Shores uses for Southern Baptist Sissies! I remember Dad as not being very willing to go to church, but never interfering with our Mom having us there most Sundays and most Wednesdays. We even managed to get to most of the youth-centered activities.
I ended up not going to college out of HS, and was in the Army for almost 5 years. After that, I finally went to college (BS in science, and almost completed a Minor in Theatre at George Mason University) and then Medical School, back home in SD.
I have always done theatre as a hobby, with a pretty skewed ratio of musicals>straight plays. I would say that I feel much more challenged by the plays. I am not sure why, but that is usually how I feel when I reflect back.
Tell us a little about your character.
Preacher is such a beautiful, simple creature. He has a singular goal, and wants that for everyone- to repent and get to Heaven, where Preacher will be waiting for them! He feels that the Bible is authentic, and the words are truth. However, he does not feel that all are entitled to "his" goal, and he will manipulate the intent to achieve "his" goal... I am intentional about the preacher "his" and God "His" being slightly divergent.
He clearly is offended when his sheep stray, and he uses that to energize and support his view of the message from God. It is when he is applying this disobedience that he will light up his congregation with all the fire and brimstone he can muster.
I fought with the idea that Preacher had remorse or took ownership with the bad things that happen. Currently (and this is a moving target) I feel he is sad one of his sheep is gone, but he feels Satan is the culprit. Preacher found out about the problem too late to effect change, and he is so busy making a biblical lesson out of the incident. He has not yet taken the time to reflect. I believe there is always a chance that Preacher will eventually look back and see the way he worked in the lives of these 4 boys, specifically.
Tell us a little bit about your faith background.
I was raised a mixture of Baptist (or as close as you can get to that in South Dakota), Assembly of God, Methodist and non-denominational churches. Since I was baptized at Calvary Baptist Church, I feel my roots are Baptist.
I currently attend Grace Church, and am amazed at how messed up my upbringing was! I never had a direction, because each faith puts emphasis on a different aspect of Christianity. I am working through these wounds, and moving towards being in a community that primarily loves. That believes, serves and keeps each other accountable in our Faith.
Is your portrayal based on anyone in particular?
I attended many churches in my life, and my portrayal of Preacher is 80% what I "feel" I have experienced. I looked at many hours of Jimmy Swaggart , and some other Southern Baptist preachers, so I would place 20% there. Really, though...Del Shores made the Preacher such an icon with this script. It was so easy to just read, feel, remember. The "acting" did not take a lot of effort. One difficulty I had was getting into the skin of someone who can judge. I was a middle child, so usually can see everyone's perspective, so I tend to not understand people who are black or white.
The play has been described as both "wrenching" and "hilarious." What challenges have you faced trying to strike a balance between those two extremes?
One of my questions after reading the play was, "Do you have to feel guilty in order to go to heaven, so you won't ever have to feel guilt again?" I think Del Shores grapples with that theme, so there is a lot of gut-wrenching guilt presented here. Within the self-loathing there are opportunities for seeing irony, folly and some bits of joy.
Who gets to define what "happy" is? That can be both sad and funny, and most of the characters get to say what makes them happy. But the honesty is there, too. Can we really be happy...for more than a moment? Del gave the Preacher an opportunity to reveal his joy, and it always "costs" something. So true, so subtle. That is a huge challenge for an actor. Make honest choices, but don't always make the big choice! We rarely get to laugh at ourselves, but hopefully the audience will get to laugh a lot at us!
What do you hope audiences will take away with them from seeing this show?
The audience does not get to write-off any of these characters. None are simple. Each faces challenges that are big and small. There is a lot to take in.
All shows are at 8 p.m., EXCEPT for a 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday, August 11.
Tickets are $10 General at the door or at http://www.proudmarytheatre.com.