I thought I was interviewing the four outrageously loveable, funny and eccentric members of The Kinsey Sicks who are tearing up the mistletoe at Theater J. But, instead, eight showed up – since sometimes the KS actors/writers responded as their boy names and sometimes as their character’s girl names.
Before we can move on – let me introduce you to The Kinsey Eight, or The Kinsey Sicks Times Two – oh, whatever!
Joel: Am I really a sicko queen because I laughed my tuchus off at your very ‘risk-gay’ songs and jokes?
Rachel: No, you were a sicko queen well before you ever saw our show.
Joel: How did it feel performing the show in Washington only hours after ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was repealed in the Senate?
Irwin: It was a thrilling moment to arrive in DC, let me tell you. We were very happy, although the repeal caused us to have to eliminate our DADT song from the show. But then we were too sentimental to let go of it altogether. So we’re celebrating the repeal by performing it as an encore during this run. After that, it’s off to the Island of Misfit Political Songs. Forever, we hope.
Trampolina: I was told that if you asked, I wasn’t supposed to tell. Oh wait, now I can tell. I can tell what? I can tell it on the mountain! Are there even mountains here? Oh, there’s the Washington Mountain. It’s way too hard to climb though.
Joel: What is Oy Vey in a Manger about?
Rachel: It’s about an hour and a half. Or 91 minutes if you factor in applause and laughter.
Joel: Care to introduce yourselves to the one or two people who might actually read this interview?
Trampolina: Hi! I’m Trampolina. My mother, Vaselina, taught me everything I never knew! I like walks on the beach, shiny things, and kitties. Oh, I’ve been in the Kinsey Sicks for about…. [eyes drift during interview] Ooooh! Something shiny!
Joel: Are your characters based on a family member, friend (or ex-friend), lover (or ex-lover), or film or theatre or TV celebrity?
Winnie: Why yes! How did you know?
Joel: Irwin, Theater J’s Artistic Director Ari Roth was a camp-mate of yours. Care to tell us what Mr. Roth was like when you were both camping-out together?
Irwin: Well, Joel, things were very different in those days. He was writing plays and I was dressing in women’s clothing. Oh wait, maybe things weren’t very different.
Joel: Ben: You write the insane and ‘controversial’ lyrics to the wonderful parodies in the show. Can you explain to me what goes through your mind when you are writing these ‘biting’ but very funny lyrics? Have you always enjoyed mutilating other writers’ lovely lyrics?
Ben: You overestimate me when you assume there is anything like a “thought process.” Usually, when I write parodies, some phrase will catch my attention that can be deviously distorted to subvert the original intent of the lyricist. And it becomes too delicious, too wrong, to refrain from completing it. My goal as a lyricist in such situations is to keep as close as possible to the original rhyme and lyrical scheme and to subvert the intent to the greatest degree possible within that framework. Here’s a little secret: for me to write a parody of a song, I have to have really strong feelings about it – I either have to love it or hate it.
When writing original songs, I really have no idea what idea will come into my head or when. It’s a very different process, and I just have to let go of control and let it take over my life for a matter of hours or (more usually) days.
Joel: Why do you think audiences laugh so much when they hear your lyrics? I saw some conservative-looking Republicans laughing – who I have seen walk out of controversial shows here at Theater J. Is it nervous laughter? Is it because your lyrics are so damn good?
Ben: It continues to surprise me. There are people who have no business enjoying our show who seem to have a fantastic time. It makes me wonder what we’re doing wrong.
Irwin: I think it is because the characters are so disarmingly appealing. People love them. And so when outrageous stuff comes out of their mouths, the audience is prepared to cut them a great deal of slack.
Joel: What do you have to say to audience members who come to your show without Googling or YouTubing you and then when the show starts – they can’t deal with it and kvetch and/or walk out, and/or say, “He didn’t really say that – did he?”
Rachel: No refunds
Trixie: The answers can be found by buying our albums here.
Joel: When did you first start “dragging” and ‘A capella –ing’?
Jeff: I’ve been singing in a cappella groups since elementary school. In college, I was the musical director of the award-winning UC Men’s Octet at The University of California, Berkeley. Along with my identical twin, I led the group to first place in what is now known as the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA). As for “dragging” — as an actor, I consider the costuming element of this performance experience quite similar to any outfit I’ve worn for any play, musical, TV show, movie role I’ve done. What’s important about the costume is that it makes sense for and informs audiences about the character, the setting, and the story.
Irwin: It’s true that we all arrived at this from different directions. I was never an actor, and I found drag very fun and appealing, although I never did any publicly until the dawn of the Kinsey Sicks. A cappella also, for me, happened with the Kinsey Sicks.
Joel: How long does it take you – Trampolina and Trixie – to transform into your gorgeous characters? I assume Rachel, and Winnie are just playing themselves.
Trampolina: It took me two weeks to transform into Rachel. I just stopped bathing and let everything grow out.
Trixie: Each glorious incarnation of myself takes a lifetime to accomplish, and a few thousand dollars-worth of plastic surgery.
Joel: Why is singing a cappella so exciting?
Winnie: Because we wouldn’t get paid nearly as much if we had to shell out for a band.
Joel: Why is this group called Kinsey Sicks, when there are only 4 of you?
Winnie: Someone already had the trademark on “The Kinsey Fore.”
Joel: Which is the hardest lyric to sing in the show – because you are afraid you will laugh and ‘lose it”?
Spencer: For me, it’s singing ‘heat with carrots and peas’ in “Soylent Night”.
Trixie: I’m proud to say that I lost it to my first husband. I continue to lose it to much wealthier ones.
Joel: If you were granted a Chanukah gift that allowed you to honestly tell each other how to improve each other’s “look” – what ‘suggestions’ would you make?
Trampolina: We’ve been together for 17 years. Why start improving now?
Trixie: Marry well. And often.
Joel: Irwin: In the middle of this insanity – out of nowhere – you sing one of my favorite Yiddish songs “Papirosen”. Why this song?
Irwin: We were looking for a Yiddish number that some people might remember and love, but which are not sacred cows, like “Oyfn Pripetchik” would be. “Papirossen” was written for the Yiddish theatre in America, with the intention of tugging ruthlessly on your heartstrings. So it felt to me like it was fair game for repurposing. Plus it is truly a gorgeous song, no? Oh – and because I have a 50+ year old recording of my great grandmother singing it.
[Joel: Listen to Irwin’s Great-Grandmother sing “Papirosen” and then hear Irwin talk about the song and perform the song with The Kinsey Sicks. Dos video makhn mir shmeykhl un brengen mir groys fargenign.]
Joel: What is the nicest thing an audience member has said to you, and what was the creepiest thing?
Rachel: The nicest thing any audience member has said is that they want to sleep with me. This is also the creepiest thing.
Jeff: Someone recently told me that his friend was going through something terrible that week, and a night out with the Kinseys made it so much easier, even if only for the one night. That was pretty darn heartwarming.
Joel: Why is Oy Vey in a Manger the perfect holiday show for theatre goers of all ages, fashions, and orientations and religious persuasions?
Rachel: I don’t know, why don’t YOU tell em? You’re the goddamn reviewer. Reviewers have gotten so lazy! When I was a child, reviewers would carry their own praise through the snow five miles every day, but now they want you to praise yourself!
Trampolina: I think it’s perfect for all ages because babies like sparkly, colorful things and really old people can’t hear what we’re singing.
Joel: As 2011 approaches, what would you like to see happen in the New Year?
Joel: I just did Trixie and you all look fabulous! Happy 2011 and come visit us again soon at Theater J!
Freylekh nay yor. May`du hob a gezunt un oysnemen 2011!
Oy Vey in a Manger runs thru Jan 2, 2011 at Theater J, 1529 16th St NW, in Washington, DC.