Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spotlight On...Billy Hipkins

Name: Billy Hipkins

Hometown: Verona, NJ

Education: Yes, thank you.

Select Credits: Broadway: Anna Karenina, the Musical… the Musical.  Toured the USA as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, had compelling lines on every soap opera that began with a vowel (there were 4).

Why theater?: Why air?  This is a hard one, I’ve just always, always wanted to be in a theatre, either onstage, backstage, or out in the house. Always.
Who do you play in The Truing?: I play the Lady Ginger Chicken (but everyone calls her Chickie because even though she’s classy she likes to remain accessible to her fans), a drag queen in chicken drag.  She is a celebrity on these annual aids rides and is based on an actual individual who did the rides, called the Chicken Lady.  She is living with AIDS but has a very positive (pun intended) attitude and is both a mother hen and cheerleader with a strong sense of humor on this journey.

Tell us about The Truing: Joe Norton has written a beautiful play about six individuals – both riders and support staff – on an AIDS fundraising ride who for various reasons have been stranded at the first night’s camp after everyone has begun the second day’s ride.  They need to work together to figure out how to get help and on to the next camp.  The script is full of metaphors; the ride itself can be life, life with AIDS.  We are mid-journey in this epidemic; these characters need each other to get through this.  Our director, Doug Hall is helping us to pinpoint where our loyalties shift, who needs immediate help as the action plays out, how we bond and form a team to get help and help each other.  We all just want to get on with the ride; injured, in need of assistance, just tired of the long road ahead, we all just want to get on with the ride. 
What is it like being a part of The Truing?: Well for me this is a real treat.  I haven’t pursued acting work on a long time (I’m the happiest wardrobe worker on Broadway these days – Go Local 764!) and so being part of a cast again, discovering and developing these scenes together with Doug and Joe is a great adventure.  And we are having a good time together, the whole team – our producer Liz English, our stage managers Jenny Waletezky and Rachel Gass, some very dedicated designers – are totally onboard for this ride.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I have always admired artists who do it their way.  Charles Ludlam, Charles Busch, (There’s a drag theme there too, hmmm…) they found ways to write for themselves, to present the kind of work that they want to be part of within a system that doesn’t always support – or rather fund – not so mainstream work.  Theatre that speaks to me embraces theatricality in some way, whether that be outrageous and over the top or very simple and subtle.  Theatre is a unique art form, live, changing with every performance.  There is something so vital in that and it has always thrilled me to see it or be part of it.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Yes.  Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors.  And Pan the Forest God.  Don’t know in what piece but I want to play him.  Maybe a musical.  Maybe I should write that.

What’s your favorite show tune?:
Ellen Greene’s version of "Pirate Jenny" from Three Penny Opera is my favorite show tune recording.  But when I’m trying to maneuver through midtown tourists I’ve discovered that it’s easier if I keep "Belle" from Beauty and the Beast playing in my head.  “There goes the baker with his tray like always…”

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?:
Hmm…Dame Maggie Smith.  I have a feeling we’d get on famously.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Only I play me, got it?  We’ll just shoot the flashbacks through thick gauze.  And we’ll call it “Alsoran”.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I just saw the revival of Pageant and loved it.  The original is to this day one of my favorite theatre experiences and Matt Lenz has done a brilliant job directing this new version.  And if you can get a ticket, The Book of Mormon is holding up quite well.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?:  That changes weekly.  Usually something fun and uplifting to get me out the door and onto an elliptical machine at the gym.  Robyn is my favorite – especially “Dream On” – but right now it’s Michelle Williams’ “Say Yes”.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?:
When someone’s wig falls off onstage.  It doesn’t happen often (Go Local 798!) but when it does, we all live for that stuff.

What’s up next?: I’m glad you asked.  I am also a soloist with a one-man show titled For the BENEFIT of Miss JENNIE GOURLAY about an actress who was at Ford’s Theatre the night President Lincoln was assassinated.  She was scheduled to star in a benefit on the following night, a benefit that was obviously cancelled.  So what became of her and her career?  This is my story about finding her and my overwhelming need to tell our stories, the also-ran story.  We don’t all get to be the star, guns go off in all of our lives and our dreams get shifted.  So how did Jennie, how have I, how do we all soldier on?  The show is a mutli-award winner I’m happy to report and I will be presenting it as an encore in the 5th annual United Solo Theatre Festival this fall.  Please check out our website and thanks for reading!  www.ForJenniesBenefit.com

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