'The Facts Of Life: The Lost Episode' Turns '80s Sitcom Into A Drag Spoof
Jamie Morris' musical comedy returns to Diversionary
ANCHOR INTRO: Playwright Jamie Morris likes to take mainstream American sitcoms and turn them into R-rated gay romps with a male cast in drag. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says Morris’ The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode had a sold out run at Diversionary Theater in 2012 and returns tomorrow night for an encore engagement. The Facts of Life was a spin-off of the hit sitcom Diff'rent Strokes. It featured Edna Garrett as a housemother at the all-girls boarding school of Eastland. Playwright Jamie Morris grew up with the show in the 80s and decided to send it up in the play The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode.” JAMIE MORRIS: It’s something you would never see on NBC in the 80s, that’s for sure, the girls have to raise money to save Mrs. Garrett and keep her at Eastland, this evil headmaster has it in for her and is going to close down the dorms and kick Mrs. Garrett out and separate all the girls, which can’t happen. So Blair comes up with a brilliant idea to raise the money, they become hookers. The play runs through April 19th at Diversionary Theater. Morris warns the show’s a little bawdy and definitely for adults. Beth Accomando, KPBS News.
Playwright Jamie Morris likes to take mainstream American sitcoms and turn them into R-rated gay romps with a male cast in drag. Morris’ “The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode” had a sold out run at Diversionary Theater in 2012 and returns Thursday night for an encore engagement.
For those too young, or too old, to remember, “The Facts of Life” was a spin-off of the hit sitcom “Diff'rent Strokes.” It ran 1979 to 1988, and featured goofy Charlotte Rae as Edna Garrett, a housemother at the fictional all-girls boarding school of Eastland. Playwright Jamie Morris grew up with the show in the 1980s and longed to spoof it.
“I was doing my other play at the time, ‘Mommie Queerest’ in Portland, Oregon and it was one of those musical Monday nights at a bar where they show clips from the Tony awards and ‘Best Little Whorehouse’ came on,” Morris recalled, “I knew I wanted to take ‘The Facts of Life’ girls and do something with them because the characters are just so iconic, but I didn’t know what. That night, when I was two or three drinks in, I saw that clip and I said that’s it, they become prostitutes.”
Morris has a reputation as a “master of drag spoof” and for turning mainstream sitcoms on their head. Even the titles of his plays are witty: “Re-Designing Women” and “Gilligan’s Fire Island.” When “The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode” premiered in 2004 in Provincetown, the Provincetown Magazine wrote, “John Waters would be proud of Morris who has managed to turn a sweet, little sitcom into porn.”
Well, maybe not porn. But Morris admitted it is definitely bawdy, risqué and entirely for adults.
“It’s something you would never see on NBC in the '80s, that’s for sure,” Morris said. “The girls have to raise money to save Mrs. Garrett and keep her at Eastland. This evil headmaster has it in for her and is going to close down the dorms, and kick Mrs. Garrett out, and separate all the girls, which can’t happen. So Blair comes up with a brilliant idea to raise the money, they become hookers.”
As with all of Morris’ shows, it features a cross dressing cast.
“All my plays are done with all male casts,” Morris stated, “It just heightens the comedy and we can get away with saying things that I think if real women were saying them it wouldn’t be as funny, or maybe be a little insulting. It just heightens the comedy. And I just work with really talented actors who just happen to look good as women.”
“The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode” was staged at Diversionary in 2012, and people who missed the short earlier run of the show kept asking when it was coming back. So Morris returns to Diversionary with not only “The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode,” but also “The Silence of the Clams.”
Inspired by the Oscar-winning film “Silence of the Lambs,” “Clams” serves up butch FBI agent Clarice Startling who’s assigned to help find Nancy Pelosi’s missing daughter and save her from “Beaver Bob,” a serial killer who skins his victims “down there.” Clarice attempts to gain better insight into the mind of the killer by interviewing Dr. Hannibal Lichter, a convicted psychopath who “eats” his female victims before he kills them. Morris said, “Imagine the ‘Airplane’ movies married with ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’”
“The Facts Of Life: The Lost Episode” opens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and will continue Thursdays through Sundays through, April 19. “Silence of the Clams” will run April 23 to May 3.
The Diversionary Theatre is located at 4545 Park Blvd. in San Diego’s University Heights. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling the Diversionary box office at 619-220-0097.