DTLA Proud 2022 Kicks Off, Healthcare Organizations Go For Monkeypox
LOS ANGELES — If you’re planning on getting married in the United States this year, you’re in good company. Sidelined for the past two years by COVID, relaxed public gathering protocols mean that 2022 will see an unusually high number of crowded pews and reception halls.
Indeed, wedding preparation website theknot.com estimates that 2.6 million wedding mishegas are expected to take place this year. But before you apply for a marriage certificate or book an officiant, may we suggest you check out the new solo show of world-renowned, multi-talented, and supernaturally-able drag queen BenDeLaCreme?
Presented as a “narrative cabaret”, BenDeLaCreme is… Ready to commit sees her of the eternally sunny disposition swearing off into completely uncharted territory, by getting married. The project turns out to be a bit of a fix, as DeLa isn’t even engaged…or dating — a minor matter for someone whose obsessive attention to detail, drill sergeant way of rallying the troops, and A laser-focused eye on the prize would put even the most discerning Bridezilla to shame.
Highly capable as she is, DeLa also has an aggressive streak of naivety that makes her oblivious to major and minor obstacles. Thus, the airy primer of arranging a wedding becomes the prism through which societal expectations, perfectionism and self-image get a full dressing and drag queen-level transformation that redefines them. for the modern era.
Performed at a brisk pace and in a way that blends everything from slapstick and vaudeville to high camp, history, philosophy and puppetry, Ready to commit deserves the general description of “art” just as surely as DeLa earned the nickname “artist”.
And this assessment of the actor, director, writer and producer (DeLa serves all four on this production) is based on a very first performance in July 2019, at the Laurie Beechman Theater in New York. The performance was meant to be a prelude to a nationwide tour, which is finally underway after numerous delays caused by COVID.
So what does that say about our aforementioned quadruple threat that not much about the show’s script and delivery has changed between 2019 at the Beechman and last week’s performance at Sony Hall in New York? ? The short answer is that BenDeLaCreme knows what it’s doing and enjoys doing it. See the Q&A below for proof.
Scott Stiffler, for The Los Angeles Blade (Blade): All of the same basic plot points and subject matter seem to remain in place, from when you first premiered the show in 2019. Did the COVID era that delayed your current tour inform the material ?
BenDeLaCreme (DeLa): Over time I found myself working to up the ante on production values. I wondered if anything would hit differently now in a COVID world, but I really find that the exploration of how we see love and relationships in our culture is happening pretty quickly and if anything seems, I think, even more immediate and relevant. We’ve all been through something that underscored the importance of connection and even the act of being physically present with someone, which I think has only helped the material…
Blade: You’ve had several successful solo shows featuring DeLa, but this one shows us previously touched on but not fleshed out facets of her character. Why use this as a vehicle to do so?
Of the : I explored a lot of different subjects through DeLa, from science to religion, but I never really got his touch on anything more personal and intimate to the character. She’s always been pretty aggressively asexual and sort of oblivious to the idea of partners or relationships, so this is the first time I’ve really brought her there. And I think part of the reason it works is that she doesn’t even really realize she’s going.
Blade: How do you play that ignorance in a way that doesn’t get the character or the show stuck in one place?
Of the : One of the things that I really love about this camp tradition is that there’s a really fun thing where the audience can participate in something that they also know the writer and the actor are , but not the character. You can constantly comment because the audience can tell that the writer and the character actually think almost opposite things. From the start of the show she’s kind of curvy and unfamiliar, but we can see what she’s missing and what complexity and nuance she doesn’t want to watch – so that in the end when she finally comes I think that there is a satisfaction that she completes this journey, and I think it works specifically because she has this wide-eyed, silly demeanor that allows people to approach things from a new place… But he [both character and plot] definitely goes in unexpected directions. I think people expect “a girl to go out there looking for ‘the right one’ and we see the results” – but I really, in the process of writing, tried to take it in a direction that was about something more universal, about how we relate to these ideas, whether we end up with someone or not… We’re all processing the stories we’ve been told about this what love should be, what relationships should be, what true love is. It really disturbs people’s perception and their ability to have a real connection instead of comparing it to this ideal fairy tale.
Blade: It’s funny that to deconstruct the world of fairy tales you often use puppets – something so imaginary and fantastical – as a comic foil or dividing device.
Of the : The puppet has been talking to me since I was little. I fell in love with The Muppets and the work of Jim Henson just a few years before I discovered drag. I mean, Miss Piggy was basically my first drag queen. The kind of camp drag that I like, that I’ve always been drawn to by Varla Jean Merman, Charles Busch, it’s very much in the same world as this puppet storytelling. They’re kind of these larger-than-life characters, sort of ridiculous characters that we have to use our suspension of disbelief to believe to believe that they’re truly grounded and living in a real universe. But for some reason they’re so inviting and colorful and fun that we’re ready to take that trip and when you’re dealing with something big and campy like a drag queen or big and campy like a puppet, you are ready to go and be led down more complicated paths somehow… I want to keep things fun and lighthearted. I want the audience to laugh and have a good time, but I also really like to explore ideas that are a little more complicated than DeLa’s character could ever understand. So she needs someone else who can lead her in these topics and some of these topics are maybe a bit too heady and difficult to tackle in a playful setting unless they come from an object ridiculous inanimate that comes to life.
Blade: Let’s talk a bit about your work with the great Jinkx Monsoon. As we noted earlier, you both work in a buddy/comedian team dynamic that draws inspiration from the classics but also brings something new to the table. How did this dynamic develop?
Of the : Jink and I have known each other for a long time, well over a decade at this point. We were both up-and-coming artists in Seattle when I first met her. I thought, “This queen really works in the same world. We have the same sensitivities. We better join forces now or we’ll end up competing with each other. So when we started there were maybe more give and take, more expected. We were less opposed. This [being warring besties who eventually reconcile] really started once we got into creating these Christmas shows. I’ve always had my kind of naive, wide-eyed character on stage and she’s always had her boozy, brash character, but when we meet, it brings it out to new levels. I mean, the Jinkx and DeLa version of DeLa is infinitely dumber than any other version of DeLa, and Jinkx is more cynical and sarcastic than she can be. We balance each other out really well and I think a big part of that is that we have these very opposite characters, who we use to say the same things. Jinkx and I as artists, as writers, have a lot of the same mission statements. We feel the same way about vacations and the hardships of them, and the importance of community, the importance of creating your own rules and creating your own life. But through the characters… You know, DeLa doesn’t have to get it so aggressively that we know the writer gets it. And Jinkx must be taken to such extremes that it blocks his ability to experience joy that we [the audience] understand that we are at opposite ends of the same commentary.
Blade: Comment. This brings us to the end—of Engaged when I saw it in 2019, the awesome Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Special (2000), and your 2021 holiday show with Jinkx. There’s so much innuendo, rancor, camp and gleefully sexual content everywhere, but every show ends in a place of deserved sincerity, with a serious, even sober message about the importance of community. It’s really tricky to do.
Of the : I still do it on my shows and the shows I do with Jinkx, but I would say it’s less of an obligation and more of a mission statement. I mean, everything else is really fun, but if it’s missing that heart, that’s not the show I want to do. He must have this sincerity and this vulnerability. But vulnerability and sincerity are a tough sell these days. People don’t feel comfortable with something they perceive as too schmaltzy or too heartfelt – and I think it’s all these cynical digs [preceeding the sincerity] that allow people… You know, it’s sort of this ratio: you can make 90% jokes and snark to them, and then they’ll walk you through those 10% genuine, intimate, vulnerable emotions – and that’s That’s why I like it, and that’s why I like the camp and the puppets and all that. People will come with you. I think there’s something about the artifice that leads to the truth when the truth alone scares people too much.
Blade: One last question: Will you and Jinkx be touring with a new holiday show this year?
Of the : We haven’t announced anything yet, but I think most people assume what the truth is – that is, we’ll be hitting the road again with another Christmas how this coming holiday season… and I think that’s is something that we will be prioritizing for years to come.
“BenDeLaCreme is…Ready to be Committed” plays Dynasty Typewriter at the Hayworth Theater (2511 Wilshire Blvd.) Thursday-Sunday May 12-15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45 general admission, $120 VIP (includes meet and greet and VIP access). For reservations: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bendelacreme-is-ready-to-be-committed-tickets-252455931487. Proof of full vaccination is required upon entry; the name on the vaccination card must match your ID.