BWW Interviews: Tony-Nominated Charles Busch
Charles Busch is one of Broadway and Off Broadway’s genuine stars, a highly acclaimed actor whose performances as the leading lady have earned him critical praise. As a writer of everything from the Tony Award-nominated Tale of the Allergist's Wife to his homage/parodies of the golden era of Hollywood including Die, Mommie, Die and The Lady in Question he has received high praise from both critics and audiences alike.
For 25 years he has entertained and enthralled audiences both on stage and screen whilst remaining true to his downtown roots from his early 80s hits such as Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and Psycho Beach Party. Actor, Playwright, Screen Writer, Novelist - he’s managed to put his stamp on all aspects, it’s no wonder that his latest hit The Divine Sister that has extended its run twice so far has been so well received, a new play by Charles Busch is an event in itself.
This year my fringe Production Company Vertigo Theatre Productions have the great honour of performing two of his Off Broadway smash hits, ‘Psycho Beach Party’ and ‘Die, Mommie, Die!’ both for the first time here in the UK. To say it’s a thrill for all involved is an understatement and we know that the special magic that Charles Busch plays have will thrill UK audiences as much as it has done in the US.
I got to ask the great man himself some questions about his plays, movies, friendships and what UK audiences should expect from his work.
Hi Charles, how are things going over at The Divine Sister?
Extremely well. The run keeps getting extended and the audiences have been wonderfully affectionate and enthusiastic. It doesn't get better than that.
You and the wonderful Julie Halston have had a long standing friendship, how does it feel to be back on stage with her again?
Julie and I have been performing together for twenty-five years and it's just the most comforting experience being onstage with her and offstage as well. In a certain sense, the whole point of my writing The Divine Sister was to allow me to spend more time with Julie. I find her endlessly amusing, generous, sweet and smart and outrageous. I couldn't love her more.
Old movies have been a constant theme running throughout you career, from the beach movies in your play Psycho Beach Party to the melodramas in Die, Mommie, Die!, what draws you to the Hollywood golden era for inspiration and could you see yourself paying homage/parodying any recent movies or other genres?
I guess I'm something of a film historian and I'm always fascinated by the way movie genres illuminate the times in which they were made. It's not quite enough for me just to spoof an old movie. For instance, Die Mommie Die is my version of a mid-1960's suspense movie starring an aging actress like Lana Turner or Susan Hayward, but I like to think it also says something about a period when Hollywood was terribly confused about how to adapt their usual formulas to a radically changing time. All of the older characters in the play are in a kind of limbo, out-of-date and desperately trying to be relevant.
Your Aunt Lil was a huge influence in your life; can you tell us about her and her influence on you?
My mother died when I was seven and my father was something of a free spirit. I was extraordinarily fortunate that my mother had an older sister who adored me and adopted me and took me to live with her in New York City. She was a woman of remarkable insight and a genius intellect. She appreciated everything that made me unique and cleared every road to allow me to express my creativity.
As someone who works in fringe theatre myself and tackles the issues those fringe venues can bring I find your days at the Limbo Lounge so fascinating. What are your fondest memories of those days?
I have to admit that over the years I've romanticized that period of my life to a great degree. In fact, most of the time, we were in fits of hysteria trying to put on plays in a grunge art gallery/bar. You couldn't depend on anything. There was always a last minute catastrophe. However, there was a magic to it. In that pre-internet time, it was amazing how quickly word spread and our little troupe really did adore each other. It's a fantastic feeling being discovered.