DIVA TALK: Chatting With Bare Star Missi Pyle

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11 Jan 2013

Pyle in Bare.
Photo by Chad Batka

Question: How did Bare come about for you?
Pyle: My friend Jon Hartmere is the librettist, and he wrote the book, and he had been telling me about Bare for a long time, and I didn't know anything about it… About a year ago, I was coming into town, into New York, to give my friend a baby shower, and he was doing a reading of it, and he said, "You know, I was just thinking you'd be really good for this part. Do you sing?" He knew that I sang, but he said, "Could you put something on tape? Would you mind learning this song and putting it on tape and sending it to us?" So, in my kitchen I put something on my iPhone and sent it to him, and they were like, "Yeah, we think we can work with this," which is so funny, and I came and did the reading, and I sort of just fell in love with the part. I love Jon. I think Jon is a great writer, and I love his sensibility. And, when they asked me to do it, I was so excited. I had auditioned for Matilda. I'd had a couple callbacks, and just really wanted to come and wanted to do a musical, just really wanting to sing. And then Matilda didn't end up happening, but then he literally called the next day, and I thought, "Oh God! It was just fate that I would come and do this show."

Question: What was the rehearsal process like? I know the show is quite different from what it was originally. Were there a lot of changes made during rehearsals?
Pyle: Well, there were a lot of changes that happened, obviously, before we started. There were changes from the last time I had done the reading. They had done another reading that I was not a part of. There were so many changes! [Laughs.] We would get pages and pages every day of new stuff, and then that all happened when we were rehearsing at 42nd Street Studios, and then we went into tech. And, once we started previews, the show changed drastically from the first preview until we opened. We just kept trying and changing different things, trying to really update it. Obviously, the show has so much to do with modern technology and how one photo can just change a person's life. The stage is covered with Instagrams. I think it was just trying to find how to fine-tune everything, but it was a lot, a lot of changes. I remember one day I came in, and I had this number where I had to do this lounge act as the Virgin Mary, where Peter [played by actor Taylor Trensch] has a "trip"… It used to be a longer song and a shorter lounge act, and one day they just handed me five new pages for that night. [Laughs.] I think Jon said it was 50 new lines that they had given me for that night… [Laughs.] But that was also one of the most fun nights I've had, just trying to figure out if I could actually remember it and then just do it in front of an audience.

Taylor Trensch and Jason Hite in Bare.
photo by Chad Batka

Question: How would you describe Sister Joan?
Pyle: Sister Joan is a progressive nun. I think she's the progressive voice in the Catholic Church… A lot of Catholics will come to this show, and they're just nervous that the Catholic Church is going to be portrayed in a certain way — that tends to happen, I think, sometimes in film or TV or theatre… But she's progressive, and she loves these kids, and it gets her into a lot of trouble because, obviously, she's a nun. She's married to the church, but at the same time, she definitely follows her heart as opposed to doctrine, and so that gets her into a lot of trouble, and she sort of can't ignore her heart. She's been transferred a couple of times, but she really loves these kids and has this great, great number, where I say, "You're not alone. You're a perfect child of God, and this part of you is the heart of who you are." It's just really lovely. I really enjoy that moment every night.

Question: Tell me a little bit about working with director Stafford Arima.
Pyle: Stafford is such a unique human being, and it always feels very sacred — the space — working with him, and he really allowed me to explore her. And, you know, there's so many characters in this show, and I think a lot of times, in musical theatre, people have to be introduced and a lot of times it's hard to find who the character is, so we spent a lot of time just talking about who she is… He was just very good at helping me create this woman and not making her a stereotype. I loved working with him.

Question: You mentioned before that you grew up in the Southern Baptist Church. How did that play a part in your approaching the role of the nun?
Pyle: Well, you know, it's very different, obviously, Catholic and Southern Baptist. My family is still very Southern Baptist, and they're religious. My brother works in the church, my sister works in the church, my father was the minister of the music at our church when I was a kid, and so a lot of the issues in this play, or this musical, have been things that surrounded me my entire life. So, for me, it's actually hugely important to be able to be on stage and just say, "Who you are is okay." … People have talked about, "Is this show still relevant?" because so many great things have happened for gay rights in the last decade, but in the Catholic Church, things haven't changed. So I feel like to be able to go up and say, "This is okay" is kind of a big deal. I have some of my family members who are coming to the show in the next couple of weeks, and I'm just really excited to put this out there for them and anyone who may think a certain way about homosexuality. I feel just to be able to go up there and show them this piece is really exciting.


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