2022 Capital Fringe Preview: ‘Pretty Messy Love’

A one-woman cabaret show about finding true love in the real world.

By Mary Leaphart

Cinderella was rescued when Prince Charming slipped a glass slipper on her foot and Sleeping Beauty was saved by a true love’s kiss. But what does that look like in real life? Pretty Messy Love follows one woman as she seeks to answer the age-old question… does “happily ever after” really exist?

I’ve thought about this question a lot throughout my life. When I was growing up, my parents’ relationship looked like a fairy tale story. My dad treated my mom like a princess, and I learned that every relationship should be the same. So from an early age, I went out into the world looking for my very own Prince Charming. I was met with a great deal of disappointment over the years as I tried to build relationships just like the ones I saw in the fairy tales. I never gave up hope though; my journey continues to this day.

Pretty Messy Love is an opportunity to share the story of my search for true love through the art of cabaret. When you search for cabaret on Google, the first result is for the 1972 film by the same title. However, the art of cabaret is something entirely different. I often describe it as storytelling through song, but even that does not capture the full essence. It is a unique art form in which people use the universal language of music to convey personal experiences and connect with the audience in ways that may be surprising and different and intimate. It is often something that needs to be experienced to be fully understood.

I took my first cabaret class in 2012 at the TheatreLab in Washington, DC. I was involved in community theater most of my life, so I was very comfortable on the stage. However, it wasn’t until I discovered cabaret that I found a place where I could be uniquely and authentically myself during a performance. Some might even say that cabaret became my first true love. I savor the opportunity to break the “fourth wall” that is so commonly employed in theater and rather connect directly with my audience. While the stories I tell are my own personal experiences, I always strive to make connections with every person in attendance by focusing on themes that are all-inclusive and universal.

I performed my first one-woman cabaret show in the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival. The show, Almost Together, explored my life with bipolar disorder. While it was at times difficult to expose some of the more intimate and personal aspects of my mental health, it was also extremely rewarding. So many people remarked that they connected deeply with my story, and it helped them in their own struggles with their mental health.

My hope with Pretty Messy Love is that I will once again have an opportunity to connect deeply with audiences, but this time in a more lighthearted and upbeat fashion. Most people can relate to the story of looking for their own happily ever after. The journey can be hard, it can be funny, sometimes hopeless, and at other times beautiful. Audiences will see all of this reflected in Pretty Messy Love, and I believe most people will find at least one nugget with which they can completely relate.

As I was trying to decide on a story to tell with this show, I reflected on the last few years and the many struggles so many of us around the world have faced together. We have lived through a global pandemic that brought with it much loss, isolation, confusion, and despair. I decided I wanted to put a story out into the world that could be uplifting and serve as a beacon of hope in the midst of some dark times. I look forward to connecting with audiences and laughing together as they join me on my journey.

Of course, I can’t give away the whole story here. You need to come to the show to discover if I find my happily ever after and to learn what happened along the way. But I am confident that people will laugh and enjoy themselves for an hour as they join me on my path to find true love.

Mary Leaphart

Pretty Messy Love is making its premiere at this year’s Capital Fringe Festival, starring Mary Leaphart. The show is directed by Steven Cupo, with musical direction by Jeff Hamlin.

Mary Leaphart is a cabaret artist living in Arlington, Virginia. For her day job, she works with businesses and organizations in the DC Metro area in the field of Learning and Development. She has performed with the DC Cabaret Network, This Is My Brave, and many community theaters in the region. She also recently joined the Advisory Council of a new nonprofit cabaret organization, Capital Cabaret. She is passionate about learning, performing arts, and mental health.

Pretty Messy Love plays five times from July 14 to 24, 2022, at REPRESENTATION – Formerly Washington Sports Club, 3270 M Street NW, Washington, DC. To see the performance schedule and purchase tickets ($15), go online.

COVID Safety: The audience is to remain masked for the show. The mask needs to cover your mouth and nose the whole time. Proof of vaccination and ID are checked before entry.


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