In Fresno State’s ‘Fat Pig,’ playwright Neil LaBute weighs in on body image

Editor’s note: The author is a Fresno State MCJ (Media, Communications and Journalism) major. He wrote this story in Donald Munro’s media-writing course.

By Jermaine Abraham

We have all been there.

“Ew, you’re so fat!”

“You cow!”

“Gosh, you’re disgusting.”

Many of us have heard these horrific slurs targeted toward our closest friends, our partners or even ourselves. But where do we draw the line? When do we speak up and say that is not right? When do we say enough is enough?


University Theatre at Fresno State is bringing the issue of fat-shaming to light with its new production of “Fat Pig.”

Pictured above: Arium Andrews, left, and Jimmy Haynie play a romantic couple in ‘Fat Pig.’ Photo: University Theatre

The show, directed by Brad Myers, will run throughout Nov. 1-9  in the Dennis & Cheryl Woods Theatre.

Written by Neil LaBute, the play tells the story of Tom (Jimmy Haynie), who falls heavily for the rather heavy Helen (Arium Andrews). After his relationship constantly gets made fun of by his peers (Andrew Mickelson and Hannah Berry), Tom is forced to come to terms that his love for Helen does not match up with his own preconceptions of physical beauty.

Will he bow to social pressure and end his relationship with Helen? Or will he have the courage to stand up and defend the woman he loves?

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In an interview, Andrews was very vocal about her love for LaBute’s work.

“Neil LaBute has a very profound way of saying things that people don’t really want to hear,” she said. “He states facts. That just makes me love him more as a playwright.” The 23-year-old is currently in her senior year as a theatre arts major and is full of optimism for her upcoming role as Helen in the play. “I feel like Helen is my spirit animal,” she said, her eyes lighting up.

“Fat Pig” talks about society’s unrealistic standards of beauty and how people can be cruel to one another over something as transparent as one’s weight. Since the play’s debut in 2004, these discussions are still very much prevalent.

“This play was written so long ago and yet, people are still talking about it,” Andrews said. “It is ridiculous! I have faced slurs like that all my life and I understand where it stems from. But I just want people to watch this and understand it from the perspective of Helen. Will it get people on campus talking? Yes! Will it change anything? I really, really hope so.”

Fresno State University Theatre

Jimmy Haynie, left, and Andrew Mickelson in ‘Fat Pig.’

LaBute’s play critiques Hollywood ideals of beauty and questions our own ability to change what we dislike about ourselves.

“Neil LaBute doesn’t write plays which portray the world as he wishes it could be,” Myers said in a press release. “Rather, he writes plays which depict the world as he believes it is.”

Some people might assume that touching on such a sensitive topic with young adults can be detrimental toward their perceptions of body image. Mickelson, who is appearing in his first Fresno State play, begs to differ.

“Look, it is a very intimate play. Very, very intimate. And it really takes a mature mind to fully grasp the importance of bringing these issues up. But I believe that all of us at Fresno State are ready for these discussions. I mean, it’s 2019! If not now, then when?” said an emotional Mickelson.

He added that it is important to come to the play with an open mind. “You never know,” he said. “That’s all I’ve got to say. You never know.”

Show info

‘Fat Pig,’ a Fresno State production, Woods Theatre. Opens 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1. Continues through Nov. 9. Tickets are $17 adults, $15 for Fresno State faculty, staff, alumni and military, $10 students.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

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