PGN: So I take it by the hint of an accent that you aren’t from Pennsylvania.
EL: No, ma’am. I was born in Huntsville, Ala. I just graduated from Shenandoah Conservatory with a BFA in musical theater.
PGN: What was life like in Huntsville?
EL: It was actually a nice little oasis of not-like-Alabama in the middle of Alabama. There was an Army base and a NASA space flight center so there was a very varied population. I grew up in the theater, so I grew up with a very diverse group of people there as well. Though obviously, being in the South, it’s rather harder to be gay.
PGN: Were your parents in the military?
EL: No, my father’s a doctor and my mother gave up her job to become a stay-at-home mom and home-school my sister and me.
PGN: I think you’re the first person I’ve spoken to who was home-schooled. How was it?
EL: It was great. I would absolutely home-school my kids — if I had some. I don’t agree with the public school system on a number of levels and private schools can cost a lot of money. But if you are home-schooled correctly, you can get a diverse range of learning experiences.
PGN: So, two girls in the family?
EL: Yes, ma’am.
PGN: What was a favorite moment with your sister and the worst fight?
EL: That’s hard. There are many good moments. She has a beautiful voice and likes to sing, so a favorite memory would have to be us singing together. I think because we’re related our voices blend really well together. I can’t think of a fight: We were pretty benevolent children. I was the responsible one, so I was accused of being the favorite one, which is not true, but other than that we never got into any fisticuffs or anything like that!
PGN: Any hijinks at all?
EL: I never had a legitimate summer job, but I used to street-perform as a mime in the summer. I had a partner who I’d do it with and he was the straight man and I was the comic. One day I was driving to work and I rear-ended a lady. I just tapped her car but I’d never hit anyone before and I was really terrified. I leapt out of the car and was crying out, “I’m sooo sorry. I don’t know what happened! I’m so sorry!” She was a little taken aback but told me she was fine and let me get on to work. It wasn’t until I parked that I realized that I was in full mime face and costume. It must have been an interesting experience for her.
PGN: So why do people hate mimes? They have a running joke on “Reno 911” and other shows where they mime-bash.
EL: I really don’t know. People get very defensive around mimes, and I haven’t figured out why that is. If you do something wrong, they pounce on it. But I also think that’s part of people’s nature. If you’re juggling and you drop something they’ll be like, “Oooh, you dropped a ball!” and I’m like, “I know. I was there.” But I don’t know the rap with mimes. A friend bought me a shirt that said, “A Mime is a Terrible Thing to Waste.”
PGN: So other than miming, what are some of your theatrical skills?
EL: I play a lot of instruments. I come from a very musical family. We played a lot of bluegrass music, so I learned to play a lot of stringed instruments as well as the French horn. I was in a rodeo for a short period of time, calf roping, which is a lot of fun. I juggle — I even have a juggling club in Huntsville that I meet up with whenever I get back. I do a Brazilian form of martial arts called capoeira. Of course being in theater, I sing and dance, I breathe fire and have a lot of other circus-type skills. And I was a carpenter for many years during school.
PGN: That was at Shenandoah?
EL: Yes, I was a carpenter in the scene shop, so I learned how to use power tools and build sets, etc.
PGN: What was a favorite role, other than the jester?
EL: One of my favorite roles was Madeline True from Andrew Lippa’s “The Wild Party.” She’s an older sort of cougar lesbian who hits on one of the girls at the party. It was a great part to play!
PGN: What was the worst stage mishap?
EL: I was once in a production of the play “The Crucible” and my shoes were very slippery. I was standing in for someone, so they weren’t even my shoes. In the scene where everyone is running around screaming about the bird in the rafters, I slipped and fell on top of Abigail and almost pulled her dress off. That was a pretty big mishap. Thankfully no one got hurt.
PGN: That would not have been very Puritan for Abigail to be naked.
EL: [Laughs.] Yeah, that would have been a big statement.
PGN: And what is your role at the Renaissance Faire?
EL: I am the Jester to Her Majesty the Queen. So I get to act very silly at all times. The jester is very high in the Queen’s Court so I don’t have to bow to a lot of people but a lot of people have to bow to me. Which is great fun! I follow Her Majesty around and introduce her and make fun of people for her. I have a show where I do some juggling and magic and fire-swallowing. When I’m not doing that, I’m on the street being entertaining.
PGN: Hmmn, I never would have thought the jester would be that high up on the chain.
EL: Yeah, I was pretty surprised myself. It’s an interesting role because I’m not a Lord or Landed Gentry, I don’t come from a powerful family but I’m still a high member of the court. I’m kind of like the Queen’s favorite monkey and you have to be nice to the monkey, or else. So I can basically do whatever I want.
PGN: How is it wearing the costume?
EL: It’s difficult wearing so many layers of clothing. Everyone in the court wears many heavy costumes, but I’m the only one who has to run around like a maniac.
PGN: Has anyone passed out yet?
EL: No, but we drink obscene amounts of water during the day. We go through many large cisterns each day.
PGN: And did I hear something about you taking a dive, literally?
EL: Yes, in this show I do some high falls, which I’ve never done before. I’m learning to throw myself off of very tall buildings.
EL: Yeah, When they first asked me I thought nothing of it, then they took me up to a platform with a pad beneath it and said, “OK, go!” They start you off pretty low and you build up. I’ve now jumped off what would be the equivalent of a four-story building. It’s a little nerve-wracking, but a good skill to have learned.
PGN: Speaking of your skills, do you have trouble getting a date after eating fire?
EL: I haven’t tried yet, but yes, I would think burping kerosene is not much of a turn-on.
PGN: What was a favorite moment with the cast?
EL: We had one night where all the members of the court went to someone’s house and played croquet in character, accents and all. We had all these dainty courtly things for dinner and played into the night. It was a great bonding experience.
PGN: So you all have to learn accents?
EL: Yes, and I got an incredibly difficult one. I do a pretty good upper- and lower-class English and a decent Irish and Welsh accent. When they sent out the sheets I thought, Please give me anything but country, so of course I got a Yorkshire country accent to do. And I’m surrounded by people with upper-class accents, so I really have to work to hold onto the Yorkshire and not slip into something else.
PGN: How do you like being in Pennsylvania?
EL: I like it very much. It’s very verdant: There are a lot more dairy farms than I’m used to. It’s lacking in Rednecks. I’m really enjoying it here, and I get to live in a Tudor village!
PGN: What’s the day-to-day schedule there?
EL: We get up at 8 a.m. and do warm-ups, then we rehearse until about 6 p.m. with an hour for lunch. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, there’s a separate cast called the Black Friar cast who do more of the street performing, and on those days we go from 8 a.m. ’til about 9 p.m. We all live here in somewhat of a dorm setting: We have common bathrooms and kitchens. It builds a strong sense of camaraderie. We’re having a potluck tomorrow and we go and do a lot of things together.
PGN: Any gay community out there?
EL: There are quite a number of us who make up a gay community in the cast.
PGN: So there’s more than one queen at the shire?
EL: [Laughs.] Yes, but I was also pleasantly surprised at how many lesbians we have here too. In theater, there are always a large number of gay men, but rather fewer lesbians. But everybody’s very supportive here and I haven’t encountered any negativity even out and about. Not that I’ve been in town waving a rainbow flag, but I’ve been open and haven’t experienced any problems.
PGN: When did you come out?
EL: When I was 18. I’d been dating a girl in secret for three weeks and decided I wanted to tell my mother. I took her out to dinner and said, “There’s something I want to tell you. Sara and I aren’t just friends, we’re dating.” My mom didn’t even look up from the menu; she just said, “Oh honey, I know that. I’ve known since you had a crush on that girl in third grade. What do you want to order for appetizers?” I just stared at her. I was like, “But, but what? Couldn’t you have dropped me a memo? So much bad poetry could have been avoided!” She was supportive, my sister was supportive and my father in his own way. My mother’s brother was gay and she told me about him when I was 8, and I also had a lot of gay role models in the theater community, so it was very easy for me, comparatively speaking.
PGN: What’s the gay community like in Huntsville?
EL: In the theater and arts community there it’s fine, but I have friends who have been in scrapes so I tend to stay away from places that I know are troublesome. We have a couple of gay bars but no Pride festival or anything like that. We do have a lot of roller derby, though, to make up for it!
PGN: Who was an idol for you?
EL: When I was a kid I wanted to be just like my father. I took up a lot of things just because my father did them. He’s still very high on the list of people I look up to.
PGN: Your best feature?
EL: Being able to roll with the punches. Literally, here at the fair.
PGN: Who’s a historical figure you admire?
EL: I really wish I could have met the real Queen Elizabeth. She was a fascinating and really clever woman. I’ve been listening to a series of lectures on her to get to know her better to understand what my job would have been like, and she was brilliant. She refused to marry for a long time and used it to her advantage. England was not particularly strong at the time of her reign and whenever Scotland or Spain would be on the verge of declaring war, she would drop hints about perhaps marrying one of their royals and merging power. So instead of invading, they’d start wooing. She’d be very coy and take a long time before changing her mind. She eventually said that she’d never take a husband, that she was married to the people of England. She was a brilliant speechwriter and very well liked.
PGN: [Laughs.] Married to the people. Does that make her a polyandrist?
EL: I don’t think the Church of England saw it that way!
PGN: Have youe heard that they’re doing a Gay Day at the Renaissance Faire on Aug. 12?
EL: Oh yes, and we’re all really excited about it!
PGN: When I was there before, I noticed that a lot of the shows were rather lascivious and bawdy. Will that be amped up for Gay Day?
EL: You bet! n
Discount tickets for Gay Day at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com/event/4000517656. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Delaware Valley Legacy Fund, The Attic Youth Center, William Way LGBT Community Center and Team Philadelphia.
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