Pageant, written by two-time Tony nominee Bill Russell, Frank Kelly, and Seattle’s very own Albert Evans, debuted Off-Broadway in 1991 at the Blue Angel in New York and puts a high-heeled drag-spin on the competitive pageant scene. The show takes the audience on a fabulous adventure into the timeless world of the Miss Glamouresse Beauty Pageant. Audiences will cheer for their favorites that include Miss West Coast, Miss Great Plains, Miss Industrial Northeast, Miss Bible Belt, Miss Texas, and Miss Deep South. Every night the audience fills out the scores to pick the winners. The show opens this Friday, June 15th as the first full production of A Sensible Theatre Company at ACT Theatre (get tickets HERE!) Co-Founding Producer Paul Flanagan, seen in many 5th Avenue Theatre productions over the years, graciously made time to talk about the company and this production where he also stars as “Miss Bible Belt”.
David-Edward: What is the background behind the formation and launch of your new company, “A Sensible Theatre Company”?
Paul: Our show, Pageant came first, actually! A friend told me I should be in Pageant, the Musical in 2014 and I was like “Okay…” He said “just produce it!” I said – HA!!! Then in 2016 Jared Michael Brown produced my 30th birthday cabaret. It was a beautiful evening…he did an amazing job. After that we were a sensible night on the town and he told me he wanted to do more producing. I said, how about we produce Pageant the Musical?
In a dizzying week of quick phone calls and emails, we approached John Langs at ACT thinking ACTLab might be the perfect partner in this venture and John said yes! Jared and I were like, “oh shit – okay!”
When it came to ACTUALLY producing this show, we both knew that we had to create a theatre company to raise the money. But, we didn’t want to create just another theatre company, though – we wanted to be unique. So Jared, said well, here’s what we know: we both identify as gay, we both love our LGBTQIA+ community…let’s create, like, a queer theatre company. I said “Sensible” and that’s when A Sensible Theatre Company was born.
David-Edward: Pageant has only ever been staged locally at High Schools here despite most major metropolitan cities having seen it and some more than once. What led you to pick it?
Paul: We chose Pageant for a number of reasons,.Most notable, is Albert Evans, Pageant’s composer, lives in Seattle! He’s been working at the 5th Avenue Theatre for over 10 years. Both Jared and I have a long history working with Albert, and we absolutely adore the man. We wanted him to be able to see a local, professional mounting of his work.
David-Edward: As one of the pageant contestants in this production, talk about your character.
Paul: I play Ruth Ann Ruth – Miss Bible Belt. She’s using the pageant circuit platform to spread the good word of the lord. “Praise Him!”
David-Edward: Can you let our readers know some of the future projects that the company will be up to?
Paul: A Sensible Theatre Company is the official entertainment sponsor for the GSBA’s EQUALUX: Taste of GSBA, this year – happening on November 17th. We will also be producing a monthly cabaret featuring local queer artists, that will be happening every 3rd Monday, so put that in your calendar! Make sure to follow us on Social Media to get all the latest updates! We have some other amazing things brewing but we can’t talk about those yet.
David-Edward: Seattle has missed having a LGBT Theater Company since the end of Alice B Theater quite a few years ago. Speak a little bit about your design for the company and what future shows you may have in mind or indeed scheduled for the future. (Editor’s Note: There are currently other theater companies in Seattle that identify as LGBTQ including Fantastic Z)
Paul: A Sensible Theatre Co.’s sole mission is to present high-caliber queer entertainment. Theatre, Events, Runway Shows, Dinner Parties… We’re constantly curious, and our community is constantly seeking new experiences where they can truly let loose and be themselves. We strive to employ as many LGBTQIA+ individuals as we possibly can, and allow them space to tell current queer stories, written and curated by queer people. Our mantra that we always come back to is to lead with love, in everything we do.
David-Edward: I’ve always felt that Pageant was the show that could be enjoyed by anyone therefore the accessibility of having done it at the high schools. What is your audience rating for the show in terms of appropriateness for younger audiences?
Paul: How on earth could someone resist a ventriloquist act, a modern interpretive dance, AND an accordion solo set to Classical Fantasia – all in heels? The show is universal, it was then and it certainly is now. And I think that everyone can recall a time where they were surfing through the channels and came across a Miss America Pageant – it’s fascinating to watch. And with RuPaul, with queer entertainment like Love, Simon and Will & Grace…it’s in our cultural zeitgeist. But to answer the audience rating portion of your question, ACT has a tidy response: “ACT believes that our patrons can determine what is offensive for themselves, and what is appropriate for their children. We don’t create age restrictions but do our best to offer content advisories for each show.”
David-Edward: What is your take on acting in a show you are producing?
Paul: There’s an interesting dichotomy of compartmentalization that I’ve been trying to process leading up to opening. I still haven’t quite figured out the balance but it’s a 4 part pull. One is fear, we all know how that creeps in and takes up space, right? – anytime you put yourself out there, fear comes in and tries to stop you.
Two is the external view, I’m pinching myself because we’ve been planning this for two years and it’s happening, it’s here! During rehearsals I look around and see this beautiful room filled with LGBTQIA+ people and they are all here because Jared and I had an idea and we were crazy enough to see it through!
Three is work, there’s always something to do regarding the Company and Personal life. And the fourth one is the show and learning my track for Miss Bible Belt.
All of these things are fighting for attention. I think the big lesson here is being present and maybe the correct allocation of time, and for sure shutting off fear because no one has the time for that!
David-Edward: Any final thoughts?
Paul: I think the universe is funny. If someone came up to me in New York in 2011 and told me “you need to move back to Seattle so that in 2018 you can play Miss Bible Belt in A Sensible Theatre Co.’s inaugural show Pageant the Musical – Oh and by the way you’re the co-founder of that company.” I would have laughed in their face and told them to stop with the tomfoolery!!
Pageant will be performed in The Bullitt Cabaret at ACT, 700 Union Street, in downtown Seattle. The production opens on June 15, 2018 and runs through July 8, 2018. Tickets start at $35 (Student discounts available). For tickets and more information, call 206.292.7676 or visit www.acttheatre.org.