AJ Holmes has spent the last few years travelling the world as Elder Cunningham in The Book of Mormon and now, ahead of bringing his heartfelt and hilarious coming of age show, ‘Yeah, But Not Right Now’, to the Edinburgh Fringe, he tells Female First what inspired him to write his show.
‘Yeah, But Not Right Now’ stemmed from a desire to do something completely my own. As an actor, I toured with big-budget commercial musicals for the better part of my 20s. I grew up loving musicals, and I still do, but performing the same show over a thousand times will rattle even the most avid musical theatre nerd. At a certain point, it doesn’t matter whether you’re doing ‘The Book of Mormon’ or ‘Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type’ (yes, really) - after a few years, you’re ready for something new.
I started performing in high school, where there were exponentially more girls auditioning than guys. If you could sing and had a penis (Hi, Female First!) you pretty much had it made. The success was intoxicating, and it seemed to provide me with everything I needed. I had status in the drama department, even some authority amongst my peers, and I garnered buckets of praise from my incredibly supportive parents. Early on, I decided that if I wanted love, acceptance, connection, and importance, performing was the way. Have you ever looked back and wondered why you’re still playing out the decision of a 14-year-old? I have.
These days I get paid to perform for thousands of people. But, 29 years down the road, I swear sometimes it still feels like I’m performing in my living room, trying to make Mom proud. But, try as she might, she can’t be there every single night. And at some point I’ve got to start asking, what makes me proud of myself?
I think writing is a big part of the answer. The trouble is, writing is lonely. After so many years spent making everyone else happy, being alone can be quite difficult! Even now, writing this, I’m desperately looking for a way out. My skin is crawling. I would love nothing more than to check Instagram. I’m suddenly struck by a desire to cook dinner. I never cook dinner. I’ve just remembered several friends I haven’t talked to in a while... I should probably text them. The point is, I’ve always worked in a rehearsal room or onstage—in front of people, with their encouraging eyes and adoring smiles. To sit home alone in front of a blank page is intensely difficult in a way that, honestly, I am still parsing out.
I recognize these are incredibly fortunate problems to have. I think the best use of my show might be as a support group for privileged and infantilized people with no actual problems. Hi, my name is AJ, I’m loved and supported, always have been - now please allow me to explain my crippling anxiety.
I still have a lot of writing left for my show, and I’m clearly looking everywhere for ways to avoid it. Today I am grateful to Female First for helping me procrastinate by writing this article. Am I working on my show? Yeah, but not right now. Right now, I’m writing about writing, which might be close enough.
AJ Holmes performs ‘Yeah, But Not Right Now’, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 1st – 25th August (not 12th). Tickets and more information: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/aj-holmes-yeah-but-not-right-now