Woolley directs Darcelle's life in drag
Brandon Woolley moved to Portland in 2010, ironically the weekend of Pride Festival week. He'd heard about Darcelle and saw the legendary drag queen in the crowd.
"I don't think I made it to the club until six months later, and I was mesmerized by this tiny little bar in Old Town, where four nights a week you see fantastic drag and campy fun choreography," said Woolley, referencing Darcelle XV Showplace, where Darcelle, aka Walter Cole, has performed since the 1960s.
Woolley has been to Darcelle's club several times, and with acquired knowledge and history of drag in Portland, he has been tabbed as director of Darcelle's story, "That's No Lady" by Triangle Productions, which stages Sept. 19-Oct. 5 at Lincoln Performance Hall.
Originally, Donald Horn, a good friend of Cole's and Triangle founder and director, had planned to direct "That's No Lady," but he has other projects going on — including trying to get Cole's home and club put on the National Register of Historic Places, curating the Darcelle costume exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society, and penning the biography about Cole to be released next week.
"I've known Walter for 30 years, and it's nice to get fresh eyes on this project," Horn said.
Meeting with Horn "helped deepen my knowledge of the drag scene in Portland and what it has taken Walter to get to the empire he has today in terms of the club," Woolley said.
Woolley and his husband also were guest judges during the Le Femme Magnifique drag contest several years ago, when he first met Darcelle/Cole and his longtime partner, the late Roxy Neuhardt.
The play focuses on the life of Darcelle and Cole, starring Kevin C. Loomis in the roles. It's accompanied by original music by the likes of Tom Grant and Storm Large, as well as lip-sync music and book music. Sara Martins is choreographer.
Woolley, a freelance director who worked previously for Portland Center Stage as casting director and director/producer, hooked up with the production through a good friend and after attending an informal reading with Horn in March.
"There was a lot to like about it, and a lot has changed after the first reading through conversations with Don and Darcelle and other influential people on the creative team," Woolley said. Being a hybrid musical, "it's unlike anything I've encountered."
Woolley feels honored to be trusted to direct the production.
"Don is entrusting something so important to him," he said. "I'm lucky. Darcelle has done so much for the community and the LGBTQ community."
For more on "That's No Lady," see www.trianglepro.org.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.