For actress Melissa DuPrey, life is all about integrating opposites. This week, she steps onto two different stages in two very different roles: as a teenager attempting to navigate out of foster care in the Goodman's critically acclaimed world premiere of Rebecca Gilman's "Luna Gale," and as herself, attempting to navigate the worlds of dating, self-acceptance and cultural integration in "Sushi-Frito," a workshop production of her new comedic solo show produced by Mpaact at the Greenhouse Theater.
In "Sushi-Frito," Humboldt Park native DuPrey blends bits from her debut show, "Sexomedy," with storytelling-style stand-up comedy and new material to explore her experiences as a modern young woman with old-school traditions. On the docket: Juggling cultural pressures with professional successes while enduring bad dates and terrible hook-ups in her search to find a real connection. We called her to find out more.
See Melissa on stage:
Go: 6 p.m. Feb. 9 and 16 at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
Tickets: $15. 773-404-7336; mpaact.tix.com
Go: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Feb. 23 at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.
Tickets: $25-$81. 312-443-3800; goodmantheatre.org
The origin of "Sushi-Frito," her show's title: I always wanted to go into business with my dad, who is a chef, and we wanted to blend two different cultures. In the Puerto Rican culture, if you ever go to our carnivals or festivals, you'll see buffet lines of little fried finger foods and that's cuchifrito. So "Sushi-Frito" was my take on wanting to blend the two worlds. I enjoy sushi, but it's also symbolic of the world that I have strived to be successful in—the professional world that we would sometimes see as either privileged, or not a lot of people of color can actually transcend into and be successful in both worlds.
The parts from "Sexomedy": I came up with these 15 minutes of material and it was very close to me. [It] was about masturbating and how I hold that very dear to my heart, and I feel like not enough women want to admit or actually be very honest and forthright about their sensuality and their sexuality and their "in-touch-ness" with their own self. I started just being very bold and upfront with it. If you come at that material with a very clear sense of truth, it's not vulgar and it's something that people actually would like to hear.
Her family's reaction: My mother and my grandmother are fans of "Sexomedy." But the one person who has yet to see it—and probably will never see it—is my father. [Laughs.]
Her dad's reaction: I'll give it to him; he tried. He was there at Joe's on Weed Street on Oct. 3 when I sold out that venue. I had over 350 people see "Sexomedy" alone—just me on stage . And he was there for everybody to pile in, but as soon as I hit the stage, he was like, "All right! I'll go to the bar." And he left the room. He tried to come back in to see if it was safe. and then I said something, and he was just like, "Whoa! There it is! Can't do it." [Laughs.]
On shifting from drama in "Luna Gale" to comedy in "Sushi-Frito": If it had been any other show, I probably would not have booked it at the same time. But the Goodman is just so well-structured and very committed to excellence. We've been very prepared well before our first preview, so I've been able to split the difference and focus a little bit more on this show while I'm working on "Luna Gale." And my role is pretty small; I'm only in two scenes. But also, I'm a regular with Mpaact and they love having the stage open for me to put on new work. So I thought it was a good time and a good opportunity to do it.
On writing about being single when she is newly coupled: "Sushi-Frito" is coming from a real place of truth in dating. My piece that I'm workshopping now [the new material] is called "I'm Still Single," and it's so funny because I'm currently in a relationship and I didn't expect that to happen. I was single for three years, and that's where 'Sexomedy' was born and that's where "I'm Still Single" was going to come out of. I just wanted to explore my horrible dates and these crazy relationships I've already had and ... why I think it's very healthy to be single, because alone does not equal lonely. You're ... investing in yourself so you can become a whole person, and then contribute to another whole person instead of two half-people trying to figure out how they can complete each other. So that's where I wanted to go, but then this beautiful relationship is happening to me right now with another artist and it's affecting the way that I'm writing this story. So, I'm just letting that happen and maybe at the end of the story I'm actually going to talk about what I think real connection is, and if I've found it and what that might be for me.