About the author:
Everett Quinton made his mark on the off-Broadway scene thanks to his work as artistic director of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. Quinton, who took over the role after the death of his partner, company founder Charles Ludlam, has brought his comedic sensibilities to the group's adaptations of classics such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and his one-man take on A Tale of Two Cities. Now the experienced drag actor is setting his sights on another popular genre: 50s science fiction. As the star of Devil Boys From Beyond, Quinton plays Florence Wexler, a salty resident of a small Florida town where an alien landing occurs. The actor shared his thoughts on the joys of performing in the campy piece, which opens November 13 at New World Stages, and reflected on his extensive career.
I had a teacher once who said, “Whatever is going on with you or within you, just say to yourself , ‘I’m in a show in New York City!’” I’ve been blessed in my life to be able to expand that thought to the many cities I’ve gotten to work in since leaving my longtime home, Charles Ludlum’s Ridiculous Theatrical Company! I’ve gotten to say it about London, Toronto, Indianapolis (where a guy on a treadmill in the hotel gym said to me, “Aren’t you Everett Quinton?” Too bad there was no one with me to see that I was a “star”). I also turned 50 on an opening night, a long time ago in Washington D.C. at the Kennedy Center with the First Lady of the United States in the audience.
So after a number of years of doing pretty much traditional, albeit wonderful, theater throughout the world, it’s a joy to be performing in Buddy Thomas’ Devil Boys From Beyond at New World Stages in New York City. It reminds me of my early Ridiculous Theatrical Company days. What a joy not to have heard the words, “Everett, could you tone it down?!” Charles Ludlum always said, “If less was more, they would have called it more!” It occurs to me that creates a win-win situation.
I joined the Ridiculous Theatrical Company in 1976, and boy was I in the right place at the right time! I didn’t know who Charles Ludlum was when I first met him and I didn’t know about his company. So when I saw Taboo Tableaux, a benefit performance in which the company performed a scene from every play they had produced during its 10-year existence, it changed the way I looked at the world forever. I thought I was crazy all my life. I didn’t realize that as a frightened gay kid reenacting Joan Crawford movies behind locked doors in the privacy of my bathroom I was aspiring to be an actor. But at Taboo Tableaux, I saw the great Black-Eyed Susan perform a monologue from Caprice, which was influenced by Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom. It was theater like I had never seen before!
Also that night, the great Georg Osterman performed a scene as Bunny Beswick from Charles’ Hot Ice: “Is that fur fox?” “Yeah, and that’s how I got it too!” I couldn’t believe my eyes. Courageous people doing courageous theater. Suddenly I wasn’t the only drag queen in the world. Once, over lunch, Georg and I discussed whether or not we were drag queens who could act or actors doing drag. I said I was a drag queen who could act and Georg said he was an actor doing drag. How liberating to have that talk! Not to mention the great John D. Brockmeyer as Tamberlain, the Conquerer of the Universe, in Conquest of the Universe, or When Queens Collide, Charles Ludlum’s contribution to plays about outer space. It would be impossible to cite all the similarities between that work and Devil Boys From Beyond because there are so many. All I know is I feel the same sense of freedom and courage when I head to the theater to prepare for my performance.
What a joy to be reunited with the wonderful cast and crew of this fabulous play, which by the way, was the smash hit of the 2009 NYC Fringe Festival . We’re a great bunch, as they say—a delightful mix of actors with varying degrees of experience. There is no greater joy for me than to be on stage with brave young actors [Rob Berliner, Jeff Riberdy and Jacques Mitchell] just starting their own journeys to Indianapolis.
It’s delicious to be reminded of what it felt like 35 years ago (this coming February 10) when I stepped on stage in NYC for the first time in Charles Ludlum’s play Caprice. All I had was guts, raw talent and a mad, unconscious sense that this is what God had in mind for me when he/she chose me to be an actor…the butterflies and that wonderful “I wish I was dead feeling” right before you step from the wings into the calming lights of Doctor Stage!