‘Drag Race’ alum Patrick Holt, aka Tempest DuJour, brings the glam in Guthrie show
RuPaul Charles’ often-quoted phrase, “We’re born naked, and the rest is drag” is especially relevant for a costume designer. Perhaps no one more so than Patrick Holt.
The work of Holt, a University of Arizona theater professor by day and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Tempest DuJour by night, shines — literally — in the Guthrie Theater’s “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” a show that has him designing rhinestone-studded Elvis jumpsuits and mountainous floral wigs that look like they came straight out of “The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”
Holt isn’t shy about calling this one of the gayest plays the Guthrie has ever done.
“I think what’s great about this play is that people who have never seen drag before will get something from it and people who see drag all the time will get something from it in equal doses,” he said. “I think audiences are obviously ready for (drag).”
The coming-of-age comedy-meets-folk tale, which, unsurprisingly, doubles as a drag performance, was written by playwright Matthew Lopez (“The Whipping Man,” “Reverberation”) as an homage to the drag queens who helped his own coming-out process.
“The Legend of Georgia McBride” follows Casey (Jayson Speters), a struggling Elvis impersonator who, after he finds out his wife Jo (Chaz Hodges) is pregnant, is coerced into doing drag when performers Tracy (Cameron Folmar) and Anorexia Nervosa aka Rexy (Arturo Soria) take his time slot at Cleo’s, a Panama City Beach bar run by Eddie (Jim Lichtscheidl), Tracy’s cousin. When their drag revue starts bringing in customers and money to pay his landlord Jason — played by Soria in a sort of straight drag — Casey, a heterosexual man, begins to embrace his drag alter ego Georgia McBride, a name combining the state where his mother was born and the last name of the girl he first kissed.
This is the Guthrie debut for Holt, who grew up in North Carolina and has taught theater for the past two decades. He met “Georgia McBride” director Jeffrey Meanza, the Guthrie’s associate artistic director, while Meanza was a graduate student at the University of North Carolina. Holt said when he got the call from the Guthrie to design costumes for the show, he said it was a no-brainer.
“Anyone in their right mind would jump at the chance to at the Guthrie. It’s considered to be at the top of the pyramid of regional (theater) — American theater, period. It was an honor to be asked,” he said.
Decades of performing as Tempest DuJour, including a stint on the seventh season of Charles’ reality TV show, prepared Holt for designing Tracy’s over-the-top elegance, but not necessarily Casey’s king-turned-queen transformations.
“He is a tricky one. I never in my entire life have met a straight man that does drag. I think he’s sort of a unicorn,” he said.
Even in drag, Casey, who goes from denim-clad streetwear to glammed-out couture on stage a handful of times throughout the nearly two-hour show, never really loses his masculine features, Holt said, like exposed arms and strong facial features.
“We were never going to convince the audience that he was a woman, and that was never the intention. It was important to always remember who he was under the wig and the makeup,” he said.
Tracy, on the other hand, was a different story. Her style, Holt said, is a lot like DuJour’s. Tracy lip syncs to a tongue-twisted Liza Minnelli tune shimmering in red in one scene. Another has her performing “Sisters” from “White Christmas” — whose reprise was lip-synced by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye — as the older sibling with Casey in Panama Beach-inspired outfits complete with an extra-long hot dog. Layered in her looks are moments from drag history.
“She’s the drag culture. She’s the magic bag of goodies of this play. She represents what her style of drag is, which is very similar to me,” he said. “She should always look the most grand, the most theatrical. Your eye should always go to her on stage. She commands that.”
Rexy plays new school to Tracy’s old school. The show’s fiery, younger drag queen — a “body queen,” Holt said, who uses her looks to her advantage — is reminiscent of the up-and-coming performers he sees around his current town of Tucson.
The importance of the show’s diversity of drag specialties, from campy comedy queens to energetic stunt performers, isn’t lost on Holt.
“Twenty years ago when you were doing drag you had to find your lane. (Now) you can be more than one. You don’t have to pick a category. You can be whoever you want,” he said.
Even for a drag veteran like Holt, the defiant spirit of the play’s LGBT characters hits home in his own personal and professional lives. In academic circles, Holt said he’s been told to tamp down his drag career, something that’s laughed off like it’s not art.
“You have no idea what we do if that’s your opinion. It needs to be respected,” he said.
When Casey has to come to terms with being a drag performer, he said, his shame and how the world, including his wife, looks at him are genuinely uncomfortable, but in a good way. Holt said it took him back to growing up and becoming a performer.
“We had to hide. We were scared. We wanted everyone to get along and be nice,” he said.
But, as Rexy exclaims, “drag is a raised fist inside a sequined glove.” And, in “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” Holt said the audience is going to see plenty of thought-provoking “drag fabulousness.”
“This kind of play is important whether you want to embrace it or think about it again or not. We’re giving you something to think about while you’re there for two hours,” he said.
“The Legend of Georgia McBride”
Where: Guthrie Theater, 818 S. 2nd St.
When: Through Aug. 26