Despite 5 Tony nominations, Cypress playwright won’t give up bartending

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NEW YORK CITY - A new show is taking Broadway by storm this season. "Hand to God" has been called a mix of "Avenue Q," "The Exorcist" and "August Osage County." Playwright Robert Askins says, "It's about Christian puppet ministry and one of the puppets get possessed by the devil." But he adds, "It's about so much more. It's about grief and loss and sex and violence and Jesus."

The self-proclaimed "deeply weird" Askins, who grew up right here in Cypress, was excited to see his play which opened on Broadway in April, receive five Tony nominations. But that wasn't enough to make him give up his day job as a bartender in Brooklyn.

When pressed, he explained the appeal at a Tony nominee reception last month, "There is nothing more calming, soothing, relaxing to the nerves than getting in the bar nine o'clock in the morning, setting everything up, put on some smooth country music, and the regulars come in. You BS with the regulars. You make a little money. You go home. That's healthy. That's healthy work, my friend. I'd advocate it for anybody."

In addition to opening his first show on Broadway in April, Askins' new off-Broadway show called "Permission" opened May 20. It's about a Texas couple who decide to partake in something called Christian Domestic Discipline, where the husband rules the household and the wife can be spanked if she disobeys.

It sounds like Askins might have some issues around religion. The former choirboy and youth minister at St. John Lutheran Church and School in Cypress has called religion a set of "thought tools" that can encourage charity but can also be misused. "There is no church that says what I believe, so there's no church I go to," he explained on New York TV show "Theater Talk." "So I go to the theater, and I write down what I believe and share it with other people."

To read more about this Tony nominee, check out the May issue of Houstonia.