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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 18, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 3
Force of nature - Meet Jinkx Monsoon, the busiest little showgirl in Seattle
Arts & Entertainment
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Force of nature - Meet Jinkx Monsoon, the busiest little showgirl in Seattle

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer Hurricane Sandy, meet Jinkx Monsoon. She's got you beat. Bowing to national TV audiences later this month and making her lead acting debut in a new theatrical production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, this Seattle-based performer is storming her way into the entertainment world with a dangerous combination of actor, singer, female impersonator, comic, and sassy-pants persona. Monsoon (real name Jerick Hoffer) graduated with honors from Cornish College of the Arts and wasted no time putting herself out there. While appearing weekly at Julia's on Broadway, she landed roles in Spring Awakening and Rent and also kept busy as one-half of the 1920s-inspired musical duo The Vaudevillians. Monsoon can also be seen in season five of RuPaul's Drag Race, premiering January 28 on Logo TV. Hedwig runs through January 27 at the Moore Theatre and ticket information is available at www.stgpresents.org. I caught up with her during final rehearsals and here's what she had to say.

Albert Rodriguez: For those that haven't seen Hedwig in any capacity, why is it so relevant to Gay culture? Jinkx

Monsoon: I think it's because it's a story that's really unapologetic about what it's about. It doesn't skirt around the issue. It's a tragic story about what some people have to go through just to find a place in the world and the sacrifices people have to make just to get the same kind of freedoms that we take for granted today.

Rodriguez: Now, for those that have seen Hedwig - the play or film - what's unique about the Moore Theatre production?

Monsoon: Well, we went into this process treating it like this was a brand new play that had just been written and has never been done before. So we tackled the script and tackled the story as it was the first time it's ever going to be produced. We went for rawness and authenticity, and focused on how this show is a rock show and not a musical.

Rodriguez: Are the rehearsals brutal? Are they long and exhausting?

Monsoon: Yeah, when we're rehearsing so many songs, and especially when we're committing to the intensity of some of these songs, it can be really exhausting just rehearsing half of the show. There are days we go through the whole show twice. I'm exhausted by the end of the day. But it's a good kind of exhaustion because this is my dream role, one of my favorite shows of all time.

Rodriguez: Will your family come see your performance? Are they supportive of what you do?

Monsoon: My family has been increasingly supportive over the years. I decided to go to arts school because that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and I think once I made that very, very clear to my whole family - that I'm never going to change my mind and go to business school, I'm going to be an artist in some capacity - they were behind me 100%. My family all lives in Portland, so if they get a chance to come up and see it they won't have a problem seeing me dressed as an East German Transsexual.

Rodriguez: Has your family seen any of your drag performances?

Monsoon: Yeah, my youngest brother, actually, who's about to turn 14, is Jinkx Monsoon's biggest fan. He's extremely excited to see RuPaul's Drag Race. My mom loves my drag work. She and I laugh at the fact that Jinkx Monsoon is a cheap impression of my mom, so she kind of enjoys seeing how I portray her through my drag work. And my aunt has been my number one supporter and my benefactor through college and getting my art career started.

Rodriguez: Where will you watch the premiere of RuPaul's Drag Race?

Monsoon: I will be in L.A. for the early premiere party on the 22nd, and the national premiere of the first episode is on the 28th of January and I will be watching it with all of my friends, and anyone who wants to join me, at Julia's on Broadway, which is where I have my weekend female impersonation show. So I'll at least be there for the first big premiere, and then I might start watching the episodes with my best friend at my apartment.

Rodriguez: Having done the show yourself, was it a blast?

Monsoon: I describe it as hellishly amazing and amazingly hellish. It was one of the most profound, amazing experiences I've been through. I wouldn't change a moment of it for the world. But it's like being in a drag marathon. It's really long days, really long weeks, and a lot of hard work to be doing drag at that level. I'm one of thousands of drag queens who applied this year, and I was one of 14 who actually got selected. So you put up with the grueling aspects of it because you're lucky as hell to be given this opportunity.

Rodriguez: What is RuPaul like when the cameras stop rolling?

Monsoon: RuPaul has the best sense of humor. That was my favorite aspect of working with her. She's kind of corny, she's kind of cheesy, and she's very tongue-in-cheek, and she loves puns. But she's very, very effervescent and has the best sense of humor about everything and is just very genuine.

Rodriguez: Did the cast get along with each other, or was there any catfighting behind the scenes?

Monsoon: I would say that when you put 14 drag queens into one confined space you're bound to have all kinds of interactions. There was definitely bashing of egos here and there, but we're all ladies. We tried our best to keep it classy. It's the inevitable catfight, so it's not only expected, it's kind of obligatory.

Rodriguez: Do you have a favorite place to tie one on?

Monsoon: It depends on my mood. If I want to be super-social and run into a million people, lately I've been going to Q a lot. I try my best to go to 'Butch Queen' when it happens, which happens at The Cockpit once a month. It's an alternative Queer dance party. But my usual haunt is Pony because they carry all the alcohol that normal bars generally don't have.

Rodriguez: For the RuPaul series, do they provide a wardrobe for you or do you have to take your own?

Monsoon: It's whatever you can bring. You get to take five suitcases and two carry-ons, and whatever you can fit into there is what you have to work with. You have to be strategic and take all your best drag, and you gotta know how to be resourceful. If you didn't pack a blue dress and you definitely need a blue dress, you have to have your own idea on how you're going to fix that. It was quite the process even packing for my trip there.

Rodriguez: Is the ultimate goal 10 from years from now to be living in New York working on Broadway and still doing your female impersonation shows?

Monsoon: My dream is to continue my drag work and my acting work the way I have been, which is finding every opportunity I can to combine the two. My dream job is to be an actor on Broadway, but specifically a drag queen actress - a 'dragstress,' a term I'm trying to coin. I would love to be the first Tony winner who portrays positive female roles, primarily. There's a lot of dream roles out there for me that are female and I'm ready to show the world that it's well within a drag queen's capability to play lead female roles on Broadway every bit as well as a female actress. And, I have this dream to be the first drag queen to host SNL.

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