Exposing another side of Mae West

Posted: Thursday, March 02, 2000

Sometimes it takes a double life to expose a double life.

``The Drag,'' a play by Mae West, opens Friday in the Goldtown Nickelodeon Theater. Everything about the production seems to comment on the theme of the play - leading two lives.

The play, written by an actress, is being produced by an educator and will be presented in a movie theater.

Mae West, best known as the sexual icon of the 1920s and '30s, also wrote three plays. Heather Paige, who is directing ``The Drag,'' said all three had successful runs on Broadway during West's era. She said although West is remembered almost exclusively for her sexy persona, she was a talented writer.

``The Drag'' is not so much a show about men dressing as women and women dressing as men, but people not living up to their potential, their personal goals and aspirations, said producer Brian Schaffer.

The main characters in the show are a young woman and her husband, who is a closeted gay man with a double life.

``She has no clue, and she's unhappy because after a year she's still a virgin,'' Paige said.

She said some of the characters in the play are set in 1927, and others are more contemporary.

``Some are rigid characters, and others are more free-thinking,'' she said.

Paige discovered West's plays in an acting class at the University of Alaska Southeast last winter. The idea of producing the ``The Drag'' has been on her mind ever since.

About the same time Schaffer was wrapping up a graduate internship as an assistant principal in Bethlehem, Pa. He landed a job at Juneau-Douglas High School as a special education advocate, and last summer he loaded up his car and drove to Alaska.

Schaffer crossed paths with Paige last fall, when she was assistant director of ``Romeo and Juliet'' at Perseverance Theatre. Schaffer had experience producing musical events, and he liked ``The Drag.'' He agreed to serve as producer. He bought a business license and formed Moving Ice Productions to stage the show.

``I was looking for a project that would help me grow,'' said 26-year-old Schaffer. ``I see people with talent. I want to push them into the limelight.''

He wanted a project that would involve business, and also help people out.

``It's a timely show, despite the fact it was written in 1927. It's a story that needs to be heard, whether you agree with the lifestyle or not,'' Schaffer said.

``The Drag'' has a cast of about 20, with another 20 pitching in as stage crew and production assistants. Perseverance Theatre donated costumes and some set pieces, and UAS contributed a grant to rent the Nickelodeon Theater. ``If it weren't for all these factions in Juneau, we'd have nothing,'' Schaffer said.

``The Drag'' opens at 7 p.m. Friday. It runs Friday through Sunday this week and Thursday through Sunday next week, closing March 12. All show times are at 7 p.m., with an additional show at midnight March 11. Paige said she may extend the show a week if there's a demand.

Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.

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