Thea Deley on her one-woman show, satanic toothpaste, and losing her religion
Though she was raised a Protestant in an extremely strict church, Thea Deley began questioning religious teachings that she considered bizarre even as a child. Now firmly out of the religion, Deley has made a hilarious and touching one-woman show devoted to her evolution from believer to blasphemer. Jesus Loves You! (but hates me) plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Bug Theatre and uses acting and video to portray Deley's specific experience in and out of the church.
We caught up with the funny lady in advance of the show, which takes on everything from Satan's toothpaste, to yelling at a worship band, to an ex-boyfriend who believed God was speaking through a hair dryer.
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Westword: Tell me about Jesus Loves You! (But Hates Me).
Thea Deley: It's a one-woman show, although I do a lot of video and slides, so there are actually quite a few other people involved. Something like fifty people pitched in to bring the show to life, so my joke is that apparently it takes a village to put on a one-woman show. Basically, it's my story interwoven with my commentary on things that I see that are happening now -- in other words, my childhood experiences as I'm reflecting back on these really rather bizarre things that happened to me. In retrospect, I think they're bizarre, but at the time I thought they were reality.
What kind of bizarre things?
For instance, there was a Sunday school teacher that I had -- I think I was about thirteen at the time -- and this Sunday school teacher came in one day and told us that a particular toothpaste was created by a company that was satanic, so if we used this toothpaste, in essence we were worshipping Satan. I mean, just crazy stuff like that. And in some places, that was perfectly normal and acceptable. Even as a kid, my brain just couldn't accept that sort of thing, and I would just kind of think to myself, well, that's ridiculous; that's insane. But I couldn't say anything, because when you're a kid you don't want to upset your parents or your church friends. So a lot of it I just kind of filed away. It's been really fun to see what kind of memories come back through the process of working on the show.
I'll tell you one more story. I was dating a guy who was raised Catholic, and then he had joined the Moonies, which is a cult, and then his parents had him kidnapped from that cult so that they could have him deprogrammed, and then he ended up joining an evangelical charismatic-type church. This poor guy, the first time that we were getting intimate [laughs], I think we were alone in his room, kind of squished on his little twin bed, and we were kissing, and things were getting a little hotter, a little heavier, and then in the next room the hair dryer turned on. And no one was there -- it was just random, for no apparent reason. So the blow dryer turns on, and my boyfriend, like, jumps up off the bed and he's like, "Oh, my God, God is sending us a message through the hair dryer! So obviously God doesn't want us to have sex!" And of course I was like, aw, shit. I was like, really?
Can you talk a little about the video portion of the show?
I love spoof film. I love making these little two-minute satires. I came up with all these silly products like stoning kits for when you sin and you need to be punished. And a working-out-with-Jesus video program and stuff like that.
The videos are interwoven with my personal story. That experience of being raised in a pretty conservative Christian family could really warp a person's sense of reality. So I think what I'm doing now as an adult, especially with the video part of it, is I'm just trying to poke fun at stuff so that it doesn't have so much power. To just kind of show it for what it is, at least from my perspective, and then in that way, it gives me an opportunity to be like, oh, yeah, that's not in control of my life anymore. And the really exciting thing is that other people who were raised somewhat similarly seem to find it cathartic as well.
Have your parents or anyone from your old church seen or heard about the show?
No, they live in another state, and it's the kind of thing where I'm not quite ready for them to know about it. Honestly, it will probably destroy our relationship, which is already kind of tenuous. That was one of the reasons I was so afraid to really challenge what I was taught. I mean, I was challenging it in my mind, but not publicly. It's such an interesting situation to be in, because I think a lot of people really struggle with that. In my case, it would affect my relationship with my parents. Other people I've talked to, it affects their whole world. Like, if all your friends are at your church and your boss and your family, it could really destroy a person. My situation isn't that extreme.