Behind The Scenes of ‘Deconstruction Of A Drag Queen’
Circle Circle Dot Dot Finds Its Inner Diva
Friday, April 13, 2012
Behind the Scenes of 'Deconstruction of a Drag Queen'
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 with its latest production, "deconstruction of a Drag Queen" (running through April 21 at Tenth Avenue Theatre), it finds its inner diva.
Katherine Harroff says Circle Circle Dot Dot is community based theater: "Community based theater comes from the practice of going out into the community and finding different, interesting stories to turn into a play."
She is the artistic director of Circle Circle Dot Dot. She founded the small company in 2010 and writes an original play for each new production.
"It's a challenge," she says, "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.
"I work with San Diego dance theater and I was fortunate to meet him and watch him be a beautiful dancer," Harroff recalls, "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.
"She went out into the gay community," says Anthony Diaz, "the drag community, and she wrote a play about that."
Last weekend the play had its premiere and Grace Towers was in attendance in all her glamorous glory, and posing for photos with patrons in order to raise money for Mama's Kitchen. The 27-year-old Diaz says the play's about him finding the courage to become Grace Towers.
Diaz admits, "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.
"You sort of see him exploring ways to express himself," says Tuazon, "and in the play you see his mother holding him back from being his true self."
In the play Michael (played by Tuazon) tells his mother: "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?"
But he answer is a definitive, "No." That is not what she has in mind for her son. Harroff then has Michael's mom lock him up in a gold cage to keep him from any distractions.
In real life, Diaz would find a new and more supportive family within the drag community and the play pays tribute to those flamboyant divas. 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.
"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."
Diaz adds, "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.
"New hips sponsored by lazy boy," Diaz tells me, "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.
"And that's kind of the point," says Harroff, "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.
"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."
Watch for the video feature tonight at 6:30pm on KPBS-TV's Evening Edition. The video will be posted here this evening.
Suggested film viewing: "Paris is Burning," "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," "La Cage Aux Folles," and anything by John Waters and starring Divine, "Ma Vie En Rose," "Iron Ladies" (not to be confused with Meryl Streep's "The Iron Lady"), "Rocky Horror Picture Show" (Tim Curry is hot!), and "Some Like It Hot" (for Jack Lemmon's continual and hilarious analysis of how to become female)