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Dudes look like ladies

Gabbing with Whistler’s most notorious cross-dressers

Quinlan, Varrin and Young.

A law firm?

A folksinging trio?

Not even close. See: cross-dressing. Around these parts the three are the unofficial yet undisputed local authority on dudes getting dolled up as dames.

For the theatre. It’s probably a good idea to add that.

As the crew from Short Skirt Theatre was well aware when they recruited QVY for the upcoming production of Sleeping Beauty, you couldn’t stage a local pantomime without them. Gender bending is essential to the British theatre genre that pokes fun at classic fairy tales, and in Whistler there are none better at discovering the woman within than Quinlan, Varrin and Young.

That’s Chris Quinlan – by day a wild-mannered cafe owner and proprietor, soon to take the stage as buxom busybody Dame Amonia Goodbody.

Reverend J. Michael Varrin, Esq. – by night general manager and resident bon vivant of the Garibaldi Lift Co., soon to flounce into your big gay heart as Good Fairy Azuriel.

And Scott Young – head honcho for the soon to open Ric’s Grill, in the meantime truly larger than life, brushing the seven foot mark as the less than bewitching, beehive be-wigged Queen Semolina.

Off stage, the three exude rugged masculinity. A variety of facial hair permutations range from full beard to handlebar moustache. They speak in hearty baritones. They lean on furry forearms.

But these boys’ theatre resumes reveal a host of widows and wives and wenches. Rev. Varrin even had a go as Marilyn Monroe at last February’s Celebration 2010 Whistler Arts Showcase Cultural Cabaret. Smashing!

Following a recent Sleeping Beauty rehearsal Pique managed to corral these three cowboys from Mars – and was given the rare opportunity to hear straight from their purty mouths how they got so good at day trips to Venus.

Read on, but be warned. This is not for the faint of heart.

Pique

: Are there any female icons of stage and screen that are inspiring your current roles?

Chris Quinlan:

Loretta Swit.

Mike Varrin:

Sue Ellen from Dallas.

Scott Young:

I like Creepella from the Flintstones.

MV:

Jane Fonda in Barbarella was good.

SY:

If we could get into a costume like that we’d be rockin’.

Pique:

I’m wondering how three obviously very masculine men such as yourselves end up in such roles.

CQ:

The turning point for me when I did get a chance to actually perform in a dress was walking out into the foyer at Millennium Place and two councillors and a newspaper editor ( Say it isn’t so, Bob!) grabbed my breasts.

SY:

It’s so easy to get a laugh when you’re in a dress. Let’s face it – you’re 50 per cent there when you’re in a dress. That is the joke. We’re macho, manly men and to see us in a dress, that’s the joke.

Pique:

Is facial hair essential?

MV:

Not essential but it helps.

SY:

No, I think I’m going to shave.

CQ:

I’ve got to shave too. But (to Varrin) I think you need to be a fairy with a beard.

MV:

I’m going to be a hairy fairy.

Pique:

Do you have any tips for other men who might be dressing up as women in plays some day?

CQ:

Get comfortable shoes. Really, that’s the biggest thing. And when you have breasts – this is one of the things I’d like to go on record as saying – when we negotiated this contract to do this show, I talked about vodka riders and caviar and all these things, but at the top of my list was to have a good set of breasts. Because I saw Mike have to use his buddy’s sweatshirt and stuff like that, and that just doesn’t do. I’ve got a nice set of silicone breasts that I get to use. One of the other cast members just got them for me, and I just think it’s important you have good breasts.

MV:

Heck, if I had breasts I’d never leave home.

CQ:

You know, the other thing about it is it gives me the opportunity to put a woman’s face in my breasts.

SY:

Exactly. Exactly.

CQ:

I’ve got to do that as much as possible.

MV:

I find wearing a dress very liberating.

CQ:

Absolutely. It’s a lot cooler than wearing pants. It’s just more ventilation overall.

Pique:

Cooler, literally and figuratively?

CQ:

It’s literally cooler. When I was a waiter working in the restaurants under my apron I had my fly undone all the time for ventilation. This way is much better.

SY:

I’m so glad I didn’t get my souvlaki-on-a-skewer from you.

CQ:

Actually, Mick (Cahir) made a comment. He’s playing the prince. He’s jealous. He wants to wear a dress. He feels a little left out.

MV:

I think every guy should take the opportunity to wear a dress, at some point, just for the experience.

SY:

Tell me you’ve never put your girlfriend’s panties on.

MV:

Well, on my head.

Pique:

Let’s move along. What makes pantomime work?

SY:

I think a play like this works because we know everybody in the audience. That’s why this is going to be such a great play. That’s part of the fun. Seeing these people you work with day to day in a different character. That’s what makes community theatre work.

Pique:

Although the spectacle of the play is such that you really don’t have to be familiar with the cast to still enjoy it.

MV:

The thing is, we don’t take ourselves too seriously... This is about having fun. It’s as much fun for us to put it on as it is to watch. Otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it.

CQ:

It does concern my mother that at the age of 41 I’m wearing a dress on stage. And not just once.

MV:

Single 41 year old, wearing dresses on stage...

CQ:

I think chicks dig it though. Really. A friend is coming from out of town just to see that.

SY:

They’re going to be lining up out the door for you guys.

Pique:

All three of you have staff. Are you worried your staff won’t respect you as much after they see you in a dress?

CQ:

My staff actually have to work my lines with me. I almost scared one away once. I was doing a show with Michele Bush (Bushwoman Productions). The girl had just started. I said: "Okay, great, you’ve got the job. Now you have to read these lines with me," and it was me playing the part of the gay father in Absolutely Fabulous and I had to yell at her in a scene and she almost quit and ran away crying.

MV:

Any of my staff that couldn’t handle seeing me onstage in a dress for a couple of hours would never make it through December, let alone the whole season.

SY:

I wouldn’t hire somebody who would think "oh, my boss is in a dress? I don’t respect him..." That’s not the type of person you want working, A) in a ski resort, and B) in food and beverage. You gotta have a sense of humour working in food and beverage. That’s what I like about food and beverage is you get the people that are genuinely nice people and that genuinely like people. Because if we didn’t we wouldn’t be in this business.

MV:

Restaurant is theatre.

CQ:

It’s a show every night.

SY:

It’s a play.

CQ:

And you never know what’s under the apron.

SY:

Goddammit, I wore a crab suit for four years (to promote the Crab Shack). You think dressing as a woman’s tough. Try dressing as a crab.

Pique:

Any last words?

SY:

Make sure you come.

MV:

Over and over again.

Despite the somewhat ribald nature of the preceding interview, be assured Sleeping Beauty is a fun, family-friendly show.

For more information on show times and tickets call 604-935-8410.




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