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It’s a guy thing

Citizen Staff Writer
Cover story



Celebrating Valentine’s Day by going with your sweetie to the theater sounds lovely, civilized. Except this Valentine’s Day you can do it with an edge and a fresh sense of how many ways there could be to properly observe this holiday dedicated to romance.

And you can still be deep in your seat in front of the stage as the clock ticks toward midnight. The Etcetera gang of late-night thespians at Live Theatre Workshop has flipped “The Vagina Monologues” on its ear with a rowdy and sometimes ribald production of its own, “The Penis Monologues.” That 90-minute show starts at 10:30 p.m. Along with the monologues are two comedy interludes and a pair of big musical numbers.

But if that confrontational title seems a little too graphic, consider the other play opening this weekend, Edward Crosby Wells’ “3 Guys in Drag Selling Their Stuff” playing downtown at Beowulf Alley Theatre. It’s a comedy with adult content, says director Cynthia Jeffery.

As the title implies, a trio of older drag queens needs to raise some money. The “husband” of one has died. They want to store his ashes in a Faberge egg. So gathering up some of their most sentimental memorabilia, they put on a big yard sale – wigs, handcuffs, whips, that sort of thing. Oh yes, and there is a heavily spiked punch bowl involved to help stimulate buyer response.

According to one online reviewer describing the stage setting, “There was no shortage of sequins, feathers and sexual toys.”

Says Jeffery, “It’s definitely a comedy, but it also has some nice tender moments The men are in drag, but they are also real human beings with real feelings and real courage.

“And they are very sweet guys,” she adds. “I would expect the audience to be emotionally moved, with big laughs.”

The three characters are played by Mike Sultzbach, Kenton Jones and Richard Chaney (who also wrote one of those monologues being performed at Live Theatre Workshop). After some serious discussions at rehearsal about the difference between drag queens and transvestites, the cast turned to matters of learning to apply makeup like a female.

“We discussed how drag queens are men who dress like women to entertain audiences,” Jeffery says. “Milton Berle did it. Flip Wilson did it. Divine brought it full force in John Waters’ movies.”

Even before that – in 1959 – Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon did it on the big screen in “Some Like It Hot,” playing musicians hiding out in an all-girl band to escape some gangsters.

“And since this play takes place in the daytime, our three drag queens aren’t wearing as much glitz as if they were going out at night,” Jeffery adds.

Applying makeup turned out to be a real eye-opener for the director.

“What surprised me is how elaborate the process is. I didn’t realize before how much I’ve been naturally trained to do it.”

Jeffery does say the language can get a little racy. These three queens are past middle age and filled with all the rue you would expect.

“There are a few blushing moments,” the director chuckles, but compares the play to those Carol Burnett skits on TV that featured the character of Eunice. “Those skits were funny, but they always had a point.”

Meanwhile, across town at “The Penis Monologues,” Christopher Johnson as director is pulling together what he calls “a total community effort” in writing, performing and presenting this celebration of the male genitalia.

“I’d give all the credit to Eve Ensler, who wrote ‘The Vagina Monologues,’ ” Johnson says.

While those seven monologues are combined with comedy interludes and musical numbers, Johnson keeps insisting his production is not about gender politics. He’s going for an evening that is both thoughtful and fun.

“I started talking about the idea two years ago as a joke, really, but it was like, there was so much enthusiasm. They all said ‘Of course.’ It seemed like such a natural response to everyone.”

That’s when people all over town started writing and mailing Johnson their monologues for consideration. He estimates receiving 30 to 40 entries, a number of them written by women. That whole batch was winnowed down to the final seven, which LTW director of music Michael Martinez augmented with the musical numbers “Penis Gonna Shine” (with dreams of standing out as a porn star) and “Penis Is OK” (which Johnson describes as being about “equal rights”).

On the list are monologues covering al the different roles the penis plays in society. One woman who was comfortable with her own body also admitted she enjoyed the idea of using a strap-on. But only one monologue is about penis envy.

Johnson says the subject didn’t come up very often. A greater concern was the protest against circumcision. Their battle cry was “Save the Foreskin!”

“We simply want to express the idea that, regardless of how you choose to use your body, it will be beautiful,” Johnson says.

The comedy interludes are provided by the improv company Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed, using their improvisatory skills to play Penis Games with the audience. A few equally spontaneous bits are also being worked out as surprises for opening night.

“Yes,” Johnson affirms with enthusiasm, “there will be a giant inflatable penis.”

It’s a guy thing


What: Beowulf Alley Theatre Company presents “3 Guys in Drag Selling Their Stuff”

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 1:30 p.m. Sundays through March 1

Where: 11 S. Sixth Ave.

Price: $10 preview Friday, $20 Saturday’s opening night and thereafter (discounts for online purchase)

Info: 622-4460, beowulfalley.org

What: Etcetera at Live Theatre Workshop presents an original production, “The Penis Monologues”

When: 10:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays through Feb. 28

Where: 5317 E. Speedway Blvd.

Price: $10

Info: 481-1449, livetheatreworkshop.org

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