By Michael Gioia
13 Oct 2012
Photo by Joan Marcus
SRS: I have been all of those things, but basically, for over 26 years — since I was 19 — I had not had any meat. For a while, I was a complete vegetarian — no fish. For a while, I was a vegan. I think that lasted a year and a half. And, as it got old, I started eating fish…a pescetarian.
What prompted that mental shift at 19 years old, when you decided to stop eating meat?
SRS: Well, that's in the show, so I don't want to reveal that. The actual moment is told in a humorous way, but it was really that enlightenment — those epiphanies that come to people. Growing up in Kansas at the time when I became [a vegetarian], it was kind of tantamount to being a communist. Being a vegetarian, it was literally un-American, un-God. It was like saying you didn't believe in God. It was really a kind of radical, almost militant stance. I didn't feel that way about it at all. It felt like who I always was. I really, truly believe that there is a sea of compassion when you become a vegetarian and a seed of enlightenment that happens — you can empathize with all beings on the planet.
It's so interesting to put that struggle into a cabaret show. Most vegetarians are concerned for all creatures, and to have that desire for meat suddenly manifest itself — that's deep!
SRS: Thank you for saying that. I have chills right now! I can't tell you how difficult… It was a journey to get to this point where I'm like, "I just have to get this out." And, I have to trust that it will connect with people on some level because it was, for me, a very confusing, difficult struggle, and it continues to be… I kept calling it the piece. This is the piece. People ask, "Is it a performance piece?" And, I say, "I don't know what it is. It's a piece of meat. It's the Piece of Meat." I can't categorize it. I just have to do it and let other people categorize it. I don't want to turn people off [by them] thinking it's like a "spiritual journey." It's not really that. How do we live and enjoy this human body and celebrate it and, at the same time, try to live as our higher selves, which goes beyond the body? So yes, it's deep. And, I have guest appearances by the Dalai Lama and Sir Paul McCartney, so other well-known vegetarians make appearances. [Laughs.] We learn from my "relationships with them."
Are you anxious? This is not a role; it's you. You're baring a little bit of your soul for New York City.
SRS: Yeah… What's so great is that Everyday Rapture allowed that. We created the character for Everyday Rapture that I really enjoyed, was really comfortable being on stage and really dug it and lived for it. That actually made me more comfortable being on stage! [Laughs.] Less shy. Even though people don't like that word, it really is a feeling. Part of you feels uncomfortable when you're not inhabiting a character, but that's why I need to do this next level. There's always an amount of skill that goes on in that contract that you have with an audience — I'm up here, you're there, but we're going to connect… I want to minimize that space between the audience and myself. It's still there, but [I want to be] as authentic as I can in sharing with them.