Life’s Not a Drag in “Spudsville”: Toledoan’s new comedy will premier at the Collingwood Arts Center

(l-r) Tim Sanders, David Gedert and Douglas Lutman in “The Last Drag Bar in Spudsville.” All three actors are veterans of the Toledo drag scene, which helped inspire playwright Phaylen Fairchild. Photo credit: Phaylen Fairchild.
(l-r) Tim Sanders, David Gedert and Douglas Lutman in “The Last Drag Bar in Spudsville.” All three actors are veterans of the Toledo drag scene, which helped inspire playwright Phaylen Fairchild. Photo credit: Phaylen Fairchild.

The hilarious misadventures of a pair of aging drag queens are at the center of The Last Drag Bar in Spudsville, a new comedy that will make its stage debut on Friday, February 17 at the Collingwood Arts Center.

The play centers on the rival duo’s efforts to save a drag bar— indeed, the last one in town— from its impending closure. The show is the brainchild of local writer Phaylen Fairchild, whose own experiences with the Glass City’s drag scene acted as inspiration for the wonderfully outlandish characters.

Playwright Phaylen Fairchild.
Playwright Phaylen Fairchild.

“The Toledo drag scene is really unique, in that everybody knows everybody else— it’s a really, really familial environment. And like any family, there’s drama,” Fairchild said. “There’s the one everybody’s mad at today, and loves tomorrow. Sometimes, you have to work with somebody you don’t really like today. And I was a part of that scene in Toledo drag for a little while, and I enjoyed every single moment of it.”

They came to life

The kernel of the idea began while Fairchild lived in New York City, studying screenwriting, directing, and making short films. When she returned to Toledo, she began writing what she thought would be a simple cabaret show, but soon blossomed into a much bigger concept.

“So I just sat down in front of my computer and started drawing out the characters. And they just sort of jumped out at me and came to life. I didn’t know where it was going, I didn’t know what it was going to be. But that’s how I am as a writer, I just sort of let everything speak to me, and take me on the journey with them.”

Still, Fairchild wasn’t sure the show was really ready to be put up on stage until she met up with her friend Jaymes Gregory Mull, artistic director of local company Stone Productions and the director of Last Drag Bar.

“She came and saw Hair and was like, ‘Oh my God, I wrote a play, if you ever want to read it, I don’t know if you guys would ever want to do something like that,'” Mull said. “I was like, ‘Sure.’ She told me a little bit about it, and it sounded very interesting.

“I read the script, and I was laughing out loud throughout the whole thing. And I was like, ‘Yes, absolutely, we need to do this show.'”

Back to New York?

Fairchild is trying to be hands-off with the production— she’s only been to a handful of rehearsals, preferring to let Mull and his cast find their own way. Still, she admits, it can be hard to let go of a piece that is still pretty much a work-in-progress for her.

“I have to resist the tendency to jump in and say, ‘Well, this is how I saw it in my head,'” Fairchild said. “And I don’t want to do that! I don’t want to be that person, because when you really let it go into the hands of another person, you have to let them have their creative process. You have to allow them to sort of make it what it is.”

In the meantime, Fairchild is currently making trips back to New York, negotiating with a company to perhaps open a production of Last Drag Bar off-off-Broadway. But as her characters make their debut, she said she hopes audiences will be able to simply “leave reality for a while” at the Collingwood.

“I really hope that people come away from it feeling that they’ve left a rather difficult environment for a while, and just got to immerse themselves in the world of these three ridiculous characters, and got to go along with them on their journey.”

February 17-19.
7pm/doors, 8pm/performance, Friday and Saturday.
2pm/doors, 3pm/performance, Sunday.
$15/general admission. $18/center stage seating.
The Underground Theater at The Collingwood Arts Center,
2413 Collingwood Blvd., 419-244-2787.
Tickets available on Brown Paper Tickets.
stoneproductions419.com