STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Religion and sex education go together like… well, they normally don’t. But for Tony Braithwaite, they did. He taught for 12 years at his alma mater, St. Joe’s Prep, and his religion course for freshmen featured world religion, the Old Testament, and sex ed. It also featured enough humor that he wrote a one-man show about it. He’s performing “Didn’t Your Father Have This Talk with You?” in a limited engagement at the Montgomery Theater.
The show includes storytelling, stand-up comedy, personal testimonies, one-liners, improvisation, audience interaction, even rap music. It was one of the best-selling shows at Act II Playhouse in Ambler, where Braithwaite is artistic director.
“It’s super accessible. Anyone who’s ever sat in a classroom anywhere can relate,” he said in an email exchange. “The show has a very ‘Kids Say the Darndest Things’ quality to it.”
Who knew back in the day that teaching could lead to a comedic performance? Braithwaite, who has been a performer most of his life, made a mental note whenever something funny happened in class.
“While I was teaching, something off the beaten path would happen in the classroom and I would say to myself, ‘oh, boy, I need to put this in a show someday,’” he said.
Once, Braithwaite asked a student to define the fallopian tubes and he said, “I dunno, a ride at Great Adventure?”
He’s happy to share it with Montgomery Theater’s audiences, too.
“Tom Quinn, who runs Montgomery Theater, is a dear friend of mine. He’s also the nicest man in show business, bar none,” Braithwaite said. “We’ve worked together a lot. I’ve directed at Montgomery. He’s directed at Act II. I’ve been in many shows at Montgomery over the years. Tom’s audience always feels similar to Act II’s audience for me, in the best of ways, and I thought this show might be a good fit. Luckily, Tom agreed.”
Being in a one-man show has pros and cons.
“I actually did stand-up comedy before I was ever in plays, so for me, one-man shows have a very familiar feel,” he said. “To be sure, there is more freedom than when you’re sharing the stage, but also more fear, more responsibility, all that stuff. But I find that if it all goes well the rewards are greater, too.”
Laughter from the audience is the greatest reward, of course. Braithwaite has tried to capture that sound most of his life.
“I come from a family where laughter, being funny, and telling a good story were not only prized, but practically demanded,” he said. “It all feels like the natural extension of my family code, truly.”
People who see the show should expect to look back on their own youth, but also just spend a lot of time laughing.
“There’s usually a big laugh when I say, ‘I taught Religion and Sexual Education, aka Surf and Turf,’” Braithwaite said.
And the title begs the question: did Braithwaite’s father have “the talk” with him?
“Dad never really did have the talk, which I discuss in the show,” he said, “and my dad has a bunch of voiceover cameos.”
Luckily, Braithwaite managed to get the facts in other ways. He then imparted his wisdom to 14-year-olds on a daily basis for more than a decade. Who would have thought they in turn would reward him by being unintentionally funny and endearing, the results of which are on display in the show?
IF YOU GO
What: “Didn’t Your Father Have This Talk with You?”
When: Now through August 2
Where: Montgomery Theater, 124 Main St., Souderton, PA 18964
Info.: Call 215-723-9984 or visit http://www.montgomerytheater.org/