By Lynn Venhaus
When Shannon Geier plunged into playwrighting about 10 years ago, she unlocked a passion for characters and dialogue, which has opened a new world, looking at life with different questions.
Four years ago, she formed because why not? Theatre company and has presented original material at St. Louis Fringe Festival, Shake 38 through Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and as stand-alone productions.
“We want people leaving the shows and talking about what they just saw. Maybe we didn’t change anyone’s minds, but at least they can hopefully have those conversations and for a moment, see things in a way they maybe didn’t see them before,” she said.
Currently, her second production of “Fat” is in its second
weekend, playing at 8 p.m. June 6 – 9, June 13-16 at the Satori, an event venue
at 3003 Locust St.
Sparked by her own issues with weight and body image, Shannon Geier wrote “Fat” in 2008, put it in a drawer and then resurrected it. She was aided by Tesseract Theatre Company’s New Play Development.
The play, featuring 12 characters, centers on Amy Prestly, who has a lot going for her: a career, a happy marriage, a beautiful child, and wonderful friends. She is also a woman of larger size, a fact affecting not just Amy, but her relationships with everyone surrounding her.
Directed by Elaine Laws, “Fat” explores the struggles that come with obesity and body image ideals, taking a realistic look at the societal messages communicated with regards to size and the challenges of balancing personal health with positive body image in a world where “thin” equals “better,” Geier said.
The cast includes Amy: Laura Deveney, Joel: Dan Stockton, Tara: Bethany Miscannon, Vanessa: Ashley Netzhammer, Kelly: Robyn Couch Harders, Diana: Stephanie Rhein, Marlene: Basmin, Thin Girl: Blessed Knew, Jessa: Abby Brisbane/Laurel Button, Dave: Rob Wood, Heather: Jaclyn Nischbach and Chris: Jodi Stockton.
“We had many people say they missed it the first time and were we doing it again? And it’s like the piece shifts and evolves with a new cast, a new director and a new space. I made a few revisions, but overall, it’s still a play about the unanswerable questions. It’s a play with 12 characters, none of whom is wrong. Everyone has their own beliefs they hold tight to and that someone sitting in the audience agrees with, but in the end, there are no “solutions.” Just like in life,” she said.
Since the first production of “Fat,” Shannon has gained 100
pounds, but said those two events are not related.
“I have witnessed, because a part of me had forgotten, how people look at you and talk to you when you’re of a larger size. How uncomfortable they are and how they view you as a tragic figure because you aren’t ‘normal’ or ‘okay’ or ‘healthy,’ when in fact you may be all those things and be of a larger size,” she said.
One thing is for certain. She will continue to write shows that deal with issues that are not typically seen on stage.
“And that often don’t have a pat and easy answer. We’ve dealt with ethical non-monogamy in “Paradigm,” looking at Shakespeare from a feminist perspective in “Shakespeare’s Women or The Bard’s Broads,” domestic violence in “Em,” the sexual exploitation of children in “‘Til the Cold Winter’s Through” (written with River Dowdy).
For more information about tickets, visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fat-tickets-61911418720?aff=ebdssbdestsearch&fbclid=IwAR35KlehlxtySQtlFDMc5hCqCsckDqsD7_6HcD70qAFcjpeBOFyUltP8ilU
During this summer’s Grand Center Theatre Crawl June 28-29, Geier’s because why not? theatre company is teaming up with St. Louis Fringe to present an original one-act, “Checking In,” on Friday and Saturday evening between 7 and 10 p.m.
She wrote it about a couple, Allie and Danielle, who have been together four years, living a happy All-American life with their son and Allie’s mother. But Allie’s a Dreamer, and in the current political climate, her monthly government “Check In” may be far less simple and safe than her family has come to expect. “Check In” explores the effects of immigration on one family and what happens when what you thought was solid ground, begins shifting like quick sand.
The performances are in the Grand Center Arts Academy Cafeteria South.
The play will also be part of the St. Louis Fringe Festival, Aug. 13-18. For more information or a schedule, visit www.stlouisfringe.com
Here are Shannon’s answers to our “Take Ten” Questions:
1. Why did you choose your profession/pursue the arts?
“I felt like it chose me! I had a play I wrote in a drawer and I took it out and submitted it to Tesseract Theatre Company when I was in my early 40’s. That was like the top of the roller coaster and I’ve been in an amazing creative free fall ever since.”
2. How would your friends describe you? Funny and BUSY
3. How do you like to spend your spare time?
“Um…what is that? Reading plays and recaps of TV shows I don’t have time to watch is my favorite.”
4. What is your current obsession?
“Remaining calm and letting go.”
5. What would people be surprised to find out about you?
“That I steal mixed fruit jelly from restaurants.”
6. Can you share one of your most defining moments in life?
“Meeting Stephen Sondheim for 60 seconds (Oh and that giving birth thing too!)”
7. Who do you admire most?
“Everyone chasing a passion.”
8. What is at the top of on your bucket list?
“Go to Alaska (hopefully next year!)”
9. What is your favorite thing to do in St. Louis?
“Go to see small, intimate, local theatre created with human talent, duct tape and prayer! “
10. What’s next?
“Check In” an original work, dealing with immigration, will be presented as one of the local headlining acts at the St. Lou Fringe Festival (Aug. 13-18).
Name: Shannon Geier
Age: (optional) 49
Birthplace: Poplar Bluff, Mo.
Current location: St. Charles Mo.
Education: AA from Jefferson Community College, 1992; 2016 Graduate of The Improv Shop in St. Louis
Day job: Coordinator – Risk Management
First job: Answered phones at a Greek restaurant in Randallstown Maryland
Favorite play: “Angels in America”
Dream Play: I dream of producing a play written by a middle-aged woman who just decided to go for it one day! Awards/Honors/Achievements: 2018 – Spirit of Fringe Award; 2016 – Fringe Merit Award for Excellence in Writing
I have won various honors through Toastmasters and have achieved the status of Competent Communicator and I am a graduate of The Improv Shop in St. Louis.
Favorite quote/words to live by: “Do not look for sanctuary in anyone except yourself.” (Attributed to Buddha by the internet, but impossible to confirm.)
A song that makes you happy: “Running on Sunshine” by Jesus Jones