LOOKING FOR NORMAL
Trans character illuminates real dilemma onstage
By JIM FARMER
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)