Sunday, March 24, 2019

FEATURE: A "Proper" Curtain Call

Christina Proper
by Shane Strawbridge

I arrive early to the interview location and take a seat facing the window. It is one of those Lubbock days where the wind seems to be blowing a mile a minute full of dust and debris. Outside the window, I can see the white flower-covered limbs of a tree whipping violently in the wind, threatening to break at any moment. Walking through that same wind comes actor and Texas Tech student Christina Proper, though she shows no signs of bending to the will of the fierce West Texas winds.

“I think the rock-solid wind image is an accurate interpretation,” Proper laughs when I recount the image I had witnessed. “Everyone has storms in life. I hit mine early, and I feel like I had to grow up earlier than some of my peers. I was a stupid kid. I thought that people were pawns to play with, and I was a rotten kid in high school and probably well into undergrad. I feel that one of the places where I overlap in a Venn diagram with Carnelle is that she is trying to tell her community that she isn’t who she used to be.”

The “Carnelle” Proper speaks of is the lead character in Lubbock Community Theatre’s upcoming production of The Miss Firecracker Contest which runs March 29 – April 14. The play is set in Brookhaven, Mississippi as Proper’s “Carnelle” attempts to repair her sullied reputation as “Miss Hot Tamale” by entering the town’s annual beauty pageant.

“I have had family members in beauty contests before,” says Proper. “They did the traditional debutante, introduction to society thing. I’ve never really been a part of them myself. I find people interpret me as very sweet and sort of unassuming, and I think it’s highly entertaining when people get a glimpse of my underlying crotchety old woman because people don’t expect it. Generally, people are surprised to find out that this initially sweet and generous individual has an attitude and opinions and isn’t afraid to share them despite how terrified she may be.”

While there are some places where Proper feels she lines up with Carnelle, there are areas where she finds the differences to be vast.

“My personal aesthetic is very focused on product; what can I do, what can I make, how can I show you my skill and value. Carnelle is not that. She doesn’t want people to see how smart she is. She doesn’t want people to pay attention to what she’s good at. She wants people to see her beauty and nothing else. It is conflicting for me, but it has created this generosity of character for me that is very interesting.”

Proper is in the final stretch of her time in Lubbock now, as she is set to graduate with her MFA from Texas Tech this May. This June, she is heading to the Prague Quadrennial as the co-developer and performer in a piece called Morning, Noon, Evening, Night, which was developed with Matt Schlief, Kelly Murphey, and Jacob Henry.

Proper (center) during a photo call
for The Miss Firecracker Contest
“After Prague, I’m planning to move to Oklahoma where I’m hoping to try out some of my experimental theatre practices and start a troupe—find a group of people that I can play pretend with and make money at it, that’s the dream.”

Before she goes, however, she will take the stage once more with Lubbock Community Theatre, an activity she encourages everyone to take up.

“It’s better than doing drugs,” she laughs. “There is something so community building about it. Whether you are spending your time as a carpenter, or donating props or scenery, or helping stitch hems, doing hair or makeup, or acting, or whatever, there’s a place for you, there’s room for one more.”

The opportunity to have this hometown curtain call is not something she plans to take lightly.

“This role is a second chance to make a first impression for both me and Carnelle. I’m saying, ‘here’s who I am now, can we try again?’ I feel like any opportunity I have to perform for the community I was born and raised in and to show that I’m not who I was anymore is a gift. It’s something I get to share.”

“Sometimes you just have to be part of something.”

Christina Proper stars in Lubbock Community Theatre’s production of "The Miss Firecracker Contest" from March 29 – April 14. For tickets and more info, visit their website.

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