Saturday, March 17, 2018

Drag365: Show #62: SLAY Saturdays at Hardware

Ruby Roo // photo by Michael Block
Day: Saturday, March 3rd               

Show: SLAY Saturdays   

Location: Hardware

Queens Seen: Lagoona Bloo (@lagoonabloonyc), Ruby Roo (@rubyrubyroo)

Lagoona Bloo // photo by Michael Block
Who doesn't like a party? Every Saturday night at Hardware, Lagoona Bloo and Ruby Roo host SLAY Saturdays, a dance party like no other. The room is filled with haze and the beats, from the amazing DJ 2 Face, are pulsating. There's sweat dripping off of bouncing bodies. The dance floor is a home to those ready to let loose and wiggle until their heart's content. Rather than back to back shows, Ruby and Lagoona mingle with the kids and turn the party with pop up shows. There's something about nostalgia that seems to work wonders here at SLAY. Lagoona danced the night away with some Britney Spears and "Fergalicious." Ruby took on a little Panic at the Disco with "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" firmly planting herself on the stage and serving emo pop. You can bet nearly every single person in that room knew the lyrics. Their individual energies are exactly what an event like this needs.
Dancing isn't for everyone. But sometimes you need to blow off some steam. So when dancing is on the menu, look no further than Hardware on a Saturday night. At SLAY Saturdays, you get dancing and a show. What can be better than that?

Block Talk- Episode 45: Robyn Banks

In this episode of Block Talk, I chat with Robyn Banks about everything Jawbreaker, her new album!

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And be sure to leave a 5 star review!

And visit to help boost the podcast!

Drag365: Show #61: Bosom Buddies at The Laurie Beechman Theater

Darienne Lake, Mrs. Kasha Davis // photo by Michael Block
Day: Saturday, March 3rd               

Show: Bosom Buddies   

Location: Laurie Beechman Theater

Queens Seen: Darienne Lake (@dariennelake), Mrs. Kasha Davis (@mrskashadavis)

*Disclaimer: So in case you didn't know, I'm a theater critic. That's my primary job in the biz. As opportunities came, I got to introduce drag and cabaret into my repertoire. I'm excited that I am now able to mix the mediums together where I can bring my typical theatrical criticism into the world of nightlife. For shows that I see at the Beechman, my full review will be the source of criticism but I'll still include the show in Drag365. I will include a pull quote to the review along with the link to the full review.

Bosom Buddies is a feel-good cabaret lead by two seasoned pros. If you strive for that nostalgic sense of performance, Mrs. Kasha Davis and Darienne Lake are certain to deliver. They stay in their wheelhouse for a night you won't want to miss.

To read the full review, click here.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Review: An Ambitious Look at Gun Violence

By Ed Malin

On my block, in Brooklyn, there is a car with the bumper sticker "Gun Control Means Hitting Your Target". The vehicle has Florida plates.  With school shootings and other massacres so often in the news, I have wondered what kind of person would persist in such bumper sticker philosophy, and what I would say to them if we ever met.
Shooter is a play by Sam Graber, directed by Katrin Hilbe.  This non-linear production has been developed by the WorkShop Theater. Its current home at Theater Lab is a stage (designed by Sarah Edkins) decked out in extreme whiteness, with some surfaces covered in silver. Timely as the topic of gun violence may be, I was looking forward to seeing a play which might take on the sometimes complex motivations of a shooter as well as the devastating impact on the community.  It's not an easy play to write. "Shooter" features a disgruntled, white, male, American-born gunman (so we are not bogged down in any other ethnic stereotypes).  Otherwise, I got a little overwhelmed by the details of the story as it was presented near the beginning of the run.  The play is replete with very bright lighting effects (designed by Cheyenne Sykes) and sinister sound effects (designed by Andy Evan Cohen), which are part of an artistic vision that is apparently trying to show us all the pervasive threats in our world.  We may be looking inside Jim's head (he's the one they, and he himself, call "Shooter"), as given to us in a ricochet-type chronology. Here's what I was able to piece together:
As the play opens, a shooting range instructor named Troy (Michael Gnat) tells us a little bit of what we are about to witness.  Troy has a serious moustache and through his quite wonderful performance seems to represent the antiquated nature of certain beliefs about guns. Then, we find out that Jim (Ean Sheehy) is in police custody, that there has been a school shooting, and that his old friend and lawyer, Ben-David (David Perez-Ribada) has rushed in to help.  Jim's other old friend, Alan (CK Allen) also appears on the scene.  In the rush of dialogue, including admonitions to Jim (don't talk to anyone) and to Alan (I told you not to come), plus interludes with seemingly contradictory calls to 9-1-1 and a chorus of offstage actors vocalizing gunshot sounds, it's easy to miss one or two fleeting references to someone named Gavin.  We do meet Gavin (Nicholas-Tyler Corbin), unexpectedly, at the 2/3 point in the play, or just before the act break that would have greatly helped this production, had it been included.  Who is the dark, laconic, teenaged Gavin? The namesake of the play! But let's try to fill in what the production leads us to believe it is about it until we meet its crucial character.
photo by Carol Rosegg
No one likes Jim, including Jim himself. While the friends of his youth have landed respectable careers and have moved to the ostentatious side of the lake, Jim has suffered the indignity of having his wife and daughter walk out on him. Whatever Jim did for work, he isn't doing it anymore.  At some point, Jim shows up at a fancy party for his ex-wife, to which he was not invited, and is ejected after his former buddies remove the gun Jim brought along. Another time, when Jim in contemporary survival camouflage (costumes designed by Cathy Small) accosts Ben-David in a parking lot, he justifiably receives this diss: "I'm telling everybody from here on out, all my colleagues, the entire legal system: THIS GUY NEVER GETS HELP."  CK Allen and David Perez-Ribada as Jim's upwardly-mobile friends deliver very believable performances which help move the play along. Jim may not have a logical reason for shooting lessons, but he does tell it to us in great detail.  Jim knows what it used to mean, in his father's day, to be a man.  Jim wants to be a man, though as we see him in action with Troy, Jim is a terrible shooter. It looks like another sad, ill-advised tale of an ineffectual white dude. And then along came Gavin.
The handful of scenes with Gavin change everything. Suddenly, and going against everything else we have seen in the play, we are asked to believe that Jim is a hero.  Jim, and other licensed gun holders like him, could they be what's preventing bad shooters from making things even worse? I hope this play gives you the chance to examine this issue in greater detail.
Jim's heroic nature (and longing for traditional manhood in general) certainly surprised me. Any time Jim began a monologue, it struck me as rather inarticulate.  One time, he is explaining to Gavin how a modern man needs to be EXTRA-LARGE.  The only thing more awkward than this statement was Gavin's response, apropos of nothing, that he was planning to shoot up a school. Are we to take Jim's insecure musings as the inspiration for Gavin's bloodlust?  Does Jim rescue the school children (including his own daughter) from Gavin's misguided interpretation of Jim's interpretation of his father's manliness? On the other hand, who else in the fictional world of this play is going to help? You can't outrun a bullet, of course, unless you believe the entertainment industry.  Troy teaches marksmanship, and otherwise keeps his distance from consequences. Nice, he muses, is a city in France.  He even seems (wisely or otherwise) to fear that if he knows about any planned shooting, he would be tangentially responsible. Isn't he, though? Why would the world need more pistol-packing vigilantes as opposed to fewer shooting ranges? In this play, a successful urologist who doubts himself tells us that men confess their insecurities to him on the examining table. While the set does sport some fine mirrors, we could all go home and look in our own. That ought to be a good place to start.

Review: Telling His Story and Wanting a Second Chance

By Ed Malin

The East Village Playhouse, the new home of The City Kids Foundation, is an intimate space where you can catch the amazing one-man show A Brooklyn Boy.  Moises Roberto Belizario, former Artistic Director of City Kids, directs Steven Prescod in a story which includes dozens of voices and much vibrant dancing.   Book, Music and Lyrics are by Belisario and Prescod, with inspiration drawn from Prescod's childhood in Brooklyn.
The show includes vocal recordings by Alyson Brown, Clinton "Isaiah" Graves III, Ben Joseph, and Cenophia Mitchell, and additional music by Anjelica Dorman, Terrance James, Ernest Lewis, and Ben Vernon.
At a political rally, Steven asks why people are sitting down instead of protesting in the streets.  To answer this question, we go back in time to Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn in 1990.  A memorable party is happening, and Kathy, the fifteen year-old host, is romanced by the smooth-talking Jamaican, GT (the man with the gold chain).  We see Steven, as both Cathy and GT, dance with himself.  These characters are his parents, and Steven is born soon after.  His father promises he will get ten jobs and stand by his mother (who wonders if he can get one job).  It looks like a beautiful life has begun, but, as Steven tells the story, his father had a temper and soon was incarcerated.  Steven meets his father years later, on a visit to jail, after growing up with his wonderful mother and vivacious Caribbean relatives.
Hip-hop storytelling brings Steven's childhood to life.  For his fifth birthday, Steven gets a party at Chuck E. Cheese's.  However, the big rat is scary, just like the ones on the street.  For his sixth birthday, he gets a bike, which is a great joy to ride with training wheels.  His mother takes the training wheels off, and although Steven isn't ready, he takes a risk in order to learn.  This touching scene is backed by the song "Mama Don't Let Me Go".
As Steven grows older, he can bike around with new friends, some of whom are getting into trouble.  Steven doesn't want to "jux" unsuspecting people on the street, but if he doesn't, he fears the neighborhood will think he's a punk.  The story goes back and forth between some dangerous incidents (a gang fight in a bodega, his friend Kwame getting shot and ending up in a coma) and Steven's court date.  He is given a choice between 5 years probation and 7 years upstate.  The catch is, he has to explain to his mother, in court, what he did.  We see more reasons why Steven is thankful to be alive.  As he grows older, he sees grown men fighting his young friends, and a drunk white guy who menaces him (an opportunity to think about Jim Crow). Ultimately, his friends are happy to see him interning with an arts workshop (City Kids), which they refer to as that "Sammy Davis Jr. program"  No one should have to live in a world where cops expect to be thanked for not shooting you.  As the performance ends, Steven tells how he anonymously turned in to the police a gun which his friend left with him. Guided by religious role models (accompanied by the song "Receive My Praise"), Steven seeks to take himself out of the cycle of violence.
The energy in The East Village Playhouse is powerful indeed.  I didn't mind the tight seating arrangements, not when amazing dancing was happening right in front of my eyes.  Moises Roberto Belizario told the audience the story of this piece.  Not only did the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge enjoy an excerpt they saw a few years ago, the show has grown and will tour to Los Angeles and beyond.  In accordance with the mission of City Kids, I will post that young people are encouraged to see this show.  I have a few young New Yorkers I am telling about this fine production.
Steven Prescod's ability to sing, dance and play upwards of 30 roles for an hour is a joy to behold.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Review: Buddies Beware

By Michael Block 

They'll always be Bosom Buddies. The pride of Rochester is alive on stage as RuPaul's Drag Race stars Darienne Lake and Mrs. Kasha Davis pair up for a hilarious evening at the Laurie Beechman Theatre.
photo by Michael Block
Making their way downstate to NYC, Darienne Lake and Mrs. Kasha Davis bring hilarity through song and tale in their newest duo show. Like Laurel and Hardy or Coke and Bacardi, this is a pair that just works. When it comes to comedy setup, Mrs. Kasha Davis tends to take on the "straight man" in the duo while Darienne is the slightly dumb and goofy one which allows her to get her jabs in at every chance. As we learn, their friendship plays a major factor in their ability to riff off of one another and ensure hilarity from top to bottom. With the obvious choice of the title song, the music selection stayed true to the showtune songbook. And these were all ditties that lived in their wheelhouse.  With Mrs. Kasha Davis taking on the emcee more so, Darienne got to showcase that sharp tongue we are used to seeing on that little show called Drag Race. If it felt familiar, this just happens to be her real life edit. Who doesn't love vicious insults from time to time? Rather than a specific story structure to guide the evening, Bosom Buddies tends to rely on a short anecdote that may have something to do with the song it leads into. With a cabaret like this, the lack of a concrete structure is fine as they were able to make the night flow. To prove their duo status, Kasha and Darienne were decked out in matching outfits, designed by Delta Work's husband! Looking like leftover material from "The Golden Girls" wallpaper, they played into the women of a certain age motif.
Bosom Buddies is a feel-good cabaret lead by two seasoned pros. If you strive for that nostalgic sense of performance, Mrs. Kasha Davis and Darienne Lake are certain to deliver. They stay in their wheelhouse for a night you won't want to miss.

Review: Love and War, with Never Before Seen Photos

By Ed Malin

Time Stands Still, the 2009 play by Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Margulies, is being given a thoughtful revival by Ego Actus and Lung Tree Productions at Theater for the New City. Joan Kane directs this story of a photographer and a journalist, a couple who find their thrills in keeping the greater public aware of the plight of people living in war zones in the Middle East and Africa.  In a year where "The Last Men of Aleppo"-a documentary about brave Syrian volunteers who rescue their compatriots from bombed buildings-was nominated for an Academy Award, this touching play is still relevant and raises all sorts of questions about people's abilities to connect.  In any case, whether or not you work in a high-risk area, you may leave the theater asking yourself "is love war?" 10% of ticket sales will be donated to Physicians for Human Rights.
As our story opens on a spacious New York apartment, James (Timothy Weinert) is helping the injured Sarah (Maggie Alexander) up a flight of stairs and safely back into their home.  We see a sweeping view of the Williamsburg Bridge; our story takes place in the formerly outrĂ© waterfront area of Brooklyn.  James and Sarah, however, seem to spend most of their time on assignment overseas. After college, James walked away from a stable future and went to Somalia as a reporter.  He met Sarah in East Jerusalem and the pair have since had many adventures together.   In between scenes, photos of Syria by Simon S. Safieh are projected on the walls. Right now, Sarah still has bruises on her face (makeup excellently applied by and a knee brace and crutches to remind her of her last near-death experience in Mosul. Many of these details about Sarah and James are only disclosed as part of conversations with their publisher friend Richard (Malcolm Stephenson) and his new "mid-life crisis" girlfriend Mandy (Connie Castanzo), who visit the couple to welcome them back and help publish their findings.
You might expect Sarah to have a short fuse, and that side surely comes out when she speaks with Mandy, who has not seen much of the world and seems sincerely in love with Richard after four months together. Richard, who once dated intelligent women his own age (even Sarah dated him 20 years ago, as we later discover) admits to a great sense of relief at his current, simpler love. With his last ex, everything had to be discussed; choosing a place for dinner "was like arbitration." We might be asking ourselves if shallow love can be true love.  But then we hear of Sarah's translator ("fixer") during her assignment in Iraq. This man, Tariq, was gentle, barely spoke English according to James (Sarah says he taught himself English by reading Hemingway over and over again) and yet inspired trust and more.
While James writes a subtle book on the meaning of horror films (observe the Red Scare themes in the 1950s "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"), Sarah drifts away from the relationship. They have dated for eight years but never married. Mandy, who is having Richard's baby, inspired James to propose to Sarah.  James didn't have any rights regarding Sarah's hospital care, and is ready for matrimony and fatherhood. Sadly, the publishing world is not ready for the couple's work.  James feels that he risks his life to show the peaceful public what is really going on.  Mandy counters that we should all try to see the joy in life, otherwise what's the point?
There are many ways to have a relationship.  Sarah has always been an adrenaline-fueled adventure seeker.  Why should James, a vital, muscular young guy, suddenly want to settle down and lose all the freedom he has always had?  How did James figure out that Sarah and Tariq (who was blown up by a roadside bomb) were more than friends?  We are referred to the classic film "Days of Wine and Roses", a story about two amorous alcoholics and what transpires when one drunk wants to try a sober lifestyle.
This play is more than a play.  It speaks of films and ideas and asks why people want to have certain jobs and read (or don't read the news).   As the truth is slowly revealed, we see characters struggling to hold in more information than they care to share. All of this is a triumph for director Joan Kane.  Since the action covers several months and the characters rarely leave Marc Marcante's spacious set, we rely on Bruce A! Kraemer's lighting to cover up some things, reveal other things, and keep us moving forward in time.  For a play called "Time Stands Still", that is quite tricky.  Sarah can't get over the deceased Tariq.  It seems that the more time passes, the more humane and enobled Tariq seems.  Maggie Alexander as Sarah does an exquisite job of showing us what's it's like for a real mover to have to sit still and heal her wounds.   Tim Weinert as James has been on the go since Sarah was injured, and shows us the agony of his own inertia.  The perkiness of Connie Costanzo as Mandy and the grandfatherly joy of Malcolm Stephenson as Richard must be seen to be believed.  The theater is a great place to examine the comic side of the generation gap, especially in relationships.  Cat Fisher's costumes are the perfect way to feel at home, even if you're not sure what that is.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Block Talk: Episode 44- Gloria Swansong

In the latest episode of Block Talk, I welcome the incomparable Gloria Swansong to talk about her newest show, Waiting for Garland!

To listen to the podcast, visit iTunes or SoundClound! And subscribe today!

And visit to become a patron today!

Spotlight On...Kal Mansoor

Name: Kal Mansoor

Hometown: Maidenhead, England

Education: BA French Language and European Politics from Royal Holloway University of London + Evening courses at the Actor's Centre in London and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

Favorite Credits: Nickelodeon's iCarly

Why theater?:  There is no greater buzz or satisfaction than performing in front of a live audience, plus most of my tv and film auditions are for terrorists and cab drivers but in theater, I have access to a much wider variety of work.

Tell us about A Brief History of Colonization?:  It's a one-man comedy show about the colonial history of India.

What inspired you to write A Brief History of Colonization?:  It started as a 5 minute stand-up comedy routine where I talk about my life as a British-Indian actor. Then I did nothing with it for months, and went through a phase of being very angry and bitter about the whitewashing of history in Hollywood and I felt so powerless. Then I realized I wasn't...

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: All theater. I have so much respect for stage performers who are brave enough to step in front of a group of strangers and perform. I'll watch pretty much anything, but obviously I gravitate more towards stories that are similar to my own, about immigrant life and struggles.  Two of my biggest inspirations are John Leguizamo and Eddie Izzard. They've both created their own careers and succeeded purely through hard work and determinations, without wealthy families, connections or luck. They pushed the boundaries at times when they weren't really accepted in their fields. They educate and entertain their audiences which is what I hope to one day do.

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?: Too many to name, but a few are: Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay, Stephen Daldry, Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Keye.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: The last one was probably The Play That Goes Wrong. It was hilarious, one of the funniest shows I've ever seen. The timing and technical ability of those performers was obscenely good.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Knowing Hollywood, probably Jared Leto or someone like that. If I were to cast it? Riz Ahmed. He's one of the best in the business and one of the most important figures of my generation.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I think I would watch Hamilton when it was at the Public Theater. I enter the lottery every day but I don't know if I'll ever get the chance to see it. 

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?:  Popeyes. No question.

If you weren't working in theater, you would be _____?: I would be a vet. Working with animals is the only other thing I would do with my life.

What's up next?: A Brief History of Colonization. That will be next for a while...

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Drag365: Show #60- Ultimate Drag Pageant, Week 7 at The West End

Nicole Onoscopi // photo by Michael Block
Day: Thursday, March 1st              

Show: Ultimate Drag Pageant, Week 7   

Location: The West End

Queens Seen: Marti Gould Cummings (@martigcummings), Nedra Belle (@nedrabelle), FiFi DuBois (@fifiduboisdq), Ritzy Bitz (@msritzybitz), Allura Borealis (@alluraborealis), Carlos the Uber Driver (@carlostheuberdriver), Celah Doore (@celahdoorenyc), Foolisha (@thefoolisha), Gina Tonic (@itsginatonic), Nicole Onoscopi (@nicoleonoscopi), Shelby Late (@shelby_late), Tiffany Anne Coke (@tiffanyannecoke)

Bambi // photo by Michael Block
If you thought the drama on Drag Race was good, oh honey, you missed the drama at the penultimate week of Ultimate Drag Pageant Season 6! With the theme being "Show Us Your Best," the nine competitors came out slaying. Hosts Marti Gould Cummings and Nedra Belle were joined by the some of New York's best, FiFi DuBois and Ritzy Bitz. With only so many slots available for the grand finale, the girls were given some tough critiques to prepare them. Starting the show off with an homage to her showgirl life, Tiffany Anne Coke put her sexy twist on "Mein Herr" from Cabaret. With pipes to the rafters, Shelby Late belted her heart out with "Glitter in the Air," a number that is at the top of her repertoire. With no wig to be seen, Bambi dazzled the crowd in a new way with her political number themed toward gun violence. With a brilliant concept and a bold risk, Carlos the Uber Driver got in face on stage with a tribute to "The Birdcage" with La Cage's "A Little More Mascara." Celah Doore bore all with her heartfelt performance dedicated to her coarse journey into the world of drag. With an unfortunate track mishap to blame, Gina Tonic's "I Will Survive" money making performance was sadly cut short. Bringing her exceptionally twisted view on performance art, Foolisha dominated with an insane Joan of Arc inspired performance that was nothing short of captivating. Bringing steam punk to "Steam Heat," Allura Borealis provided one of her strongest looks yet. Rounding out the night was easily one of the best performances in the entire competition as Nicole Onoscopi finally paid tribute to her name with a colonoscopy mix featuring an actual "colonoscopy" on stage.
Shelby Late // photo by Michael Block
It was time to make a chop before the finale. With three girls in the bottom three, how many would the judges send home. Lip Syncing to "Hush Hush," it was Allura, Celah, and Gina. Perhaps inspired by the Drag Race episode that aired only hours before, Gina Tonic bowed out of the competition, with the judges justly saving Allura and Celah. It was a sad way to see the seasoned queen go, but like her song, she will survive. Once again, the judges and I were in agreement as Nicole Onoscopi, who received a standing ovation from the guest judges, won the week, securing her third victory of the competition. What will happen in the grand finale? Find out soon!

Block Talk- Episode 43: RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 3 RuCap Episode 7

It's movie time! While we were easily given one of the worst written challenge in show history, we had a pretty lackluster penultimate episode leading into the grand finale! I'm joined by Cherry Poppins to talk about all things RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 3 Episode 7!

To listen, visit iTunes or SoundCloud! And leave us that 5 star review already!

And go to to become a patron today!

Drag365: Show #59- Drag Race Viewing Party at The West End

FiFi DuBois, Vanna Deux, Nicole Onoscopi // photo by Michael Block
Day: Thursday, March 1st              

Show: Drag Race Viewing Party   

Location: The West End

Queens Seen: Vanna Deux (@vannadeux), FiFi DuBois (@fifiduboisdq), Nicole Onoscopi (@nicoleonoscopi)

It was one of the most dramatic episodes in Drag Race herserty and Vanna Deux was there to guide you through the trauma. In case you live under a rock, fan favorite and clear frontrunner BenDeLaCreme eliminated herself in RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 3. But while that drama was unfolded on television, Vanna welcomed FiFi DuBois and a cameo appearance from Nicole Onoscopi. When she wasn't debuting her money mix, Vanna gave the crowd her fabulous take on Dolly Parton with "9 to 5" and "Higher and Higher." FiFi gave the gays their Barbra Streisand fill with a riff on "Don't Rain on My Parade" with the song "Barbra Streisand" thrown in. She also paid homage to Mandy Moore and Celine Dion because why not? Nicole dropped in with a little "Rockstar" from Hannah Montana.
It was a drama filled night, but when you can share the memories with your drag family, it makes the moment even sweeter.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spotlight On...Candy Buckley

Name: Candy Buckley

Hometown:  My father was an Air Force officer.  A pilot.  A former Japanese prisoner of war.  We lived all over.  I went to a different school every year from 5th grade until I was a senior in high school.  California, Utah, North Dakota, Virginia, to name a few. As an adult, many years in Texas, a few in Cambridge at the American Repertory Theater, and NYC since 1994.

Education: BFA from TCU; MA from University of Texas, MFA from the Dallas Theater Center/Trinity U.

Select Credits:  I guess the role that changed my life was Sadie Burke in All the King's Men.  It altered the trajectory of my career.  Got me noticed by Robert Brustein in The New Republic, and gave me a ticket out of Dallas and onto a bigger stage.  It was a musical based on the great Robert Penn Warren novel and used Randy Newman songs.  Sadie's a great character.  Tortured.  Passionate.  Raw.

Why theater?:  I played pretend all the time.  I taught high school theater for awhile in Austin. And my MFA is in directing.  I love the craft of the theater.

Who do you play in HAL & BEE: Bee

Tell us about Bee:  Well, I'm still learning about her.  She's fun.  She's frustrated.  She drinks too much.  She is living a life of repetition.  Quiet desperation.  But she is not giving up.  There's a spiritedness to her. And of course, that's the hook for me.

What is it like being a part of Hal & Bee?:  I pulled out of another job to do Hal & Bee because I absolutely love the play.  Max Baker is an incredible writer.  I did a reading of the play a while ago and flipped over it.  And Sarah Norris is a young, quietly confident director.  I would work with either of them again in a heartbeat.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:  I like it a little bit wild and surprising.  I like when theater is theater, doing what it does best, not what tv or film or kitchen sink do better.  I like sound to be incorporated.  I like actors to pop in a slightly dangerous way.  I like the knowledge that actors and audience are in the same room/cabaret.  Bootycandy, Fun Home, Blasted, Wakey Wakey, The Way West.  I'm inspired by the use of more women.  Let's get those stories up and running.

Any roles you're dying to play?:  I want to do a one-person show.  Not one where I play a lot of characters.  Not dramatic interp as we used to call it in speech tournaments.  One where I'm the same person throughout, a little bit funny and a little bit outrageous. With lots of colors.  I did Little Dog Laughed.  Someone like that.  Or maybe she's an actress.  Looking back. Hmmmm.

What's your favorite showtune?:  Currently, "Ladies Who Lunch."  I did Company and I sang that show for an audition for "Transparent."  I would love to be on "Transparent."  It's messy like me.

If you could work with anyone you've yet to work with, who would it be?:  John Tiffany.  His staging captures my imagination.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?:  Gayle Rankin and it would be called "Candy."  If you have a stripper name, use it!

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?:  The original Sweeney Todd.  I played Mrs. Lovett.  Oh.  My.  Lord.  And then I worked with Hal Prince the next year when I moved to New York.  The man can stage a musical.  I did see Evita and my mind was officially blown.  He's a master.

What show have you recommended to your friends?:  I'm obsessed with The Bengsons.  I saw Hundred Days and Sundown Yellow Moon.  Anything they're involved with.

What's your biggest guilty pleasure?:  THE YANKEES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What's up next?:  My daughter, Erin Buckley, writes.  And one of her plays is in contention for a prestigious festival this summer.  There is a role for me. That is my idea of heaven.

Drag365: Show #58- Poppy's Playhouse at The West End

Serena Tea, Blair Bitch, Diana Dash, Poppy, Frankie D'Vine, Obscura, Miz Diamond Wigfall //
photo by Michel Block
Day: Wednesday, February 28th             

Show: Poppy's Playhouse  

Location: The West End

Queens Seen: Poppy (@thecolorpoppy), Blair Bitch (@blairbitchnyc), Frankie D'Vine (@frankiedvine), Diana Dash (@diana.dash), Miz Diamond Wigfall (@mizdiamondwigfall), Obscura (@officialobscura), Serena Tea (@bellbottomprincess)

After winning season 4 of Ultimate Drag Pageant, Poppy has taken over New York City. Her monthly show, Poppy's Playhouse, is nothing short of a hoot and holler. For her February edition, Poppy invited a slew of performers to the Playhouse for a night of fun. After beginning the night with her signature opening number, Poppy played hostess as she gave the stage to her special friends. The kicked off with the Instagram look diva Blair Bitch paying homage to "Mulahn" with a twist on "Reflection." Diana Dash, looking poised and proper, gives a little Sondheim. She even handled herself beautifully when there was a little technical snafu. Miz Diamond Wigfall gave the kids a lesson on how not to do the "Star Spangled Banner" with a mashup of Fergie and Maya Rudolf. Coming all the way down from the Bronx, Serena Tea danced the house down with a "Vogue" remix and latter an impromptu "Hoedown Throwdown." Playing with death, Obscura upped the prop game with her take on "It's My Life." Rounding out the company was Frankie D'Vine with his demon look that terrified all. Poppy decided to give us all a surprise with a brand new mix inspired by Sugar Daddies. No matter the mix, Poppy knows how to serve the funny. No wonder she's one of the scenes' biggest rising star.
Going through this roster, Poppy compiled a diverse group of performers that each provided a special interpretation of drag. I look forward to another curated Poppy's Playhouse in the future!

Drag365: Show #57: Stage Fright at Therapy

Marti Gould Cummings // photo by Michael Block
Day: Monday, February 26th             

Show: Stage Fright  

Location: Therapy

Queens Seen: Marti Gould Cummings (@martigcummings)

Therapy is the place to be Monday nights! Marti Gould Cummings hosts Stage Fright, a celebration of theater that's part drag show, part talk show. Rounding out February was the fabulous star of Beautiful, Chilina Kennedy! Before Marti brought her on stage to slay, she gave the crowd a show! She gave live sung renditions of "Mamma Mia," "I Want to Dance With Somebody," and "Journey to the Past," to name a few. Keeping on brand, Marti brings the comedy even through song, including a hilarious moment where she helped a customer decide what to eat during a tiny break in the middle of her song. Very few can pull off a moment like this. When it was time to bring Chilina to the stage, Marti asked her everything there was to know including if Carole King was nice or not. The revelation of the night was not that James Taylor was a true sweetheart, but that Aretha Franklin plays by her own rules. One of her previous roles was Mary Magdalene so naturally Chilina gave us a house down performance of  "I Don't Know How to Love Him." Having heard the song many times, there was something about this particular performance that allowed me to hear the lyrics in a new way. It's truly a stunning song.
Stage Fright is a home for the Broadway superfan. Marti Gould Cummings expertly knows how to entertain but provide a home for those looking for a place to relax, exhale, and share their love for the stage.