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Behind the Scenes of 'Deconstruction of a Drag Queen'

April 13, 2012 5:05 a.m.

Behind the Scenes of 'Deconstruction of a Drag Queen'

Related Story: Behind The Scenes of 'Deconstruction Of A Drag Queen'


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

ANCHOR: San Diego Theater Company Circle Circle Dot Dot is producing its third play in less than 2 years. It receives far less press than veteran companies like the Globe and the Playhouse. But KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says that with its latest production it finds its inner diva.

TAG: "Deconstruction of a Drag Queen" runs through April 27th at the Tenth Avenue Theater in Downtown San Diego. Watch Evening Edition tonight at 6:30 on KPBS-TV to see more about the production.

Circle Circle Dot Dot calls itself community based theater.

KATHERINE HARROFF: Community based theater comes from the practice of going out into the community and finding different, interesting stories to turn into a play.

That's artistic director Katherine Harroff. She founded the small company in 20-10 and writes an original play for each new production.

KATHERINE HARROFF: It's a challenge and we are young and broke. We still pull it together because we care about what it is that we are doing.

Compassion is key to successful community theater. Harroff cares about the communities she enters. She also knows how to ask good questions and then listen carefully to the answers. For "Deconstruction of a Drag Queen," she found her newest story in Anthony Diaz.

KATHERINE HARROFF: I work with San Diego dance theater and I was fortunate to meet him and watch him be a beautiful dancer. And then one beautiful morning I went to San Diego Pride and saw him perform.

Diaz was performing in drag as Grace Towers and Harroff was hooked.

ANTHONY DIAZ: She went out into the gay community, the drag community, and she wrote a play about that.

GRACE: Hello, I am Grace Towers and we are here at the opening night of "Deconstruction of a Drag Queen" put on by Circle Circle Dot Dot.

The 27-year-old Diaz says the play's about him finding the courage to become Grace Towers.

ANTHONY DIAZ: There was some hesitation when I was first thinking about potentially putting my life on the stage this way with Katie.

Hesitation because Diaz had a difficult relationship with his mother. That relationship is pivotal says actor Shaun Tuazon, who plays Diaz's stage alter ego.

SHAUN TUAZON: You sort of see him exploring ways to express himself and in the play you see his mother holding him back from being his true self.

CLIP Deconstruction of a Drag Queen
Michael: What if I want to dance and be on stage and I like fashion and clothes and I'm good at school? What can't I be all that?
Mother: You aren't that. No. No son of mine in my house ever.

Diaz would find a new and more supportive family within the drag community and the play pays tribute to those flamboyant divas.

CLIP I am the Duchess Honey Mustard.

But the drag community has been appreciative of how the play finds the humanity beneath the glitter. Harroff spoke about drag with Fernando Lara whose performs as Fifi at Lips.

KATHERINE HARROFF: He said a lot of times, most times , drag queens are seen as clowns or strippers and that the art of it is really lost on a lot of people.

ANTHONY DIAZ: There's a lot that goes into it. It's not just putting on make up, it's not just putting on a wig, there's a lot of preparation there's a lot of creating the illusion, there's a lot of creating the performance and just like any other art form we are passionate about it.

Which is not to say they don't have fun in the process. Backstage at 10th Avenue Theater, Diaz helps actors turn into divas. One of the things he provides are hips.

ANTHONY DIAZ: New hips sponsored by lazy boy... And boys don't have hips like girls do. So we create hips out of foam. I'm giving all my tricks away. All my secrets...

Getting people to reveal their secrets is what Katherine Harroff is good at. Her brand of community based theater may not overtly push for social change but it strives to educate.

KATHERINE HARROFF: And that's kind of the point that you come and you learn about something that's different or scary or something that you would otherwise not want to know anything about and you can see yourself in it and you can connect with it.

If audiences can connect with the characters on stage then maybe they can be more tolerant and accepting of others. After a dress rehearsal, Anthony Diaz felt he was right to trust Harroff with his story.

ANTHONY DIAZ: My heart is so full right now it really is and it's so amazing to have so many compassionate artists behind this it really means a lot.

Beth Accomando, KPBS News.