Thea Deley on her one-woman show, satanic toothpaste, and losing her religion
What made you finally decide to take the thoughts you were having out of your head and make them into this show?
I was very angry, and it was really holding me back both creatively and in my life. It was affecting my relationships. So in addressing that anger, I had to really dig deep and dig back into my past. I was taught some pretty debilitating things, especially in regard to women. I had wanted to be a minister, actually, and the pastor from our church made a special house visit to talk with me and to let me know that that was not a possibility for me to become a minister because basically God didn't want women preaching. And I did not realize how much that had affected me until maybe fifteen years later.
You know what I used to do? I ran track in high school, and when I would be running, I would picture that pastor's face on the pavement and then with every step I took I would, like, crush his face -- things like that. I would say the point where I realized that my anger needed to be addressed was about six years ago, when I lived across the street from a church. It was one of those where they had one of those modern rock-and-roll worship bands that are all the rage. It was Easter morning, and it was 6:30 in the morning, and at this point I'm no longer a church-goer, and their band starts to warm up. And I'm lying there, and you can just hear the bass, like, this throbbing bass, boom boom boom. And for some reason I just snapped, and I threw on my sweats and I ran across the street and I burst into their church, and I was literally like, "Shut the fuck up!" [Laughs]. I just lost it. And of course they just stopped playing and they looked at me like I was insane. I was like, "What are you people doing? I'm trying to sleep!" And then after that I was on this campaign. For like, two months, I got all my neighbors, we signed this petition, like, "You need to address your loud music." And it's not like I'm an old person or anything. I was just totally focused on getting this worship band under control.
That's when I realized that stuff is still a part of my psyche and I still obviously have some issues with it, some unresolved anger. And then as I started digging beneath the anger, I realized there was a tremendous amount of sorrow, too. And that, to be honest with you, is the most difficult part to deal with. The anger was hiding the sadness. And the sadness I address a little in the show, even though it's a comedy. I want it to be as truthful as possible, and just being angry about all of this stuff was not helping me or other people. So really just kind of being honest with myself, like, whoa, this makes me really sad that my mom thinks that I'm actually going to burn in hell. That just really makes me sad. What bothers me is that there's all these estranged families out there because of religious differences, and so if my show in any way can make some of those estranged people feel supported or feel not alone, then I'll feel like I have done something worthwhile.
What else do you want people to know about the show?
Sometimes people walk out because it's a little offensive if you don't have enough distance from Christianity. It's definitely satirical. The other thing I want people to know is that even though it kind of goes through my process and my evolution, it does end on a positive note. It kind of ends with my current belief system, which is basically love and personal responsibility.
Is there anything else that we didn't cover that you want to talk about?
We actually live in the most Christian nation in the world. I think that something like 75% of Americans identify as some version of Christianity. So it does make it difficult to speak out and to disagree. I think we get marginalized if we do. My dad was in the military, so we lived in Germany for a couple of years -- and talk about a country where a certain group of people were marginalized over time. That really affected me as a kid, just learning the history and going to some of these museums and things like that. I feel like we have the right, maybe even the obligation, to question any doctrine, any religion, any political system, and I think when we buy the illusion that that system is sacred, we won't question it, and I think that's really dangerous.
The other thing would be that from some of the research I did, that atheists in our country are actually the most discriminated-against group. When they poll people, people are more likely to vote for a Muslim candidate for president than they would be to vote for an atheist candidate. The Pew Forum on religion, they do a lot of these surveys. And to me that's just really fascinating. So, like, if you don't believe in God, you're a bad person. And I totally disagree with that. So that's a little piece of my motivation is that people can be good without a belief in a particular god.
Jesus Loves You! (but hates me) is intended for a seventeen-and-up audiences, and plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street. Tickets are $15, $12 for students, and available at the door or online.