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OU Theater Faculty Team Up for “Tammy Faye” Production

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A play written and produced by members of Ohio University’s Theater Division has received glowing reviews following its first round of out-of-town productions.

Written by Merri Biechler, Tammy Faye’s Final Audition is based on the tumultuous life of Tammy Faye Bakker (known later in life as Tammy Faye Messner), who was a popular television personality in the 1970s and 1980s.

The two-actor play features Shelley Delaney in the title role alongside fellow OU professor David Haugen. The actors recently wrapped up a series of well-received shows at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival and the Capital Fringe Festival, in Washington, D.C.

“The great thing about Ohio University in general, and I think the Theater department specifically, is that they’ve assembled this faculty and staff of really talented and committed artists,” said Biechler, an adjunct professor of Playwriting. “To be able to meet each other here in Athens—we have this shared experience. It’s like finding your tribe.”

The play is the result of a collaboration of a handful of OU professors—including Biechler and Delaney—who are founding members of the local Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble. Director Dennis Delaney also served as the sound designer, C. David Russell was the costume designer, and Erik Ramsey served as dramaturge. Mitch Ely was responsible for the wigs in the production, which calls for Haugen to play four different characters—all men who were important figures in Tammy Faye’s life.

Shelley Delaney stars in "Tammy Faye's Final Audition." (
Shelley Delaney stars in “Tammy Faye’s Final Audition.” (

So far, arts critics for such outlets as CityBeat and Washington City Paper have praised the show, which Biechler described as “a comedy with dramatic undertones.”

Writing in DC Theatre Scene, Christopher Henley offered the following: “Shelley Delaney is fearless, fearsome, and thoroughly transporting…It’s a performance that impresses an audience while honoring her subject.”

Tammy Faye Bakker and her then husband Jim Bakker worked for the Christian Broadcasting Network, serving as the original hosts of The 700 Club, before eventually suffering a scandal-ridden fall-out that ended with their divorce. Shelley Delaney first knew she wanted to pursue a project about Tammy Faye Bakker after the gospel singer’s interview on Larry King Live only hours before she died in 2007.

Biechler, who received an MFA in Playwriting from OU in 2007, started writing the play about two years ago after Shelley Delaney approached her about the topic. The two are longtime collaborators.

Shelley Delaney and Haugen each have received a College of Fine Arts Scholarly Research Award for the development of Tammy Faye’s Final Audition.

“Part of why I love doing theater is that you kind of never get it ‘right,’” said Shelley Delaney. “There is always more to discover, more to work on.”

The next production of the play is scheduled for the Centenary Stage Company Fringe Festival, in Hackettstown, New Jersey, Nov. 19 to 22.