When I was a little tyke, my older sister and my cousins used to occasionally dress me as a girl. My mom thought it was cute. Somewhere there is a black and white photo of me about age 3 in an Easter ensemble complete with hat, gloves, and purse, smiling for the camera. Let me be clear about one thing: that didn’t CAUSE anything. What it did was open me up to the idea of femininity as art, as performance.
My brother Roger was a star athlete at Minerva High when I was still preschool, and I remember him dressing in long skirt and fright wig for a costume day at school. There’s still a picture of that around, too. What fun!
So I dressed in drag at 15 for Halloween: in old lady getup, I ran next door to show my grandma, and when she answered the door she thought I was her sister. We got a great laugh out of that and I hammed it up all evening then, and realized the idea of drag as entertainment.
Men portraying femininity as an art has been common enough in modern entertainment: Milton Berle, Flip Wilson, Jonathan Winters had their femme characters. Tyler Perry and Barry Humphries are known nearly exclusively for their female portrayals. Actors from Sir Alec Guinness, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon to Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, John Travolta and Johnny Depp have all had their Tootsie moments.* And men playing ladies was a staple on Monty Python and Kids in the Hall. Who can forget Harvery Korman’s Mother Marchus?
Female impersonation and drag has been a part of Gilda Shedstecker Presents! from its inception. In Confessions from the Ladies Room, it was necessity, as I couldn’t acquire an actress suitable to portray a role as I envisioned, but I knew an actor who could. So we threw convention out the window and blind cast it and he was fabulous in his portrayal, causing more than one experienced actress in the audience to praise, “As I watched, I forgot he wasn’t a woman.”
So we don’t do anything new at GSP! in drag. We just do it more often, with more fun, and much more style. We do it when necessary like the afore mentioned Confessions Room, we do it as when it’s part of the show, like in Sordid Lives, we do it just for unmitigated fun like in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. For a while it got to be a joke that it was a requirement of a GSP! show to have a boy in a dress.
We haven’t fulfilled that requirement for a while. It’s time to have some drag fun as we honor one of pop culture’s MOST revered and beloved TV sitcoms with a parody as only GSP! can. Opening September 18th is Gilda Strikes Gold! an homage to The Golden Girls, because we thank YOU for being our friends. Please join us as we stroll with Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia in their over-sized pumps. And remember: “Oh honey, of course God exists. Just look at the beautiful sky, the majestic trees. God created man, and gave him a heart, and a mind, and thighs that could crack walnuts.” See you in September!
As an additional point of interest I’ve realized researching shows, while we’re talking about the Serious Actors. Robert De Niro in particular seems to have an appreciation and fondness for the art of female impersonation and drag. Known primarily for a reputation as a Tough Guy throughout a long career, he aptly starred with Philip Seymour Hoffman in 1999’s Flawless as an ex-cop recovering from a stroke with speech therapy from a neighbor who is a drag performer. De Niro was a producer of the 2000 TV film Holiday Heart, about a drag queen befriending a drug-addicted mother and her daughter. He appeared in an SNL sketch in 2010 as Andy Samberg’s mother, and finally as closeted flouncy Captain Shakespeare in Stardust in 2011. Now that’s a director’s dream.