Katherine Harroff, artistic director/founder of Circle Circle Dot Dot, and writer/director of "Deconstruction of a Drag Queen"
Anthony Diaz, co-choreographer of "Deconstruction of a Drag Queen," Dancer with San Diego Dance Theater, and performs as Grace Towers
Related Story: Deconstruction Of A Drag Queen
CAVANAUGH: In the day to day progress of life, it's easy to forget your dreams, lose your courage, and completely ignore your inner diva. But that is just what a new production at Circle Circle Dot Dot theatre is trying to revive. This new community-based theatre company is out with a production about the desire to be who really are and show it off to the world. The play is called Deconstruction of a Drag Queen. My guests, Katherine Harroff is artistic director and founder of Circle Circle Dot Dot, and writer/director of deconstruction of a drag queen. Welcome back.
HARROFF: Thank you so much for having me again.
CAVANAUGH: And Anthony Diaz is here, co-choreographer of deconstruction of a drag queen, dancer with the San Diego dance theatre, and he performs in drag as grace towers. And Anthony, welcome to the show.
DIAZ: Thank you for having me.
CAVANAUGH: Katherine, what got you interested in the subject of drag performers in the first place?
HARROFF: Well, actually, I've always been a fan of drag artists. And specifically this story came to me after I saw grace towers performing at San Diego pride. And it was right after Circle completed its first production, and we were looking for other stories or other interesting angles for us to continue. And I saw grace perform, and I was completely inspired by how wonderful she was. And a couple days later, I got a text message from Tony asking me filled ever be interested in writing a piece about drag artists. Because he had down the breakdown, liked our work.
DIAZ: Loved it.
HARROFF: And I just like it was meant to be. This is our third show, so we had a show in between that that was already planned. Quickly after we started gathering why woulds about what this piece could be about.
CAVANAUGH: Why did you want to tell your story in this production, Tony?
DIAZ: Well, I think as an artist, I wanted to try new avenues, and that was what initially inspired me to contact Ms. Harrof here. For myself, it's a very personal story, and it was a way of me sharing the good, and letting go of the bad things that have happened in my life as well.
CAVANAUGH: Can you tell us about your drag persona, Grace can the towers? How is she different from you?
DIAZ: Well, let's see. I'd say she's F-cubed, fierce, fabulous and flawless.
HARROFF: It's true.
[ LAUGHTER ]
DIAZ: Different I think -- I take this whole alter ego with an artist approach, and the thing that differs most between Grace and Anthony, I think, is that as Anthony, when I'm creating art, it's a lot more internal. When I'm Grace Towers, I am the art piece. That's where it all starts off.
CAVANAUGH: That's fascinating. How do you compare, Katherine, Anthony with Grace?
HARROFF: Well, I love them both. I feel like I'm a little more intimidated by Grace because she's --
CAVANAUGH: Because she's fabulous and flawless!
HARROFF: She's so beautiful, and she can dance, and she's so stunning to watch. And Tony is the same way. But I'm friends with Tony, and Grace, I am just a huge fan.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Anthony, you're a dancer, choreographed some of this production. Some people might think dressing in drag is a lower form of artistic expression than your other talents. What do you say to that?
DIAZ: Well, that's exactly I think one of the key things that this play touches on. There's a lot of stereotypes about the drag community that are not true. There's a lot, personally that I want to open up about that as well. Being a dancer, there's a lot that goes into preparing your performance, are there's a lot that goes into preparing this character, and I think that -- bringing that art into it kind of opens up another realm of the drag world. I think a lot of people think it's just makeup, it's just glitter.
CAVANAUGH: I don't think it's thought of by most people as art.
DIAZ: I would agree with that to some extent. But I'm here to say that it really is. There's a lot that goes into it that people don't get to see, and hopefully this play will bring that to some people.
CAVANAUGH: How did entering the drag community change your life?
DIAZ: Well, I think you'll see once the play opens up. The play revolves about the relationship with my mom, and that was a really tough time and a tough situation for me to deal with. It was great because I wouldn't be the person that I am today if I hadn't dealt with those situations. Being a part of this play and doing drag helped me gain a little more confidence and a little more perspective on the positive things and being able to say this is who I am, is this who I want to be, whether or not it's fictional. What it is. It just created that environment for me of being able to say this is who I am today, this is who I want to be, and this is who I am. I'm living out that dream, living out that -- almost fantasy to some extent. So it made me confident. It provided a lot of avenues to really express artistically more ideas that I really wanted to express.
CAVANAUGH: Let's listen to a scene from deconstruction of a drag queen. This is a scene in which the main character, Michael is first meeting vet drag performers Tessa and Utopia.
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: That's a scene from deconstruction of a drag queen. Maybe you can tell us the performers involved in that scene.
HARROFF: Sure. The main character, Michael, which is based off of Anthony Diaz, is Shaun Tuazon. There's Tessa, played by Justin Warren Martin, and the character of Utopia is played by Kevin Lamar Coleman.
CAVANAUGH: Now, you bring in this conflict with your mom as the play develops. Did you have any hesitation of putting so much of yourself out there? So much of your own personal story?
DIAZ: To say that I didn't would be a fib. There was some hesitation initially. But as I started earlier, it was a really great avenue for me to really share the great things in my life, and I'm so blessed. I've had such a great now, such a great accepting community of what I do now. It was a great way for me to share the positive things, and in a therapeutic way let go of the negative things.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Circle Circle Dot Dot is a community-based theatre what. Does that mean?
HARROFF: I've always found myself to be a strong story teller. I can't tell a joke to save my life, but I can tell a really good story. And I think that community-based theatre is based off the idea that every single person in the world has a really wonderful story that they can tell. And there's a way we can share our stories publicly, we can become closer together and bridge gaps between asides and have a better understanding of our fellow man. And to me, that's what community-based theatre is. And why I do it.
CAVANAUGH: So therefore the mission is something along the lines of taking the story of an individual or a group of people and turning it into a theatrical production. What does it -- what does it mean though to actually create a play from scratch each time?
HARROFF: It means a lot of work! But it doesn't mean as much work as I think maybe normal playwrights might have. They're by themselves with a computer or a typewriter, and I get to go out into a group and search for a story, kind of like a journalist. And I get to sit down with wonderful people and learn things that I didn't know anything about and hear their stories and see -- and I can see the play in their words because they tell the parts of their life that should be on stage. And with Tony, it was just so clear, almost before we even really sat down and talked, that he had such an important story to share, especially in our time right now, about acceptance and tolerance and overcoming differences in religion and your background and your family. And finding out who you are. And to me, that story was so clear that it just took me sitting and talking to him to be able to come up with it. And I have the help of a wonderful company, and these wonderful actors that take the bear bones and flesh it out with this life and these colors, and we find the best possible way to make this story really wonderful and a wonderful theatrical experience.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Anthony, in addition to the drama and the emotional part, and the insightful part of this particular production, there's also musical numbers!
HARROFF: Oh, yeah.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: How were they to work on?
DIAZ: They were a lot of fun to work on. We're blessed with an amazing cast of not just actors and makeup artists, but dancers. I work specifically with Sean who's playing my role, and I have high standards because I'm known in San Diego for being one of the dancer drag queens, and I really wanted to push him and he took on amazingly. The choreography was difficult, but he picked it up quickly to a T. I'm blessed to be working with him. And it was iconic of me, so I wanted them to be really accurate.
CAVANAUGH: What did this do to your budget though? You've got all these costumes, these musical numbers. Did you envision this at the start?
HARROFF: Oh, we tried.
[ LAUGHTER ]
HARROFF: You know, we're small, and we don't have a lot of resources. So we fund raise, and we do the best we can, and a lot of our actors have dug into themselves to find their resources as well because they wanted to be comfortable. And we're still working on it. We've got more makeup to buy. Some more wigs.
CAVANAUGH: You never know where those costs are going to come from, right?
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: As Katherine was explaining the deeper part of this play, what the message is, I'm wondering do you both new feel that everybody has kind of an inner diva, something that's in there brewing that most people just don't let out?
DIAZ: Absolutely. I mean, if it's batting your eye lashes at somebody because you feel more fabulous, I mean, everybody has something that is not let out because they feel like they need to suppress it. And I think that's the biggest key for me. You have it within you, and it's just a matter of not having to -- not having the need to feel suppressed. Just letting it out.
CAVANAUGH: And has it made you more free? Just being associated with this?
HARROFF: Oh, definitely. And that's the story's message entirely. Yes, there is some drama into it, but it's all about digging deep and listening to yourself and your heart and being who you were always meant to be. And I think it's such a beautiful message, and it inspires me every day I get to work on it.
CAVANAUGH: Who do you see the audience -- going to this play?
[ LAUGHTER ]
HARROFF: Well, I mean maybe not Rush Limbaugh, but -- and we definitely are -- we want everyone to see it though. I mean if Rush wanted to come and buy a ticket, I would welcome him with open arms. Because I think that everyone should see this message. If they're confused about the life of drag, if they're wondering if maybe they can put on some heels themselves, I think they should come see the show and I think they'll be inspired.
CAVANAUGH: Circle Circle Dot Dot's deconstruction of a diva opens on April†6th --
HARROFF: Drag queen.
CAVANAUGH: I'm sorry! I wrote it wrong. Deconstruction of a drag queen. Runs through April 21st in the downtown San Diego theatre. And maybe next time we see you, we'll bring Grace with you want
DIAZ: I'd love to.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you both.
DIAZ: Thank you for having us.
HARROFF: Thank you.