• KD McTeigue

    As as fat actress I’ve grown a lot in how I perceive my own body, once fearing that it made me unworthy of pursuing this career at all to now believing that it is one of my assets as a performer. When I played the Nurse a few years ago I remember loving the fact that I was fat, because for many reasons (not all of them good) fat IS inherently funny. I loved the fact that Juliet was so much smaller than I was, that I had broad shoulders and a motherly bosom and all of those GREAT things that assisted in making my relationship to this girl as her caretaker believable to watch. I didn’t resent the role at all, rather I felt it helped guide me towards my “type” and taught me how to OWN and work with the physical tools I have.

    Our bodies tell stories onstage before we ever say a word. And while I agree with the thesis of this piece that increasing the visibility of fatness onstage is a worthy and necessary pursuit, you cannot force an audience to see a fat woman onstage and not associate her with their own personal biases and stigmas. What you CAN do is guide them to see her through a new lens. An actress, simply by being fat, can add depth and nuance to a role where it didn’t previously exist because her fatness brings with it a host of social connotations that an audience must individually confront. Cast a fat actress as Blanche in “Streetcar” and watch how all of that text about being this delusional, fading Southern belle becomes endowed with complex new meaning. And that’s only one example – the possibilities are endless, but it requires directors to cast fat women not only for the sake of more visibility, but as a deliberate artistic choice.

    As fat actresses we can pout over never being considered for Juliet, or we can take the archaic theatrical paradigms we’re dissatisfied with and ditch them, focusing instead on the creation of new material that allows us to be seen and to tell our own authentic stories, or finding a tribe of theatre makers who are willing to repurpose and explore established texts in unconventional ways. We do not need the permission of small-minded or cruel casting directors to perform as we are.

  • Jim Bush

    Here’s a bit of frankness: the fat people I know post things that fall into 3 buckets.
    1) Trying to lose weight.
    2) Complaints about weight related health effects. The older they get, the worse and more frequent these become.
    3) Posts like this that essentially justify their weight and ask why more people don’t support them in it.

    You ask why we can’t support you in #3 but it’s because we’ve seen plenty of #2 and would rather support you in #1.

    Being fat and proud works great when you’re 20. Might still be going pretty good when you’re 30. Start creeping up 40 or 50 and the health effects start to add up and get a lot worse. Joint problems. Skin issues. This is not a healthy way to be. We cannot in good consciousness support you in it any more than we can support you in chain smoking, chewing tobacco or cutting.

    You want us to support you in a thing that’s not healthy and thereby, in my mind, enable others to start having the same health problems down the road. Nope. Not gonna do it. Not gonna tell you how to live your life but I’m not going to sit here and enable a person’s physical self destruction, either.

    • Maggie Rogers

      When I saw this comment, I knew I needed to do a little investigating. Based off of your profile you have commented 76 times on various articles playing “devil’s advocate” – a view most people never need and for sure do not care to hear. As a fat person, my first question is – Are you a doctor? No, seriously. I am genuinely curious to see if you are a licensed doctor because you seem to be well-versed in the rhetoric of fat phobic doctors.

      Honestly, I have been waiting for a comment like this and am seriously shocked it has not happened yet – as so many people hate fat people. You talk about “supporting” these fat friends you have which is just hate hidden behind a well-meaning act. Your “support” you continue to speak about is false. My favorite author Lindy West says that if you really wanted to make a change on the topic of obesity, “you could fight for better healthcare and mental healthcare, the overhaul of our food production and distribution systems, a higher minimum wage and functional social safety net, and the dismantling of fat stigma so that fat people can feel comfortable leaving their homes and moving their bodies and leading full, vibrant public lives. If you claim to care about fat people’s health but do nothing to fight fat stigma, you are a liar.” – The Guardian, 2017

      Also, you think this article is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle? LOL. The main point of the article is, “Why are people disgusted by fat people? And if you are, get over it.” If you need to lose weight because you have a health issue, you should probably lose weight if that is what will make you better. But do NOT act like there is something wrong with all fat people. Or if you are fat and want to lose weight for any reason – though I hope it is not because people are making fun of you/telling you your worth is based off of appearance – then get it girlfriend, you do you. The only rule here is that you should mind your own business.

      Lastly, how dare you equate fatness with addiction and self-harm.

      I am seriously curious what you thought would come of this comment as it is exactly the hate speech that I wrote about.

      They say do not feed the internet trolls, but you seemed hungry. #fatjoke

      • John Rinaldi

        Amen, Maggie!

      • Jim Bush

        I am not a medical doctor but then, neither are you. I know what mine tells me but I don’t know what yours tells you. I base my position — that being overweight leads to increases in health problems — on a lifetime of evidence which could certainly still be wrong and is admittedly mostly anecdotal in nature.

        The real case you would need to make would be that us do-gooders are misinformed as to the health effects of being overweight and that indeed “overweight” is an outdated misnomer.

        If you do an article on that and bring in evidence from medical professionals to back it up, I would certainly be interested in reading it. It is contrary to my current understanding but I’m willing to read more.

        Also, if your first instinct is to dox anyone who posts an opinion you do not like, you should not be “shocked” to discover that pretty quickly, nobody posts anything you do not like. Your methods are how echo chambers get built. Ad hominem, straw man, personal attacks. This is not a recipe for good discourse. But I suppose it makes great theater.

        • Maggie Rogers

          Jim, I hear you. Looking at your Disqus profile and seeing where you have commented is very far from doxxing. I think this is a very interesting conversation and think you should email me so we can discuss it further.

          I do not want this to turn into an inflammatory comments section as this is supposed to be a loving space as the article deals with personal and hurtful things.

          I will look forward to your email – I am easy to find.

    • Kate Shelton

      Hey there. Size and health are two very different things. I’m sure you know how to use Google. Research is your friend! Consider doing that before posting an inaccurate, hateful, and frankly asinine comment.

    • Jillian Rickards

      Jim, did you even read the article or do you just blindly copy and paste this comment on every platform that you troll? If you did in fact read it (or at the very least – the title of the article), then you clearly missed the point. Maggie is simply trying to breakdown the stigma against fat people. If anything, your comment further proves her point. Regardless of how they feel about their weight and whether or not they are actively trying to change it, fat people have a magnitude of things to offer on and off the stage but are so often overlooked because their weight (just read the other comments).

  • BKnowsSomethingAboutIt

    If you were at all serious about performing in theater, you would not have hideous tattoos on your arm. I would never cast you in anything, at least, not unless you were entirely encased in costuming. Conchata Ferrell, Liz Torres, many fat actresses have had great careers. And they should be able to do more. But theater is theater, and types are an essential element of what works on stage. If you don’t get that, you don’t get theater. A fat Cleopatra? It would never work, except as a burlesque. There are plenty of other characters one could lead in, such as Queen Victoria, but you might have to produce it yourself. It worked for Roseanne. But you sound like a whiny me-first complainer trying to politicize non-issues.

  • John Rinaldi

    Maggie, thank you, thank you, thank you for this!!! I’ve been saying the same thing for all of my 50 years as a fat actor. We have reached the point in time where this needs to be addressed and changed. Please let me know what I can do to help you in this fight. I live in NYC, so I’m well-placed!

  • starmcmuffin

    Dear Maggie, Thank you so much for writing this piece! Thank you for being brave and fearless in the face of adversity. I have lived this tale my entire life…it hurts so much that I haven’t even attempted to be onstage in over three years! I live in NYC, and although I see more diversity onstage I feel like the stigma is very much still there. We NEED to be better, thank you again for taking the lead. much love to you!

  • Karen Bradley Ehler

    Hurrah! Thank you! Amen!

  • Emily Sojourn

    Lived through this six months ago. Auditioned for SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER. I’d been in a production 10 years previously as Mrs. Holly, the supporting “mother ” role. (I was hefty then but have added to it.) Although my audition sheet *clearly* stated that I was *only* auditioning for Violet, the director took one look at me and told me to begin on a page that was clearly Holly’s scene. When I told him I wasn’t auditioning for that role, he was flabbergasted and stammering. I was disgusted. (It was an amateur production— it’s not like my presence would cost the theater valuable ticket sales.) I had a half-laugh in the end. Although I was not cast, I clearly blew him away in my audition and was asked to call-back, (along with two other actresses, both of them slim.)

  • Deadra Moore

    Thanks for this article, Maggie and TCG. Waaaaay back in the early ’80s in college, I was 60 pounds lighter than I am now, and acting often, as a character actor. We were lucky enough to have Marsha Norman visit during our writer’s festival after we’d just done her play, Getting Out. During a session with her, she was talking about the experience of taking ‘Night Mother, with the incomparable Kathy Bates, to NYC. I will never forget how furious she was as she related that the NYC producers asked Ms. Bates to lose 30 pounds before they would hire her. I so appreciated that sentiment then, and still do.

    As an actor who is 5’4″ and over 200 lbs, I had to get past 50 years of age to be seen for more than two or three roles a year. But it seems older characters are allowed to carry a little more weight.

  • Gail Rose Bello

    Wonderful article, my thoughts exactly as a plus sized theatremaker <3

  • Peter Davis

    I hear you.

  • Jennifer Haskell

    this is so important
    i was once the skinny girl who got all parts because i was thin..
    and that lead me to try to keep my weight the same forever…
    3 packs of dry ramen noodles, without the season packet, and a few slices of cheese was a normal day meal for me in my late teens..
    i had to be small…i had to get the part..that is all that mattered to me
    now i am fat, and getting those parts are just a dream for me most of the time – i am now the nurse, i am now the lonely beggar, i am now the prostitute, wide with large breast…
    it is why i stopped doing stage acting…
    i couldn’t do it anymore…
    how come i couldn’t get the bigger roles anymore? My talent hadn’t changed, the only thing that did was my waist line
    i tried so hard, but then i realized my body is broken from illnesses, no matter what i do, i am the size i am…i will always and always be the size 250 – 270 pounds i am, unless drastic drastic measures are taken (via weight loss operation..pcos is a bitch..)
    i am getting to love who i am slowly, it takes time however..
    i digress from my point however, the theatre world needs to take note of it, they are losing the most talented people because they aren’t the size that is noted, the normal size for the role…it is discouraging..it is heartbreaking and above all, it is bullshit..