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What role does Judaism play in your life as an out, gay man?
I think if you are raised with any religious background and you come out, you have a certain amount of reckoning. A certain amount of “can I be this and this?” When I found out so late in life, when I thought I was from this Irish stock and there was actually quite a bit more Russian Jew in me than anything else, it told me you don’t have to let your bloodline or the way you were raised dictate the way you live your life. I think religion, self-expression, all of this has to be in the hands of the individual.
Ever since I was a kid I just thought that women had the better outfits, women had the better hair, women got to wear makeup. I just got jealous of what women got to do onstage. You dress up a man and ultimately it’s just a different variation on the same kind of suit. There’s a whole wide world of what women wear onstage. I just always wanted to wear the big dresses with the petticoats and the hoop skirts and all the bells and whistles rather than just a three-piece suit.
What’s up next for you?
I am going to be performing the role of Velma Von Tussle in 5th Avenue Theatre’s concert production of Hairspray this summer in Seattle. In New York, I am doing a run of my show “The Vaudevillians,” which is an original musical comedy I created with my music partner Richard Andriessen, at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in July. We keep adding more and more shows there, it looks like we might end up doing a month-long run!
What is the greatest misconception about drag performance?
That it’s easy. I don’t think many people realize just how much of an endeavor it is. It’s a head to toe transformation. It’s not just putting on a little bit of makeup and putting on a dress. Some drag queens duct tape their heads, some drag queens are bound and strapped and pulled in every which direction. To be in drag is no small endeavor.
What are the challenges and rewards of performing in drag?
The greatest challenges are the time it takes to get into drag. When I’m going to be onstage, it pretty much takes up my whole day to get ready for it. Also, drag queens are not only critiqued as performers, but as “a vision of loveliness.” You get critiqued by not just how you act on stage and what you deliver for your performance but for how you look. But the greatest rewards are when you get those moments where you’re living this childhood fantasy onstage. When I get to perform the numbers that my favorite female performers did so long ago, like when I perform a number based on “Death Becomes Her” onstage, it’s like a dream coming true for me.