Trans char­ac­ter il­lu­mi­nates real dilemma on­stage

GA Voice - - Arts - ‘Look­ing for Nor­mal’


Out ac­tor Larry Davis adds a new kind of role to his re­sumé in the On­Stage At­lanta/Process Theatre pro­duc­tion of “Look­ing for Nor­mal.” Jane An­der­son’s play, which was the source for the ac­claimed HBO film, “Nor­mal,” with Jes­sica Lange and Tom Wilkin­son, re­volves around a Mid­west­ern, church-go­ing cou­ple—and the hus­band’s dec­la­ra­tion that he is trans­gen­der. Ge­or­gia Voice caught up with Davis, who plays the main char­ac­ter Roy, to get his thoughts on the role.

Ge­or­gia Voice: How fa­mil­iar were you with this ma­te­rial?


I wasn’t. I was aware of the movie and I re­mem­ber see­ing it, but I was not fa­mil­iar with the play.

Tell us about Roy.

Roy works in qual­ity con­trol at a John Deere plant. He is mar­ried to Irma and they’ve been to­gether 25 years. They’ve al­ways had a good re­la­tion­ship. They have gone in for some coun­sel­ing, be­cause Roy gets headaches that are af­fect­ing him. While there, he re­veals that he is in the wrong body—and that he has been see­ing a psy­chi­a­trist and has the in­ten­tion of hav­ing an op­er­a­tion to change his sex.

Has Irma had any clue about this?

None what­so­ever! She knows Roy gets these headaches and has had a lot of stress but that’s it.

How long has Roy known?

He has known since he was a lit­tle boy. In the play there is a great speech where he talks to Irma about get­ting up ev­ery day, know­ing he’s in the wrong body, but hav­ing to go to work and play a part.

It comes out of nowhere and she re­acts badly at first. The in­ter­est­ing thing to me about the story is that it’s not just about Roy and mak­ing his change but the whole fam­ily—his mother and fa­ther, grand­mother, his chil­dren—and the peo­ple in their lives. As Roy starts tak­ing hor­mones to be­come a woman, he and his thir­teen year old daugh­ter, Patty Ann, are go­ing through ado­les­cence at the same time. That makes for an in­ter­est­ing dy­namic at home. At first peo­ple are hav­ing a hard time un­der­stand­ing it, just try­ing to grasp the con­cept of it. We are talk­ing about a Mid­west town in Ohio.

What re­ally in­ter­ested me is the idea of be­ing with some­one for 25 years and hav­ing

Septem­ber 18, 2015

them ba­si­cally telling you that they are not the per­son you thought they were, and that all their life they’ve known it. What’s go­ing to be their new nor­mal? What kind of re­la­tion­ships will they de­velop based on their enor­mous change? The play ex­plores the dy­nam­ics of their re­la­tion­ship and the is­sue of whether they will stay to­gether.

This is a very re­li­gious cou­ple, cor­rect?

Roy is, much more than Irma. He is very in­volved. When he talks to his pas­tor, one of the things he wants to know is that he will still be a part of this con­gre­ga­tion.

As you were do­ing re­search, what sur­prised you?

There are things that seem to be com­mon. Dur­ing the tran­si­tion, there is an ado­les­cent phase and a phase where you are try­ing to get the peo­ple around you to use the cor­rect pro­noun. For some­one to come to the place, to make this de­ci­sion, it is not done lightly. Peo­ple have to know deep down in their heart and soul that this is what is meant to be.

The cast of ‘Look­ing for Nor­mal’ (Pub­lic­ity photo)

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