And was this your first drag experience?
No! Oh no! No, no, no, no, no. Like most gay men, I had my first drag experience as a kid. Maybe not most gay men, there's no study of that, but I'm just assuming a lot of gay men had the fantasy of wearing dresses when they were children. When I was a kid, there was a dress hanging out somewhere. I think my mom was buying first communion presents for somebody. I was seven years old, or six, I don't remember. And I had just watched Mary Poppins. I saw Mary Poppins with her big umbrella, and her big dress floating around, and I thought, 'If I wear that dress, I could float around, too.' Because I wanted to fly, and my identical twin brother and I saw it, and we were just like, 'We want to wear that dress!' So, we put it on -- we didn't put it on together, we put it on one at a time -- and then we started jumping off of the couch in the dress in the hopes that the wind would catch the dress and we'd be floating around the living room. So, that was my first experience in drag.
So, this is not new at all...
No, it wasn't new. The next time I wore drag was in college. I think Halloween or the night before Halloween and my friend, Ben Rimalower, we were hanging out with him and he said, 'let's go into my closet, wear some drag, and smoke.' So, we just sat on his patio and smoked in costume. So, that was fun. And then I didn't do drag onstage until "When Pigs Fly." No! That's not true! I did a show called "Cleopatra: The Musical!" Did you ever see that? A John Fisher show...
I don't think I saw that one. I saw Medea: The Musical and Barebacking: The Musical... but never Cleopatra.
It showed at the Zellerbach Playhouse in Berkeley and I played, among other things, this crazy party girl named Cytheris. I had this long, wild hair, a toga, and heels. And no panties! I was just a hairy woman. That was a lot of fun. And THEN "When Pigs Fly" was the next time I did drag. It was the opening of Act II where we wore these tables that became dresses, and at the very end I wore a red swimsuit. That was a lot of fun.
Well, you can't get out of NCTC without being naked or doing drag. You have to pick one or the other, if not both.
Right! It was bound to happen. I loved my experiences at NCTC. I did a lot of shows there and I love what they do there. I can't believe that they do three shows at once at night, and then a bunch of shows in the morning? It's amazing. (NCTC artistic director) Ed Decker does amazing work.
What is it like when you join a group that has Ben and Irwin, who have been doing this for years and years? When does it stop being just a job and a paycheck and you realize that you are a core part of this group?
I think when I was first in the group, I was in the midst of thinking about auditioning for other things. It wasn't my goal to be a Kinsey. My goal had always been to perform, to act. I love acting. It didn't even have to be anything to do with singing. It could just be in a play, or a commercial, whatever. Acting's just a lot of fun. And when I first auditioned for the group, I was also auditioning for other things. I was down in Los Angeles, and I had auditioned for Disneyland. They were just opening their Aladdin show down there, and my brother and I auditioned together. We made it to the final-final callbacks. So, it was still running around in my mind, when I first auditioned for them, that my career was on a trajectory for doing various things and, honestly, I had been doing lots of different kinds of performances for several years, so my mind was used to doing a project for three or four months and then doing another project.
For the first year, it was really... and I have to give Ben, Chris, and Irwin credit for it. They really immersed me in the culture of the Kinseys early on, so I felt like I was part of the group. It was almost like unquestionably 'Wow, I feel like I am part of this group.' And it didn't really hit me until I was writing an arrangement and I actually gave creative input. You know, for the first performance, it was just 'here's a script, here's the music, here's the costume, here's a wig and makeup -- play this role.' Then it was the same thing as the other performance opportunities that I'd had, another role to play. But then I started giving input, designing costumes (one of the current set of costumes that we wear right now are costumes that I designed). I started creating arrangements for the group. I shot out three arrangements in one night, and it was like Wow! If I was just an actor, it's not the kind of creative input that I would be giving. You don't write for the TV show you're hired for, it's already written for you. Here, I was given the chance to actually create along with the other actors, the other directors, the other producers. When I felt like I was another creator, then I felt like I was a Kinsey.
It seems like you would have to get immersed, because I always assumed a Kinseys script is more of a framework. It seems you never quite know what's going to occur. You have to be present at all times onstage, because you never know what's about to happen.
There's no option for you to think 'Oh, OK, I have three minutes until my next line.'
No, no, no, no... you have to be present. And that's actually one of the magic things about the Kinseys. When things go wrong, oftentimes that's the best part of the show. That's when everyone is really on and you have to just pull it back, and how are you going to do that? In a regular show, that's hard because you're not a creator of the script.
It deflates things in a regular show.
You are seeing the actors panicked and trying to get the show back on track. Whereas in your show, you can stay in character, and the Kinseys have never been big on the fourth wall anyway...
Rachel couldn't exist with a fourth wall.
It would be like putting her in a cage, if there was a fourth wall. You can't do that. She has to go out and harass the audience, or talk back. We all have to acknowledge the audience, and I think that's such a positive aspect of it. I think being a creator in the Kinseys helped that move along. If you're just an actor, it's very difficult to participate in those kinds of...
There have to be certain people who, given that role, would be 'That's not in the script.' Aren't there certain actors who are just 'I want a role, my lines, and I can do this perfectly every night...'?
And they cannot stray from that path, right? Absolutely! And, I have to say, I used to think that way. I just wasn't used to this style. There's a script, but there's so much room and, for me, coming from doing plays and musicals and everything is in order, it was hard to get used to that. When it first happened, I was mortified, because what do you do when your mic pack falls off? Are you supposed to pretend that it's not there? You have to pick it up. You have to acknowledge it. And you can do that and still be in character.
I imagine you pretty much know the other performers to the extent that you know if you set something up, Rachel is going to spike it.
That's a great way of putting it. I wish you were there in Lubbock and some of those other performances that we did. There were a lot of those off-the-cuff set-up and spikings. There are just these mad, insane things, and then finally we get back on track. In another show, chaos! What would you do? It would be a disaster.
So, the Kinseys is a full-time thing?
It is all of our full-time gigs, besides being family men. Except Chris, he's single. Chris is single! He lives in New York.
His being single seems to be a recurring thing that gets mentioned. What's up with that?
I think the hard thing about being in a touring group is you're not in one place for a very long time, and that makes it hard to establish relationships. I'm lucky because I had my relationship with my partner for a year or two before I joined the group. And we were able to hang on to each other. But with Chris, he's been in the group for seven years. How do you make a relationship with someone who's going off every two weeks? How do you do that? I hope he's happy. Please be happy, Chris! I know you're happy, and you're still single.