|As Karpathy, with James Ludwig as Higgins|
I've spent a glorious six weeks in beautiful Vero Beach, doing my "drive-by" cameo as Hungarian swindler Zoltan Karpathy in "My Fair Lady" here at Riverside Theatre.
As we head toward closing, I've already begun the memorizing and preparatory work for my next role: drag veteran Miss Tracy Mills in Matthew Lopez's "The Legend of Georgia McBride." As I've dug deep into the play it's become clear: I am about to play a drag Henry Higgins!
|Wendy Hiller as Eliza and Leslie Howard as Higgins|
"My Fair Lady" is definitely one of the ultimate makeover stories: Higgins picks up grubby flower girl Eliza and, through the power of speech therapy, transforms her into a "duchess." But, of course, the transformation is more than superficial... the true Eliza emerges: confident, independent, her "own woman."
In "The Legend of Georgia McBride," down-on-his-luck Elvis impersonator Casey finds himself thrown, by circumstance, into a whole new world: the glittering world of drag. The story of a straight man who discovers he's got a real talent for female impersonation is a fascinating journey, and Casey's guide and mentor is Miss Tracy. She's an elegant, scrappy queen who has been there, done that, and who literally pushes Casey on to his new career as "Georgia."
Along the way, Tracy teaches Casey how to lip-sync, how to dress, walk, move, and shine as a woman--much the same way Higgins teaches Eliza the elegant graces and rounded tones of great lady. And like Higgins and Eliza, Casey and Tracy find themselves at a crossroads where student and teacher confront a major life lesson. Casey's has to confront his own homophobia and embrace the feminine strength within him; and Tracy is his drag "Yoda," challenging him to get out of his own way and be the man he knows he can be.
I am loving marinating in the wonderful thematic overlaps of these two pieces--one, a classic story over a hundred years old; the other a contemporary tale that tussles with our own prejudices and limitations. Miss Tracy even says at one point, "By George, he's got it!"
"The Legend of Georgia McBride" plays May 1 through June 2 at TheatreSquared in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Join us for the fabulous!