It’s a Wonderful Wife
- By gentleguide
- On Sat 19 May 2018
Chicago performer Jamie Shriner arrives at the Kum & Go Theatre at the Des Moines Social Club next week with her original one-woman musical Wife Material. She wrote it after eloping in January 2017, and discovering matrimony isn’t so much about the “wife” part, but about the “material” part… and figuring out exactly what you need to be made of to make it all work. Especially when your hubby is an ocean away….
Wife of the Party
Jamie originally met her husband while she was studying in the UK at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. While obtaining her Masters in Musical Theatre, she discovered many ways to explore her creativity. “We did a module in which we had to create our own 30-minute cabaret, and from there I became hooked to that form. My interest then expanded into stand-up and one-person shows. I was very excited by the concept of getting onstage and just being myself.”
“Although I have always been passionate about live theatre, I felt I was struggling to fit into a ‘type’ – which was going to make it difficult for me to find work after college. I was thrilled to learn I could create the work for myself, so even though most musical theatre casting directors won’t give me a glance for another decade, I am still challenging myself creatively and becoming a better artist.”
One of those challenges, however, was in moving back home to northern Indiana and the Chicago area, where there are more people (and more opportunities) for her particular type of work to find an audience. But for now, that also means leaving her husband behind….
“Wife Material began based upon my inner turmoil about being newly married, and not feeling newly married,” says Jamie. “My husband was thousands of miles away, but everyone expected me to be perfect and eternally happy. It was very isolating. I didn’t feel like I could talk about what internal struggle I was going through, so I wrote about it. The emphasis is truly more on the word MATERIAL – on what I as an individual am made of, the events that led to my engagement/marriage, as well as the struggles I faced with being a sex positive and feminist woman, but also desiring romantic love in my life.”
Wife as We Know It
Society has created lots of expectations around married life, what it is supposed to be like, and how people are supposed to act once they become married. But when your husband is half a world away and marriage is still new and supposedly different, Jamie realized it becomes a struggle just to find your place.
“The biggest surprise in married life, then, lay in the fact that it wasn’t all ‘happily ever after’ right away – in many ways, ‘newly married’ Jamie felt just as alone as ‘single’ Jamie, because her husband was an ocean away. The biggest challenge, as I am sure you can imagine, was the distance and lack of physical contact. This challenge shines through the inciting incident of Wife Material – ‘The hardest part about being in a long distance relationship would have to be going months and MONTHS without ever having any sex’ – and from there, the show launches off into an exploration of what it is to be a wife, and even more so what it is to be a woman.”
Those cultural expectations can be brutal at times. “The show examines a society that criticizes teenage ‘bad girls’ for liking sex; and at the same time, hypocritically assumes married women’s sexual needs are perfectly satiated. I moved back into my parents’ house in Northwest Indiana after a year and a half of living in the UK with my fiancée (now husband) Tom. I struggled with the lack of physical contact and came to terms with the reality that while I, as a woman, am sexual, many do not welcome me admitting that I like, let alone LOVE sex.”
Jamie deals with a wide range of behaviors and experiences in her show, through laughter and song, but also she’s not afraid to make certain that sensitive subjects are brought up and dealt with. While audiences should know, as a trigger warning, that sexual assault is discussed within the piece, it’s all part of making sure her presentation is an honest and truthful one. “Wife Material holds up a mirror and forces us to look at how girls are brought up in the US. The audience gets to laugh, but not before they think, and ultimately leave the theatre to DO SOMETHING!”
Is There Wife Out There?
All of this has resulted in a one-woman musical, displaying a variety of talents with writing and performing. Jamie enjoys diving so deeply into a project, and hopes to do many more pieces in the future. “I think the artist community in Chicago has influenced me being a multi-disciplinary artist. It is not uncommon for me to meet people who do improv, visual arts, stand-up, music, and have a full-time job in business or marketing on top of that. I hope to contribute to the awesome community we have by being able to wear many hats. I know I once told an Artistic Director in Scotland that my main goal as an individual is to do ‘shit that matters,’ and that is likely why I have dipped my hand into so many parts.”
“When I debuted my show in Chicago, I was terrified – sharing so much of yourself in your work, it can be hard to separate yourself from the piece if it is not received well. I had many women come up to me in tears, hugging me, thanking me for saying things that they felt themselves but have not been able to express. It was really an amazing and powerful thing. Men enjoy my piece as well, especially if they are feminist, but it definitely affected women in a far deeper way than I could ever have imagined, and I am very happy with that. With tons of shows and movies out there specifically catered towards men, I am thrilled to have written a piece that is unapologetically female.”
“Wife Material was a big step toward stopping apologizing. I think as a woman raised in the Midwest (Indiana born and bred) I used to be constantly worried about how I was perceived. Now I just stand in my own skin and say, this is who I am, take it or leave it. I hope to inspire others to do the same by sharing my experiences with them – some good, some bad. Wife Material is very much me sharing the deepest depths of my heart with the audience.”
Written and performed by Jamie Shriner, Wife Material is presented at the Kum & Go Theatre at the Des Moines Social Club for two performances only, Friday and Saturday May 25 and 26. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door, and can be purchased through the Des Moines Social Club website.