A Delightful Dilemma: Men are from Mars – Women are from Venus, Live!

Event: Men are from Mars – Women are from Venus, Live!

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The differences between men and women are innumerable. The similarities are what are worth noting. There are truths big and small that we all share. “Men are from Mars Women are from Venus, Live! explores the commonalities in relationships with humor and humanity. The FSCJ Broadway Series presents this one-man fusion of theatre and stand-up starring Peter Story June 11th-13th at the Times-Union Center Terry Theatre (www.artistseriesjax.org). The theatrical comedy is based on the New York Times #1 best-selling book by John Gray.

Peter Story Live 2Topics including sex, love, dating, and divorce are all represented in a candid and personal way that relates to many of us. As the star of the one-man show, Story accepts the responsibility to deliver excerpts from the successful book while also incorporating his own anecdotes into the material. “There are certainly messages from the book. So people who have read it will recognize some of the themes, but people who don’t have any contact with the book will have the same great time,” he says. “It’s just going to feel like new information.”

Story discovered a personal connection to the material that makes doing 200 shows seem less like work and more like he is a traveling missionary spreading relationship advice to those in need. There is real practical information woven into the funny stuff. “Information is a funny word to use because this is my job and I hope I’m doing it well. I coat everything with humor. I have a long background in stage and stand-up comedy. I bring all those tools to the shed, so to speak,” he says. “I have taken the script that was built by the playwright and the beautiful thing is the producers and director said ‘make it your own’. but instead of running off in a different direction, I infuse it with my own life and my own stories to drive home some of the more poignant and universal messages from the book.”

Story wasn’t the first choice for the role, but he got a foot in the door as an understudy. When the lead was unable to fulfill his duties, Story stepped into the role of a lifetime. “Professionally, I had done a lot of different types of theatre and television and film, and I really just wanted the challenge of a one-man show. So when the opportunity came, I jumped on it,” he says. “It takes me away from my wife, but that’s also personally part of the fun, too. My wife and I came together in the theatre, and this show is an outlet of that. I share a few stories from home and Megan, my wife, has seen the show many times and she is a performer, she understands the world, so she is patient with me being on the road and using material in the show. If I screw things up, she will quote pieces of the show back at me. She has no fear. It’s been a fun but difficult balance at times.”

Learning to work as the sole cast member in a show has also created a tightrope that Story must navigate night after night. It’s a good night when he is in control of his own environment and the audience responds in kind. The off nights are challenging when his timing is off or the crowd is less than receptive to some of the show’s more adult themes. “There are times when I am on stage having the best time of my life. The audience responds like I am Louis C.K. or one of the big names in comedy, and there is no better feeling in the world,” Story says. “And there are other times that I’m just standing out there going ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’ Everything rests on you. I am so used to doing shows with a cast where there are other people on stage. If you have an off night or you’re not feeling well or you forget what you’re supposed to say, there is a myriad of actors on stage to feed you a line, or carry a little more of the momentum, or help drive the scene. But when I’m on the stage, there is no one else to answer on those dark moments when your brain is not operating at 100 percent.”

The same is true in any relationship. Each partner has to accept their own responsibilities even when it’s hard and respect the feelings and opinions of the other person even when they differ from their own. These situations are all inclusive. They don’t discriminate based on race or gender or age or sexuality. Everyone is an equal shareholder. “It’s a constant reminder to me. When I first took the show on and started to become familiar with the book, I found pieces of my own life from little things here and there that were incredibly helpful. It’s a bunch of little things, but the little things are so helpful in the long run,” Story says. “People that come to my show, whether they are first dating or they have been in a relationship for a long time, there is a spark that happens. They hear these stories that I tell and they nod their head. They know what I’m talking about. I want people to understand that there is a yin and a yang in relationships. And if someone is the Martian regardless if that’s a man or a woman, the partner will almost invariably be a Venusian in the way that they behave or they operate. People nod their heads and say ‘yeah, that’s the way it is. If I’m this way, then my partner is usually that way.’ Understanding those differences between the two, that’s when we start to not take things as personally. We can mend faster and be happier in the relationships that we’re in.”

Story is active on social media and he encourages those who have seen his show to share their experiences. He invites people into his life by sharing pictures of life with Megan and his dog Panda whom he talks about in the show. And he is grateful for the opportunity to learn how the show is helping people reevaluate pieces of their own lives. “People send some of the sweetest messages that you could possibly imagine. I got a message on Facebook from a woman who had seen one of my shows, and she and her husband had been at their wits end. They had a couple of small children, finances were tight, and they had a new move, so everything was different. As a couple, they were really struggling to find happiness. She said the night they came to see the show, it was such a relief to not only hear that other people go through those things, but the amount of laughter that they had was so healing that they went back to the parking lot and fogged up the car,” says Story. “That was really touching to me. That is the recharging of the battery that is drained from the struggles of traveling and being away from Megan. They let me know that what I’m doing is not just entertaining, but I’m out there actually making people’s lives better sometimes and that is extremely valuable.”

About Liza Mitchell