Last Updated: November 22, 2010 8:10pm
For more than three decades life has been a drag for Edmonton writer, composer and television host Darrin Hagen.
He was Edmonton’s most famous drag artist for almost a decade before he wrote and performed his one-man show The Edmonton Queen: Not a Riverboat Story in 1996.
“That show was very personal. It was about my life, my friends and my experience with drag. It changed my life.
“I won a Sterling Award for best new play at the Edmonton Fringe and I got a publishing contract to turn it into a book,” says Hagen, whose newest play With Bells On opens at Lunchbox Theatre on Monday.
A 10-year anniversary version of Not a Riverboat Story, which is taught in gender classes across Canada has just been published.
Hagen’s new play is the story of a drag queen who gets trapped in an elevator with a shy straight man.
“The drag queen is off to the Christmas Queen pageant in full drag, which resembles a Christmas tree. It was absolutely essential that the actor who plays him be as tall as possible.
“By the time we get Paul Welch in high heels and a wig, he’s 7-feet tall. Stafford Perry, who plays the straight guy comes up to Paul’s chest and what a chest it is.”
Hagen thought of playing the drag queen himself but his busy writing, teaching and lecturing schedule would not permit it.
He says he “loves the power balance you get when the drag queen is the taller of the two men. It’s all the more intimidating and therefore, all the more fun. I have many elevator stories in which I was trapped with disbelieving people for minutes so I wondered what it would be like if it was almost an hour that the two men are trapped together.”
In 1997, Hagen wrote and performed in Tornado Magnet, which has proven to be his most popular work to date.
It was produced last year starring Karen Johnson Diamond at Lunchbox, but has also enjoyed performances in Winnipeg, Regina, Red Deer, Ottawa and Whitehorse.
“That is another very personal play. It’s about my mother and all our neighbors in the trailer park where I was raised.
“I love seeing a woman play the character almost as much as I loved doing the show myself.”