Speakeasy with Megan Gogerty

Controversial Love Jerry playwright returns with Hillary Clinton Got Me Pregnant

About five years ago, the Alliance Theatre asked me, possibly due to a clerical error, to take part in a panel discussion with the winner and runners-up in its first Kendeda Graduate Playwriting Competition. The clear winner for “funniest person in the room” that day was Megan Gogerty, whose Kendeda contender Love Jerry was produced — to no little controversy — at Actor’s Express in 2006. Gogerty returns to Atlanta to perform her one-woman show, Hillary Clinton Got Me Pregnant, at Synchronicity Theatre Nov. 5-22. A professor at the University of Iowa, she recently recorded an album of songs about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

What are the origins of the show?
It’s a sort-of true story. I take some liberties with my life. It’s about two things. The first is my journey as a Democrat wandering through the Bush years, which coincides with a personal narrative about me deciding to have a family. It began when I was in Iowa City at a theater company that does a monologue festival. I performed one that I’d written a while back about meeting Hillary Clinton at a book signing. It went over super well. I used to do stand-up years and years go, so I thought maybe I should expand the monologue. Riverside Theatre said, “Do it! Great!” It had a short turnaround time, so I came up with a generic title, Megan Gogerty Loves You Very Much, which is true. I am Megan Gogerty and I do love you very much. And I decided to do Hillary Clinton.

Was it hard writing a semi-autobiographical show on a deadline?
It was terrifying! Usually, I go off into my quiet office to write a play, and I edit it and send it off at my leisure. This sort of developed in reverse. I had a theater and a weekend opening. They said, “We need the title by this day and to start rehearsal by this day.” I said, “But I haven’t written it yet.” And they said, “Well, you’d better get started, then.” It’s kind of like the old theater saying that goes, “Book the theater and the play will write itself.”

How political is the show? The Dubya years weren't easy for liberal Democrats.
I make no apologies about being a liberal Democrat in the play. I out myself as a liberal Democrat early on. That said, it’s not a political piece. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. It’s more about someone who’s engaged in politics who happens to be on the left. One of the things I do in the play is make a little fun of Democrats. So all the Democrats in the audience can say, “Ah, that’s so true — she’s got our number!” And all the Republicans in the audience can say, “Ah, that’s so true — Democrats are idiots!” And all the Independents in the audience say, “I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s funny!”

Do you do a Clinton impression in the show? Is there a secret to imitating the former first lady?
I don't do an impression that would pass muster with the “SNL” people, although I do attempt to give off the Hillary vibe at various points in the play. The secret is the mouth is smiling for the camera, while the eyes would rather be anywhere else than in front of the camera.  

Hillary Clinton received a lot of criticism from Obama supporters during the 2008 presidential campaign. Is this a way to defend her?
Absolutely. I come right out and declared her to be one of my personal heroes. She’s a human being. She has many flaws, but she was a pioneer in many ways, and pioneers have it rough. She was the first feminist first lady, the first credible female presidential candidate. I think we’ll appreciate her more after she’s dead.

In retrospect, what are your feelings about the Love Jerry production and protests at Actor’s Express?
That was a really interesting chapter. It was a great experience on balance. It was tough to go through — there was a letter-writing campaign against us from the American Family Association. A lot of the protest seemed to be much ado about nothing. People heard that Love Jerry was like Springtime for Hitler making light of sexual abuse, but once people realized that it actually took the issue seriously, a lot of it died down. It took us by surprise, and made me realize that I need to be really clear about what I’m trying to say in my work. I think Actor’s Express handled it really well. They gave a protester an opportunity to elucidate her feelings on the website. One of the picketers had a sign that said "Child Abuse is not Entertainment," which is a valid discussion. Actor’s Express was fabulous, which I think is very much to the credit of the Atlanta theater community, and was inspirational to me.

Why did you record the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” tribute album?
Listen, I wrote a song about how much I miss “Buffy,” which I put on my website. It was immediately ignored by everyone. A few years later, a high school friend found me on a Google search and put the song on his MySpace page, and it suddenly found a following on all these niche corners of the Internet. I’d been toying with the idea of doing an album of “Buffy” songs but thought, “No, that’s ridiculous.” Then this happened, and I thought, “Maybe I should do it.” The response has been really surprising. People have discovered that the songs are funny but completely sincere about devoted love for Buffy. Recently we did a live show with a huge response from “Buffy” fans.

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