Tori Lynn Palazola
Tori Lynn Palazola, who plays Mona Stangly in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which will appear at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts Jan. 28-30, has performed on Broadway, the Grand Ole Opry and on the big screen. In fact, it seems she goes back and forth between singing and theater acting. She’s even written and directed her own one-woman show, Tori Stories, which she performs around the country. The RN&R caught up with her by telephone in a Ramada Inn in Olympia, Wash. For tickets or information about the performance, call (877) 639-3728, or show up at the Pioneer’s box office.
How many shows on this tour?
Thirty-eight states, so a lot more cities than that.
Thirty-eight states? How long have you been on the road?
We’ve been on the road a couple of months. We had a break over the holidays, and now we’re back on for the next two months. It’s about a 16-week tour.
What are the tough parts about traveling?
I’ll tell you. Nothing is nearly as tough as I thought it was going to be. When I looked at the schedule when I first got the job, I thought, “Wow, this is going to be really rough.” There’s a lot of one-nighters, there are days when we travel 200-300 miles, sometimes more than that, and then do a show that night. That’s the toughest thing. For the most part, I just so love being on the bus—which was unexpected. We watch movies, and I’m so crazy about the whole group, the cast, the crew. It’s just like a constant slumber party. I know that sounds incredibly goofy, corny, but that’s really the way it is. It’s just being around your favorite people all the time.
What else do you do besides watch movies? Play video games?
I don’t. Other people do. Every once in awhile you’ll hear, “Who sank my battleship?” or “Connect four.” I have my little philosophy books. One book is called, Kokology: The Game of Self-Discovery, and the little If… book, (Questions for the Game of Life). We do a lot of those, which asks a lot of questions about “Who living or dead would you have dinner with?” a lot of things like that that’s just fun for killing time. Of course, we have a lot of quiet time when everybody’s reading. A lot of us have a personal DVD player, so we can watch movies or things like that. It’s a vacation from your life in a way. You don’t have to make up your bed, and you don’t have to clean the kitchen and wash the dishes. It’s also real nice to go home. It’s camp in a way. I’m 34, so it’s really, really fun for me to feel like I’m going back to camp.
Why do you suppose a play about a whorehouse has captured the popular imagination the way it has?
I think because really it’s not about a whorehouse. It’s extremely topical. It was the first sort of Hard Copy in the way of the TV evangelist who was exposing these things. It starts out in the show with him saying, “They’re not putting as many nuts as they say in this candy bar.” That’s one of his things. The next thing is he picks this whorehouse, which is fantastic for him—what a scandal. I think it’s really about a town divided. I think it’s about hypocrisy and politics. The whorehouse survived in this town in Texas for 150 years.
I’m in Reno; we’re kind of familiar with the concept around here.
Right. It went about its way without causing any riffs at all. Matter of fact, that sheriff, at that time, was awarded an award for solving every crime that crossed his desk. That was due in great part to him being at the whorehouse frequently. … Really, at the core of it, it’s a love story between Mona and Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd. These two people who so deeply cared for each other and love each other and just can’t make it happen. I think almost everybody has somebody in their lives that they think, "Oh, why didn’t that work?"