Actress Lise “Kat” Evans ’01 doesn’t have to put on her costume to feel like Annie Oakley. The sharpshooter and Wild West Show performer of the late 1800s was “feisty, a take-the-world-by-storm sort of person,” Evans said. “And, like me, she also had a strong moral center.”
Evans was commissioned by Ohio State University to write and perform a one-woman show on Oakley as part of Ohio’s bicentennial celebrations. She continues to perform the show and to appreciate the tension her stage character lived with.
“Performers are under constant scrutiny,” Evans said. “That’s only intensified for Christian performers. In the theater world, I’ve encountered assumptions that I am innocent, prudish, naïve,” Evans said. “But, to many in the Christian community, I’ve been willing to let my world be expanded too far.”
That expansion—of consciousness, of acceptance—is what she experiences and offers when, alone or in a company of actors, she performs on stage.
Last fall, for example, she was part of the cast of The Threepenny Opera (photo, right) with the Hypocrites Theater Company in Chicago—a musical in which she also performed while at Calvin. “The characters make despicable moral choices, but they’re fighting for survival,” Evans said. “We’re asking audiences to reconsider passing moral judgment on people who are starving.”
We present stories about people who do things we might never do,” Evans said. “We try to nudge audiences to think twice about and to consider other people’s lives.”
That was her goal in co-writing and acting in another one-woman show called The History of Stripping, which she performed at the Toronto Fringe Festival in July 2007.
“Stripping is an exploitive industry that I’ve never been comfortable with,” Evans said. “But in our everyday lives we often behave as voyeurs. So in the play I wanted to ask, ‘When do we look at somebody’s body and judge it? What is it about human nature that we want to look at but not engage with the person?’”
When questions like those are acted out in a small space, everybody squirms. That, Evans said, is the power of live theater, a power she wants to direct in the service of truth.
“One of the things we do as artists is to say, ‘No, really, what’s the truth here?’ It’s a truth that’s probably greater than our cultural norms and institutions.”
Her search for truth leads her to accept a wide variety of roles from the more recognizable Princess Jasmine in Emerald City Theatre Company’s production of Disney’s Aladdin to a more serious role of a high school student examining homosexuality in the Catholic Church.
Playing a sharpshooter, a stripper or a princess, Evans said her approach as an artist is the same. “I’m firmly committed to God’s truth. As my relationship with God has developed, I’ve learned that I don’t need to worry about whether I’m too liberal or too conservative, too naïve or too experienced. What matters is what’s true.”
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