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Also see Richard's review of Corpse!
The New Conservatory Theatre Center is presenting the prodigiously talented actor, writer, activist and celebrated drag queen George Weiss Vando in his one man show, ManLady, as the first special event of the 2003-2004 season. The solo piece is an interesting one hour queen show that fuses the art of story telling with drag, poetry and movement. ManLady had a smashing engagement in Los Angeles and the critics gave it thumbs up reviews. Backstage West critic Polly Warfield said of George's performance, "He extends a clenched fist and an outstretched hand that is truly told and truly moving."
George Weiss Vando developed his drag persona, Chocha Fresca, in Seattle where he received the title of best drag queen from The Seattle Weekly. George was recently seen as the sexy Spanish queen in Doing Judy which made a brief appearance in our city.
ManLady is a blazingly honest theatrical odyssey into the heart of the paradox of drag masculinity. Vando performs his own words which sometimes sound like rap combined with the early beatnik style of writing. He amplifies words and sentences, reminiscent of the angry young poets of the '60s, especially in his monologue toward the end of the performance called "Look at Me."
Vando comes out on a bare stage with a few drag props draped on a stand in the background. He looks like a newly born infant in white face and outfit standing there for minutes saying nothing and moving almost angrily to the beat of Latin music. George tells of a story when he was 13 years old and his mother gave him a Superman cape for his birthday. He says he flew about the house wearing stiletto heels thinking he was Wonder Woman. Vando, who is quite mannish, tells you what happens when you're a masculine man but you like to dress in drag.
George relates stories of his childhood, going to school and college and how he moved to Seattle afterwards to be the Drag Queen of Seattle. Through elaborate movements, he slowly puts on his drag outfit to become a gorgeous woman in a sleek, skintight, red sequined dress with a flowing, brassy wig as he sings Janice Jackson's "Control." George also does a bawdy striptease that is very excessive and probably a little earthy.
The title ManLady comes from the time an eight year old neighbor girl saw George in drag in the daylight. (You never want to see a drag queen during the daylight hours, he tells the audience.) The young girl said "hey, what are you, a man or a lady?" He told the girl this was his working outfit. She called him a "manlady" after that encounter.
The performer peels away the layers and we get to see the darkly funny and often unseen world of a drag queen. George explores the genesis of a "queer" gender identity that honors its feminist roots.
Vando's last scene is a mesmerizing experience as he changes from a feminine drag queen back to a very butch male, completely attired in black leather and boots. No words are spoken but it is beautiful theater piece. George explains that he wants to put "an end to queer misogyny" and sometimes clothes do not make the man.
ManLady is currently at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave at Market in San Francisco. It runs through September 7th. Tickets can be obtain by calling the Box Office at 415-861-8972 or on line at www.nctcsf.org Also playing that the center are Kilt and Spanked.