Entertainment » Theatre

Talking with Drew Droege - We Need 'Bright Colors and Bold Patterns'

by Robert Nesti
EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor
Friday Nov 10, 2017

A few years ago Drew Droege received an invitation to a straight friend's wedding in which she asked that none of the guests wear "bright colors and bold patterns." The phrase jumped off the page for Droege, the actor/writer/video performer best-known for his hilarious web parodies of actress Chloe Sevigny, and it inspired him to write a play.

That became "Bright Colors and Bold Patterns," his one-person play that he brought to New York last year to much acclaim. In it, Droege plays Gerry - a loud, opinionated and often drunk hot mess, who holds court poolside in Palm Springs on the eve of the gay wedding of a friend. On arriving he meets up with Dwayne, his ex, and Mack, Dwayne's millennial boyfriend, and immediately opens up on the grooms, saying one has all the personality of an ottoman.

That both Dwayne, Mack and a third character are unseen and not heard is the play's conceit, one that put the spotlight (literally) on Gerry, who dishes his friends, drinks copious amounts of alcohol, snorts cocaine and offers his critique on the nature of gay weddings and their effect on gay culture.

"Aren't you just a little bit scared?" he asks. "That all of a sudden, we're in this race to be normal, whatever that means. Is that really the goal?"

EDGE spoke to Droege last week about the play (which recently opened at the Soho Playhouse where it continues through January 7, 2018), as well as his upcoming role on the TV series based on the cult movie "Heathers" and what has happened to Chloe over the past year.

Drew Droege in "Bright Colors and Bold Patterns"

EDGE: Your play gets its name from a wedding invitation?

Drew Droege: I got an invitation to a friend's wedding in which she asked her guests not to wear bright colors or bold patterns because she really wanted to have a nice palette at the wedding. And it sounded like such a funny title to me. This happened around the time that gay marriage became legal. I then wondered, what if it happened at a gay wedding? When gay marriage became legal it was obviously a wonderful thing and we were all thrilled about it; but every gay publication immediately had an insert for gay weddings and we were made to feel like this is what we all wanted and needed. But what if in the process we were losing our brightness and our boldness? That invite inspired me writing the play and inspired me to play a character who was in a crisis with that reality. He was not at all in a place where he could get married himself, and also worried about losing queerness and otherness in our quest for equality.

EDGE: That's a point of view that counters the argument for mainstreaming. Have you had any pushback for expressing it?

Drew Droege: My play is definitely not anti-marriage equality by any means. I am more interested in raising the question. But sometimes people come to the show and apologize for being married, and I'm like, no, no it's a wonderful thing. I just wanted to explore the other side of it. I just wanted to look at the mainstreaming of our culture. Also, there's a younger character in the show that represents the future and is learning a lot about our past and culture. I am very optimistic and the play is optimistic about our future, but I think it is important to remember our past and remember who we are and what makes us other vs. us feeling like we have to be the same and keep up with the Joneses.

Drew Droege in a promotional photo for "Bright Colors and Bold Patterns"

EDGE: You described the play as a four-character play with one actor. Are you playing multiple characters?

Drew Droege: No. I only play one character who talks to chairs and pool furniture that represent the three other characters. I could have written a traditional play and cast three other characters in the roles, but I didn't want to play all four roles because that felt kind-of gross and showcasey. The point of playing this one character is I wanted the audience to focus on this guy. I really wanted to show this person and his place in our community. We all know him. He's the one who is too much. He is the big, loud drunk mess. We have even been him or afraid to be him at times. And I don't think we represent this person enough. As gay people we write a lot of positive characters, like the straight acting guy who happens to like guys or the really quippy, non-threatening guy. But we don't see this guy enough.

EDGE: How much of you is in this character?

Drew Droege: It is funny because I wrote Barry as my dream role to play. I love being able to play these extremes because I get to swing from the fences and that's fun to do. And there's a lot of information that is drawn from my life and experiences. But is he me? I don't know exactly. I have friends say, this is like sitting down with you, and I have had others say, this is nothing like you. I have been doing it on and off for a couple years now and I love playing this character. He's in me, but he's not totally me. If that was me up there on stage talking about marriage equality, I flip-flop so much more than this guy. So I wanted to create a character who lives on the extremes and is in more in a crisis than I personally am.

EDGE: The play is filled with pop culture references. Do you have to update them from production to production?

Drew Droege: What's so funny is that I have updated a couple over the years. It has only been three years, so nothing is so incredibly timely that these things lose their punch. There are a couple of things I sharpened. It doesn't get much better than "An Invisible Child." You can't top that.

Drew Droege as Chloe Sevigny.

EDGE: Yes. I read in reviews that you reference that Lifetime movie featuring Rita Wilson as a mother who is raising an imaginary child and I had to look it up. It is quite amazingly weird and funny...

Drew Droege: OMG. It is so crazy. You can't believe it is real. I love talking to people after the show who think I made it up or have seen it and want to continue to talk about it because it is absolutely bat shit. Rita Wilson actually tweeted me last year that she was coming to see the show and said, "I am coming to see "Bright Colors" and I think you know why." She didn't come, but I love her and would love to talk to her about it. It is complete lunacy. But you know, hey, it is the kind of thing that my friends talk about when we are getting together.

EDGE: Do you think feelings about gay marriage are generational. That is older gays tend to not to embrace it while younger gays do?

Drew Droege: I don't know, but I think a lot of younger people are rushing into it now and haven't considered gay divorce. What straight people have learned over the years is to wait longer to get married because, as a general rule, they know who they are when they're older. But I think that older gay men never considered that option because it was never an option for them.

EDGE: You mentioned one of the unseen characters is a Millennial. What do you think of Millennials?

Drew Droege: They make me hopeful. I think there are a lot of great things happening with Millennials. First, they refuse to be defined by labels, and they're go - getters. They are invested in the world a lot more. My generation, X or Y, whatever I am, are much more the slacker generation. I see a lot more energy coming from Millennials. And I love they don't put themselves in boxes and don't look at the world in binary terms like we have been trained to do. They are open to new things and that's exciting.

Drew Droege

EDGE: But do you find them too self-involved?

Drew Droege: Yes. there is a lot of that. They live in a world where everyone wants to be famous and where you create your own reality. I think that is scary. I don't believe that stuff about creating yourself; I think it is more about finding yourself.

EDGE: You avoid politics in the play - how come?

Drew Droege: I do. For a while I had some politics in there, but took it out when I saw that the play itself is political. It is definitely making a big statement. And I feel that anyone that will come to this show is already in the choir, so to speak. I feel it is more interesting to talk within the community. I made a point not to talk about Trump or talk about the Religious Right because I don't think that's very interesting and it does not live in the world of this play. It is a call for us to be big and loud and open and unapologetic. By that nature, it is political.

EDGE: Your play also talks about the differences between generations. What do you think of agism in the community?

Drew Droege: Personally? I mean I am getting to the age where I am seeing it on both sides. I definitely think that it is really important to listen to people who have come before us. I am a big supporter of Outfest and I get very involved in that and I feel like that is such a multi-generational event where I meet people - older and younger - and hear their stories that are always interesting. But I am 40 and don't think I have experienced much agism. I don't think I get treated like I am old. I don't have any obsession with being young either. I remember when I was 25 I couldn't wait until I was 50. So I have never been obsessed with youth.

EDGE: At one point in the play Barry offers the younger character his definition of being gay. He says "Honey. We celebrate things and makes fun of them at the same time. That's called gay." Is that ambivalence what we call camp?

Drew Droege: It is. I think that people have a hard time understanding camp. I feel like a lot of gay men have this obsession with a lot of famous women and we want to talk about them all the time. I think that's a hard thing for a lot of people to understand. It is why we love "Showgirls." It is why we love "Mommie Dearest." We champion these things, and also laugh at them. It is not from a place of demeaning or diminishing, but rather from a place of pleasure and enjoyment. We are laughing at something but at the same time lauding it as well.

Michael Urie

EDGE: How did Michael Urie get involved?

Drew Droege: We have been friends for a number of years and worked on the show on Logo called "Cocktails & Classics." He saw a workshop production of the play I did at Arts Nova and said he wanted to turn it into a bigger production and wanted to direct it. I was thrilled and jumped at the opportunity.

EDGE: Do you take direction well?

Drew Droege: (laughs) Yes, but that could be because Michael's an incredible director. He is always thinking of new ways to keep the show fresh. He is constantly thinking of the show and has so many great ideas. Just last week he gave me notes to think about this production. And we work well together. I think it is easy for me since I wrote the play to adapt and change to suggestions to make it better. If it is something we feel differently about it we work it out. He has no ego himself, so if something doesn't work he's very willing to change things back. It is a really collaborative effort.

EDGE: You just finished filming episodes of a new series based on the movie classic "Heathers." Who do you play on it?

Drew Droege: I play the drama teacher at the high school. I felt so lucky to be cast. It is a dream part. It was a blast. We shot season one and it comes out in March on the Paramount network. It is so good - so dark and and so much fun.

EDGE: How different is it from the film?

Drew Droege: It is very much in line thematically with the film. The pilot captures the world, but after episode two it goes into its own crazy wonderland. I think fans of the film with really love it. There are all kinds of Easter eggs nod to the films, but it is definitely not a remake of the film because it is definitely a different world we live in right now.

EDGE: Lastly, it's been a few months since you filmed a Chloe video. Have you put Chloe to rest?

Drew Droege: I have, but not for any reason other than I have been busy doing other things. I would love to come back and do it. I got to the point where I was doing that a lot and it was taking over my life. And I am not a full-time drag queen so I sort-of get burned out on things. I get bored creatively and need to mix it up and do new things. But Chloe will be back. She's too much fun.

"Bright Colors And Bold Patterns" continues through January 7, 2018 at the Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street, New York NY. For more information, www.drewdroege.com:visit his website.

Robert Nesti can be reached at rnesti@edgemedianetwork.com.


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