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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 14, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 24
Jinkxies! It's Hairspray! - Seattle's drag superstar is Velma in a special 10th anniversary edition of the musical
Arts & Entertainment
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Jinkxies! It's Hairspray! - Seattle's drag superstar is Velma in a special 10th anniversary edition of the musical

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

HAIRSPRAY IN CONCERT
SEATTLE MEN'S CHORUS/
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
June 20 - 23


Jinkx Monsoon is more than a superstar - she is a Seattle girl gone wild! Making a memorable name for herself in several venues on Seattle's stage, Jinkx (birth name Jerick Hoffer) went on to become America's Reigning Drag Superstar, winning Season Five of RuPaul's Drag Race in a walk. After further proving herself onstage as Angel (in RENT) and in the title role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Jinkx Monsoon is now ready to take on more than 300 men at once: the Seattle Men's Chorus. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Hairspray: The Musical (a show that got its world premiere in Seattle), Jinkx will be performing the role of Velma von Tussle in a special concert version. So get your Ultra Clutch Hairspray, Tracy Turnblad - it's Monsoon season! Eric

Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences? Jinkx

Monsoon: Definitely Meryl Streep! Actually Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn both, in Death Becomes Her. Anjelica Houston in The Witches and The Addams Family, and then a few cartoon characters. I think Jessica Rabbit is, for a lot of drag queens, the first exposure to hyper-femininity. From The X-Men, I love all the women there, with their exaggerated personalities.

Andrews-Katz: How old were you when you first did drag, and what were the circumstances?

Monsoon: I was definitely experimenting with 'gender illusion' when I was about 14. I was in eighth grade and going to a performing-arts middle school [Portland's DaVinci Arts]. We were doing a talent show and I did a Southern psychic/palm reader. By age 15, I was in an all-ages dance club in Portland, and did my first full-on character, Jinkx Monsoon.

Andrews-Katz: What was the biggest surprise about the outcome of RuPaul's Drag Race?

Monsoon: I think for me it was kind of a mixture of exposure and responsibility. Those have been the most prevalent things since my crowning. My career has skyrocketed and that's great! But I also have a responsibility to my fan base. I found out that there are people who now look up to me and use me as a role model. It's not what I was expecting but I'm glad to take it on.

Andrews-Katz: What was your first exposure to theater?

Monsoon: My first professional theater was playing Columbia in The Rocky Horror Show, at the Triangle Theater in Portland. I want to say that was about 2004 or '05 - I was 17. I auditioned for Frank N. Furter, but their first choice became available and they told me they didn't think a 17-year-old could play the most sexually provocative character in the show. I was leaving the room and they asked if I could tap dance. I jumped around the room and said, 'Can I Tap Dance!' and did an impromptu on the spot. They hired me.

Andrews-Katz: Do you think that roles in drag will have a more common place in modern theater?

Monsoon: I think all signs point to yes. My dream is that we get to a co-existence mindset, that we can look past a person's sex and just appreciate the person's performance for whatever gender they are representing. Actors need to be more gender-ambiguous and versatile. It's a huge gift to play any kind of role right, male or female.

Andrews-Katz: Obviously it's become something personal to you, but when was your first exposure to Grey Gardens and what is it about Little Edie that fascinates you?

Monsoon: My first experience with Grey Gardens was stumbling upon a YouTube" video of Christine Ebersole singing 'The Revolutionary Costume.' I had no idea what it was or what it was referring to - I just loved the character. I watched the documentary and as soon as I saw them, I became head-over-heels obsessed with Little Edie. I relate to her because she seems to be out of her own time - she wasn't born in the right era. We joke, among my friends, that I act like I was born in the 1920s!

Andrews-Katz: You seem to be very well versed in Gay history. How do you come by your Gay education?

Monsoon: I just feel lucky and privileged to be growing up in this time, and growing up while skipping some of those [past] experiences. There are so many struggles as a Queer community that we've gone through. When you are Queer, you are part of a culture and it's more than just a group of people. It's worldwide and you know it dates back as far as you can think. It's important to look to your past to appreciate what you have. And there are a lot of youth who take for granted the current times they're growing up in.

Andrews-Katz: With your recent sell-out success in New York of The Vaudevillians, do you plan on taking the show on tour?

Monsoon: We already have some other dates here and there, in D.C. and even Dubai. Can you believe we are doing The Vaudevillians in Dubai? We would definitely like to take it on tour. I have a dream of doing it at Seattle's Triple Door. After New York and the current tour, I hope we can end with a week at the Triple Door.

Andrews-Katz: How do you describe the symbiotic relationship between Gay men and theater?

Monsoon: I'm sure there are tons of circumstantial things throughout the ages to explain it all & I think theater allows you to live without being yourself for a few hours. I think maybe those who weren't really feeling welcome in their own lives, those [who felt] like they have to hide out, find a certain kind of freedom playing someone else for a while. I grew up in a real accepting environment and I'm still having fun doing it!

Andrews-Katz: What's next on the schedule for Jinkx Monsoon?

Monsoon: First I'm doing Hairspray, the musical concert with the Seattle Men's Chorus. I just saw my wigs for that today, and you should come for the wigs alone! Then, Freedom Fantasia is a show I do every Fourth of July at the Triple Door in Seattle. We'll be doing it for several days there. I hope to do as much theater work in drag as possible throughout the year. That way I can combine the two worlds.

Andrews-Katz: Taking Grey Gardens out of the picture, if you could play any role regardless of limitations, what would it be?

Monsoon: Hands down, Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Sondheim is my favorite musical composer. My top three dream roles are all from Sondheim musicals. She's kind of like a Disney villain, and I love how evil she is. She's quirky and disheveled and that's a character I always like to play.

Look for a review of Hairspray In Concert in next week's SGN.

Jinkx Monsoon was born Jerick Hoffer and grew up in Portland, Oregon. His work includes Spring Awakening and Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Seattle's Balagan Theatre. He also starred as Angel in the 5th Avenue Production of RENT! before going on to win the fifth season of RuPaul's Drag Race.

The concert production of Hairspray, The Musical, is a collaboration between 5th Avenue Theater and the Seattle Men's Chorus.


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