Elvis, Tina Turner, Madonna and the Statue of Liberty walk into the University of Arizona…
The Arizona Repertory Theatre’s first show of the season, “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” puts their actors in drag over-the-top costumes, makeup looks and wigs.
“It is more so in your face than anything I have ever experienced,” said Rachel Wilkins, one of the wardrobe heads for the show.
The show tells the story of Casey, played by University of Arizona student Dylan Cotter. When Casey loses his job as an Elvis impersonator, he turns to the drag scene in order to provide for his wife and the child he has on the way.
“With a lot of pressures mounting up on him, he eventually turns to the unlikely world of drag and drag queens to help solve his problems,” Cotter said. “He finds a little bit more than just financial security in these people.”
For Cotter, this was the first time he had ever come into contact with drag. While drag didn’t pique his interest prior to the play, he said he was able to learn about the history behind drag and had a fun time representing the community.
“I never really had interest in it or knew what it was,” Cotter said. “As soon as I got cast in the play and we started prepping for the show, I became more and more familiar with the world of drag and the culture of drag. The history was like an entirely new universe that I never heard. It was a really great time.”
Similar to Cotter, Naphtali Curry, who plays a character named Tracy, had also never been in drag. In the past, Curry had to wear makeup in order to portray a scary ghost face, but he had never done makeup that portrayed beauty.
“When I did Addams Family here, we had to wear, like, ghostly, ancestry makeup,” Curry said. “We still had contour and things like that but it wasn’t like giving face contour, more so just making us look older and ghost-like.”
According to Wilkins, co-director Patrick Holt went over the makeup basics with the actors. Holt is an associate professor at the UA School of Theatre, Film & Television and a prominent drag queen. He taught everyone how he wanted it to look and perfected it along the way, allowing the actors to do their own makeup for the show.
Wilkins said they all look so great when they are transformed into their characters.
“It was hard, I’ve never done it before,” Curry said. “You don’t want it to look spotty, so that was my biggest challenge, just making sure everything blends. I learned it pretty quickly. From starting it to doing it by myself, it took me about a week to really solidify this is how it goes and it will look like this every time.”
When it came to costumes, the bigger the better. Wilkins said Holt designed the costumes with the help of theatre production student Shaelyn Ellershaw. Wilkins and the rest of the wardrobe department made the costumes that couldn’t be bought, such as the Tina Turner dress and Elvis jumpsuits.
“As you can imagine, Patrick having that field of knowledge already led to the most amazing kind of spectacular costumes, from beautifully embroidered dresses that give a callback to the Elvis and 50s theme of the show, to ridiculous and over the top bikini leotards,” Cotter said. “You get the full range of really nicely done stuff and stuff that will make you laugh as soon as you see it.”
Curry said the bold wardrobe in the show included the biggest costumes he has ever had to wear, and he has to make eight costume changes throughout the show.
“In other shows that I have done, it’s like pants, shirt, you’re good, and this time, I’m having to do the most costume changes I’ve ever had during a show,” Curry said.
Despite having three back-to-back costume changes, Curry said that he is blessed to have some time in between. Cotter, on the other hand, has to change from woman to man in the matter of seconds.
“We have two wardrobe people on Dylan because he has so many changes,” Wilkins said. “The longest change that he has is in between scenes. When he runs off, we have 15 seconds or less to literally get him out of a woman and into a man or get him out of man into all woman.”
Wilkins said they were able to work on a routine and figure out what works best when it comes to the fast wardrobe changes. She said they can probably do it with their eyes closed now.
In addition to the crazy costumes and makeup, Cotter said the show is sure to make you fall from your seat laughing.
“Aside from the fact that you’re going to have nonstop laughter for an hour and a half, the show is really funny and hilarious,” Cotter said. “You’re going to see everything in the world of drag from every perspective.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the show, you can visit them at theatre.arizona.edu.
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