Bring out your baggage, Glenwood!
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Murphy Funkhouser laughed as she did the impersonation, of no one in particular.
“Oh, don’t mess with her,” she said. “She’s got baggage!”
You bet she does.
For most, the term is loaded and scary, but for Funkhouser, it’s much bigger than that. It’s her history, a challenge. It’s what she has to work with. It’s also the subject of her first autobiographical theater piece. In “Crazy Bag,” her touring, one-woman show, Funkhouser, 33, attempts to find the humor in her own drama. The offering lands locally Monday.
“I wanted other people to know, to feel what I feel, that pasts don’t have to be shameful,” she explained.
She was driving through her home of Breckenridge then and was on her way to dinner with her 3-year-old, Maggie. She was spontaneous and jovial and open. As she touched on her past, the difference between her stories and those of others seemed small ” yet glaring. While it’s natural for most to hide away their pain, Funkhouser’s dumping all that out for everyone to see. And you know what? It gets her laughs.
“I wanted it to make it light-hearted. I wanted to make it funny,” she said. “And I wanted to break through the myth, the connotation of baggage.”
That’s no easy feat, which she is first to admit. The process started a few years ago, during a conversation with Christopher Willard, the artistic director of Breck’s Backstage Theatre. Knowing Funkhouser as a stand-up comic, an actor since childhood, Willard was trying to convince her into being in a show. She kept saying she didn’t have time, and he kept at it. Eventually, they arrived at the idea of a one-woman performance, written and acted by Funkhouser.
“Certainly, I can pull something out of my bag” she recalled telling him.
And pull she did ” for a year. The show people see now is the product of 12 months of writing, of condensing 500 pages of experiences into one honest piece of art. When Funkhouser arrives on stage, she’s loaded down with physical manifestations of her past. Each suitcase she carts represents another painful memory, another embarrassing experience. As she gets to opening them, the audience learns of her strict upbringing, of her Methodist minister father. They get that she “did everything and anything” to rebel as a teen. They see that she once lived in a car, that she’s a single mother. They also hear of one monumental sadness, a large bag she doesn’t open until the end.
“I’m actually more comfortable on stage than I am in a normal conversation,” she admitted, when asked how she can do what she does.
Even so, she once had to coax these stories out of her. During the writing process, she needed to create two alter egos to tell her story. Through the “Heathen,” she was able to talk about her reckless, crazy experiences. “The Anti-Heathen” admitted to her conventional desires, about settling down, living a “normal life.” Though she found both characters embarrassing, once she gave them a voice, her story flowed out of her.
“I just used (myself) as the vehicle of the work of the piece,” she said, “and I let them be the tangible representation of things I’m not proud of.”
While she might not care for everything in her past, she had no regret about her. Since her show debuted in 2007, she’s realized her story, her message, is an important one. She talked with passion about how audience members have come up to her after shows and laid their own baggage at her feet. She spoke of “Claim Yourself,” a free workshop she created, to help others craft drama around their pain. In the near future, she said, she’ll be taking her work to San Francisco, New Mexico, Denver, Oklahoma, Oregon, with more stops still being decided on. Having recently given her notice at work, she’ll soon be living in Denver, where she’ll dedicate herself to this work full-time.
“I’m literally taking my baggage and going across the country,” she said.
And she didn’t sound scared at all.
“As dumb as it may seem, I feel I’ve found my mission,” she went on. “I really do.”
A baggage revolution, if you will.
Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111
Post Independent Glenwood Springs CO Colorado
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