I was honored to sit down for an interview with the talented and funny Morgan Gould. Morgan is the playwright for Nicole Clark is Having a Baby (NCHB), debuting here in Louisville for the 44th Humana Festival at Actors Theater March 6 – April 12! I am especially interested in this play because of the unique and relatable story line to my body positive mission! NCHB is a deeply felt, unapologetic comedy about mothers, daughters, and the trauma of fatphobia. BKPSWE was invited to become a transformative community partner with this play and work to help Louisville fully absorb it. Let’s get to it!*
Danée: First, Tell me a little about yourself.
Morgan: I’m originally from Massachusetts but I’ve lived in New York since 2004 to attend acting school, which I was very bad at. I loved theater, but I thought I just wasn’t as good as everyone else. I knew I was in the right field but I just wasn’t cut out for acting! [Laughter] I switched to directing and felt like, yes, this was my calling. In 2012 after becoming frustrated with the industry I decided to start my own theater company called Morgan Gould and Friends. I realized after starting my own company that I was also a playwright! I ended up attending grad school at Brooklyn College and after that I applied to Julliard because I wanted to write for TV. NCHB was the final play that I wrote at Julliard. I have directed with Actors Theater and have been integrated with their literary department for a while now. We have been kind of banging on the door here to get in because it’s such a special festival (Humana Festival). I thought what better place to debut NCHB than Kentucky and I love Louisville so much. The first person to ever read the role of Helen was Marsha Norman who is from Kentucky!
Danée: You wrote NCHB which will be in production at Actors Theater this March. This play is centered around fatphobia and size acceptance between a mother and daughter. Do you tend to lean towards this same rhetoric in other stories you have written or was this a first for you?
Morgan: Yes, I tend to. Some of my plays are even more ‘fat forward’ than this one. I tend to write for specific actors and Nicole Spiezio, who plays Nicole in the play, is amazing! I basically wrote the role just for her.
Danée: As a body positive/size equality advocate myself I can really relate personally to Nicole’s struggle to be accepted regardless of my size. How much of this play resonates with you personally?
Morgan: All of it. There is a monologue in the middle where Nicole really tells Helen, Nicole’s mother, the truth about how she feels after she has bottled it in for so many years. That conversation between me and my own mother was where the story for NCHB began. In my personal life I feel like I’ve had to work so hard at making sure people know that I am happy and I have the best life! I have more friends than I could ever imagine. I also think that some people don’t want to see fat women be happy. Perhaps the fact that they have spent their whole lives striving to be thin for no reason pisses them off! [Laughter]
Danée: Even though she can be very funny, Helen seems to suck the air out of the room with her incessant criticism. Helen’s character could be viewed as part of the generational gap where back in the 80’s body positivity or any type of fat acceptance just didn’t exist. Would you agree and can you comment further on that?
Morgan: Yes. I mean times have changed so much. As a teenager fat people weren’t really catered to and it wasn’t marketed like it is today. It was about hiding yourself and wearing black if you were fat. I feel like today parents are critical to toughen their kids up for the future. If kids are fat, or even gay, their lives are going to be so much harder, unfortunately. But parents don’t need to be the ones to make their kids lives harder. Their lives are going to be harder anyway. It’s actually doing more harm than good. Baby boomer parents seem to think that they can control and course correct their kids. That is portrayed in this play. I hope that parents who see NCHB would learn to not be so critical when it comes to weight and food. I also think that because food is so centralized in our culture that it’s hard to even know how to talk to your kid about food in the correct way.
Danée: Do you feel that this country is on the right path towards weight and body neutrality and/or do you feel that it is still a constant struggle to feel accepted, worthy and equal for a fat person?
Morgan: It depends on what day you ask me. [Laughter] Some days I feel like yes, we are definitely on the right path. Other days I definitely don’t. I also live in New York and people there are not as fat friendly as people in the South are. There are obviously a lot more options for fat people now but it also seems to come from a very capitalistic place; like the country is finally realizing that fat people are consumers too and that there is a market. So both yes and no to your question. I also think it’s amazing that we are having this type of interview whereas 10 years ago this probably wouldn’t go in this direction and I don’t think anyone would’ve even cared about this play.
Danée: Do you think this play will be relatable to the average audience 10 years from now?
Morgan: Oh my God, I hope not, I really hope they will say ‘ What a dated piece of trash’. [Laughter] I would love it if people were like, ‘What was she thinking?’. I genuinely hope it is so archaic, like ‘Who’s mom would ever talk to their daughter like that?’ Today everyone is like, ‘Helen is just like my mom!’ I am so excited that my play is universal but it’s still sad that this type of relationship between a parent and a child exists so commonly.
Danée: Our culture sometimes causes me as a plus size woman to carry a sort of hard shell exterior. I felt that personally toward the end of the script with Nicole and Amy. Do you think that our naturally thin friends and family really understand how everyday life can be a little cruel in a larger body?
Morgan: I wish they knew more. I think the more vocal we are about it the more they know. I think that people that love us will believe us and then maybe they will change a little. Over the years I have gotten more vocal about it and I have definitely seen a shift, especially with my friends. If we don’t share with loved ones then they will never know how to change around the fact.
Danée: Nicole’s character is someone who is over 300 pounds. Amy, her friend, is someone who is thin. Helen seems to be overly approving and accepting of Amy. So much so that Nicole can’t even celebrate her own personal achievement without Helen reverting the topic of conversation to Amy, purposely making Nicole feel unimportant. What dynamic are you trying to portray to the audience here between these three women?
Morgan: That we still value thin women more and that no achievement is ever as good as the achievement of thinness. I have to place myself with that, I have so many achievements but I am not thin. I have to remind myself that thinness is not the only value or even of importance. We are always told that in so many different ways throughout our lives. Also this goes back to the generational gap. Back then personal achievements were not as important to women. Being a good wife, mother and staying thin was high on the list. There is also a bit of jealousy involved here too, I think.
Danée: Robert, Nicole’s fiance, really thinks that Nicole is beautiful. But Nicole is fed up with her appearance always being the most important thing about her. Do you think this sort of verbiage is common? (The “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful” comment?)
Morgan: Oh my God, this week I heard that. I know I’m really pretty but shut the hell up! [Laughter] Yeah, I think that language portrays how people really feel about fatness. Of course, the idea is that if you’re fat, you’re ugly. There is the part in the play where Nicole says she is the only fat one left in the house and Amy is like “Oh no, don’t say that about yourself!” Like how do you not notice that I am fat? You are obviously uncomfortable with me being fat if you want me to think that you think I’m not fat. Because I AM fat and I’m ok with it! [Laughter]
You can find an entire list of Morgan’s accolades here. I really hope this interview makes you excited to see this play in March! BKPSWE will also be involved in a post play community discussion on March 12th! Thank you to Morgan Gould for this amazing, body positive interview!! Get your tickets to Nicole Clark is Having a Baby today!
*This interview was cut and edited for space constraints.