In the mid 2000’s I helped found the theatre program at Mad Myrna’s along with the help of some serious professionals like Kristin Vierthaler, Steven Alvarez, Rod Masters, Sarah Klever and Christian Heppinstall. Our first show was ‘Cabaret’, and in the years that followed many other directors, actors, and artists came on board. Jonathan Minton, Regina Catherine MacDonald (Welch), Cameron Morrison, Grady ‘MeMe’ Jenkins, Lorna Miley, Dave Arrowsmith and other well-known names soon became part of the Mad Myrna’s family of Rocky Horror professionals.
Mad Myrna’s theatre program began to take on a life of its own, and it was soon seen as a legitimate place for the Anchorage community to experience true camp and musical theatre in a space that was tailored for those genres. Myrna’s hosted other camp shows that weren’t as popular but still well received such as Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, Sordid Lives, and Little Shop of Horrors. These productions brought in other monumental local talent like Charlotte Kopp, Bridget Sullivan, and Vicki Lee Evans.
Mad Myrna’s has since come under new ownership and management, and this will be the first full year of the traditional Rocky Horror Show. It is only fitting that a new director takes the helm, but what better choice than someone who has been part of the show as a star, but now takes a leading role. Brooks ‘Goldie’ Banker has played the role of Frank ‘N’ Furter twice and the role of Riff Raff once, and now, as he steps away from the world of drag momentarily into directing the most famous show about the most well-known transvestite. Here is a conversation between two directors.
RJ: So, you have starred in the show how many times now?
Goldie: I have been Frank N Furter three times, and Riff Raff once.
RJ: So, do you feel like you have gotten a good handle on what Rocky Horror is about?
Goldie: I just have one had on this crazy tricycle! This flaming tricycle! (laugh)
RJ: This is the first year under new ownership at Mad Myrna’s. You have been involved in other years. What is exciting you about this year’s production?
Goldie: The set is done! The owner of Myrna’s, Tim Lyons, came in and did the set himself! In a matter of 24 hours, and it is going to be painted by the amazing Moriah Rearick. I could not think of anyone else that could paint that set. The cast is incredible. There is so much dedication there. I am also excited for the debut of Amable Rosa as choreographer, Whitney Flores as stage manager, the return of Steven Alvarez as music director.
RJ: He is the original! That will be amazing!
Goldie: I am excited! Kayla Kraft came on as costume designer. It’s wonderful. She is extraordinarily talented, and I had known her from the bar and from the Myrna’s environment. I really wanted to give some people their first-time experience, including myself! I am a first-time/half-time director. My only experience was directing the Imperial Crown Prince and Princess ball this past spring.
RJ: I think that is sort of the spirit of Rocky at Mad Myrna’s isn’t it? We started with Cabaret. Jonathan Minton got his big start, I got my start directing musicals, Rocky is that thing in Anchorage community theatre where you sort of test your mettle.
Goldie: I knew that, and that’s why I wasn’t afraid to ask to direct. Last year, even before the closing show, I asked to direct this year. We hadn’t even closed 2018. I knew that it’s how this family worked. You eventually moved up and got your turn, so I asked. I was hoping it was my opportunity and time.
RJ: So now it’s 2019, and we can pick apart problematic issues and conversations on a script that was written four decades ago, and you and I got to know each other a few years ago when I was directing and you were starring as Frank the first time. You got my weird artistic vision, and you really helped me with where I was going. You went with it, and you suggested patty cake and brushing hair. I think all previous directors have that moment where we feel like someone else is “holding our baby”.
Goldie: Of course! I am watching someone else do Frank N Furter, and I watched Varian Oatman do it, doing it twice in a row and watching him while I did Riff Raff, obviously Frank is still inside me, and in my skin — it’s kind of surreal.
RJ: Do you find yourself challenged with letting the new actor take that role and make it what’s theirs and not inserting some of yourself in there?
Goldie: I don’t think so, but I feel that I wouldn’t be completely honest; there is a certain level that I know I could reach, and I want that from that person. I am wanting them to reach that level on their own. I mean, this complex, bizarre, complicated, manipulative, sexually driven, character that everyone knows, that is iconic. You must at least get to that iconic place. Not to say that I was!
RJ: I think you were, but I get that. Not asking them to recreate the character but asking them to get to that place, to amp it up.
Goldie: I am asking that of everyone, and even though at times I must ask them to tone it down. Directors want 100 (percent), but then we have chosen moments to be there.
RJ: Exactly, we must have levels
Goldie: Right! We choose moments. I ask them to lean into moments where I saw it happen, and then give them permission to do more.
RJ: I heard a rumor that this year the theme will be to stick with a more classic version of Rocky Horror, and you have done it a couple of different ways. I found having done it multiple ways that I always found something different in the script. What have you found in the script this year that you are seeing differently?
Goldie: I feel like there are some lines in the show that could be a throw away to the audience. When you read the script from a directorial point of view you want those lines to make sense. So, when I read it as a director, I recognized that just because of what someone is saying before doesn’t mean that the next line doesn’t make sense. That’s my favorite part, studying those lines. Lines about lip gloss, or this room is a womb, or put him down the waste disposal….
RJ: Lip gloss was always such an odd line for me!
Goldie: It’s not in the movie!
RJ: Even Richard O’ Brien didn’t use it when he did the film.
Goldie: Outside of that, I think that the characters have just become so much richer for me, in the script. I think after four times I had a passion and an interest; it was just time to come at it from a different aspect.
RJ: I don’t know what your process is, but I don’t direct from the first read through. I like to see what actors bring to the table. Tell me about some of your actors this year.
Goldie: There was this moment at callbacks where I had this group of people in front of me, and it just hit me. The person playing Columbia this year, she is new, Amoura Devereaux, she cracks me up, she has lived all over this world. Her Columbia is exactly what I envisioned and what I thought I would never have.
RJ: Amoura Devereaux? What a star name!
Goldie: Right? I also have Rebecca Gamache in the role of Janet this year!
RJ: Just coming off Boeing Boeing.
Goldie: She didn’t give me any other choice but to cast her!
RJ: Who else will we see this year?
Goldie: Steven Brewer as Frank N Furter, Isaac Kumpala as Riff Raff, Daniel King as Brad, Regina Catherine Welch as Magenta and Usherette, Dr Scott and Eddie is played by Zaide Monzano,….
RJ: Wow! You have got some amazing singers! What about Rocky?
Goldie: Caleb Robinson from the Friday Night Diva Variety show, our little money honey, and Cameron Morrison as Narrator!
As Mad Myrna’s continues with Rocky Horror for it’s fall season it always looks to the future. When the Rocky Horror Show ends in November the bar looks forward to continuing its traditional weekly Friday Night Diva Variety Show, and it’s specialty Saturday Drag Shows. General Manager Chris Jones says to be on the lookout for a national drag queen show starring a fan favorite member of the popular RuPaul’s Drag Race competition show as well as other special performances. Mad Myrna’s has been the home of camp theatre and gender variant performance for many years in Alaska, and while leadership roles may change, the goal will be the same. A safe place for alternative, punk, and provocative performance.