Sister Myotis, whose views on thongs and "good Christian panties" are a Memphis theatrical hit and a YouTube sensation, is headed for New York.
The portly founder and president of "the Honeybee's Ladies Auxiliary at the 80,000-member Good Tidings Apostolic Holiness Christian Fellowship of Saints" aims to plant a sleeper cell of like-minded Southern ladies in the Big Apple. As usual, she'll be joined onstage with Voices of the South partners Velma Needlemeyer (Todd Berry) and Ima Lone (Jenny Odle Madden) under the direction of Jerre Dye in a 22-performance run of Sister Myotis's Bible Camp, which opens June 11th and closes on the Fourth of July.
Sister Myotis' four-minute bit on thongs, in which she passes out "Democrat panties with a godly cotton panel" to thong-wearers in the audience, has been viewed 2,531,000 times on YouTube since it was posted in 2008. Watch it. It's hilarious. Amen.
There's just one problem. "She" is Memphian Steve Swift, a 40-year-old actor working to make ends meet at the Memphis museums system. Needless to say, he does not have the backing of a mega-church. Voices of the South is a shoestring operation, much like the 59-seat off-Broadway Abingdon Theater where the play will run.
Sister Myotis and her friends need a little help. That's where you come in. Memphis is on a nice little creative roll these days, with Memphis: The Musical playing on Broadway, local restaurants featured on the Food Channel, and indie bars written up in the Travel section of The New York Times last week. Swift & Co. need cash or in-kind donations for travel expenses, living expenses, and lodging in New York. Or, Swift says, "We will take your love and support."
He made a low-key appeal last weekend at First Congregational Church before the performance of J&K's Self-Rising Cabaret featuring Madden and the equally talented Kim Justis. He never went into his Sister Myotis character, even when the crowd said "Amen." Pros don't step on each other's lines or steal the spotlight.
If Swift had a penny for every time the thong video has been watched he'd have more than $25,000, which would make this appeal unnecessary. Of course, that's not how "the Interweb," as Sister Myotis calls it, works. All he's gotten from YouTube, which is owned by Google, which is worth a zillion dollars, is a message full of legal boilerplate about "monetized video" in which he would basically give away all his rights.
Swift grew up in a Pentecostal family in Jackson, Tennessee. He went to college at the University of Memphis but almost dropped out because he was afraid of a required course in public speaking. Instead he took Oral Interpretation of Literature, where you could read aloud a poem or short story. He found out he could do that well, and he took an acting class and majored in theater. After college, he took a class on gender in performance in London. Sister Myotis — the name is a genus of bats and was chosen for its sound and uniqueness — debuted as a bit part in a Christmas play in 2002.
"I am a difficult look to cast," says Swift, who is trying to lose weight before going to New York. "For years I bemoaned the fact that I did not drop out of school and move to New York or California. But now I realize that this work I have done here I never would have been able to do in New York."
Sister Myotis was an instant hit, but Swift has modified her character and dialect for seven years. She is about "everything that is not important about church" and is often invited to perform at churches. About one-fourth of her audiences think she really is a woman. Swift will sometimes greet elderly female patrons in character after a show and talk about breasts or weight problems.
The thong video ("about the tamest thing we do") is especially big in Georgia and Texas but has been viewed in Guantanamo.
"I had that video for a year or two before posting it," Swift says. "The moment I let go of it it just kind of took off."
If you've ever watched it, thought of mixing ambrosia with a vibrator, or worn Democrat panties, it's time to buck up. Send $1 to Voices of the South, P.O. Box 11222, Memphis, 38111. Hell, send them $5 or $10. A sleeper cell of Honeybees in New York City could be just what this country needs.