Photos by Matt Hembree (C’20)
On Friday, November 11, Sewanee alum Ray McAnally (C’01) performed his original one-man show, Size Matters. The autobiographical performance contained countless self-depreciating jokes, fifteen distinct characters, and a thought provoking message. McAnally alternated between telling stories about his own life and the struggles of his nephew Morgan. The play describes how he came love the responsibility of being Morgan’s role model, and his search for his own self confidence in order to help his nephew accept his own size.
McAnally only needed a pair of glasses, a projector, and a chair in the center of the floor in order to perform. He switched between roles as only someone who has been acting professionally for 11 years could. From his ten year old nephew to his wife Whitney to his parents, each character possessed a distinct personality, speech pattern, and body language that made them easily recognizable.
Between his character switches and easy manner in front of a crowd, McAnally effortlessly engaged the crowd. They clapped frequently, laughed at all the right moments, and interacted when applicable. For example, at one point, McAnally sat next to a woman in the crowd in order to show the role of the “sweet heavyset guy” he often books. His humor made the already positive message about body image, preconceptions, and self-appreciation more relatable.
“It’s a topic not usually talked about by men; it’s typically a women’s topic. It wasn’t really about feeling good about your body, it was more about being okay with it if you are. You can make size an important thing, and others certainly will, but it doesn’t really matter,” Ansley Murphy (C’19) states about the purpose of the play and its impact on her.
When asked if being part of the drama program helped her appreciate the play more, Danielle Silfies (C’19) answered, “In an aspect yes, the performance showed how special Sewanee theater is. It also showed the aspect of having worked your way up in the industry.”
Much to the excitement of the crowd, the show ended with a open floor to ask McAnally questions about his life, the performance, or his time at Sewanee.
“I had a version of this [show] when I was a student here. I knew I wanted to do something about my weight in the industry versus my personal life,” he stated when asked when he decided to work on the piece.
One audience member asked about his nephew’s response to the play. McAnally explained that Morgan was still being bullied at school when the script was bought. So naturally, McAnally inquired if he wanted to have his name changed for the performances. Morgan declined and actually, to the family’s amazement, shut down his long-term bully the very next week at school.
Near the end of the session, the questions shifted from his personal life to McAnally’s time at The University of the South. He explained, “Everything I learned here, in and outside of class, prepared me for my career. This liberal arts education has been invaluable. Even if I don’t know how to do something, I know how to research it.”
If Friday’s performance held any indication, the show certainly had a successful run at Sewanee. Most of the audience rose from their seats for a standing ovation after the final scene of the play. McAnally seemed excited to come back to Sewanee, and the campus was more than happy to welcome him home.