Drag king

Coy Covington walks the choppy waters of Pegasus' Charles Busch revival

Let's do a doubletake on that resume: a gay man with a military family who got his post-graduate theater degree at Ole Miss. Isn't that combination a recipe for heroin addiction, workplace hostage-taking, or at the very least a chronic bout of bitchiness? Covington would seem to suffer from none of the above, based on our short phone conversation. He insists that his family and the South were rarely a problem.

He has performed drag roles in recent productions of La Cage Aux Folles and Fortune and Men's Eyes in Mobile and Birmingham, Alabama. He says of his college stint and those shows, "My experiences in the South have all been lovely. And I like to work in Birmingham and Mobile," partly because it's an ego thing. "I'm kind of a celebrity in those small theater communities. The last time I worked in one of those shows, I got limo service to take me wherever I wanted to go. The driver would say, 'You need to stop at 7-Eleven for cigarettes? Let's go.'"

As far as his parents go, Covington says: "My father was the conductor of a Marine Corps band, so he was a performer. He's a softer kind of Marine. He and my mother were supportive of my acting and movement classes, but my mother sometimes gently tried to nudge me in a more practical direction. She'd say, 'I know you're a talented actor, but how about taking computer classes?'"

Ironically, Covington has taken his mother's advice...in service to theater. He currently mans the keyboard as assistant box office manager at Dallas Theater Center, where part of his job is pulling tickets for North Texas critics ("You better watch what you write, mister, or you'll wind up in the mezzanine," he warned me with a throaty laugh).

Since nobody in Dallas has seen him "onstage in pants," Covington admits he has a strong desire to hang up his wig for a while and tackle some male roles. He's currently discussing a more gender-harmonious character in another play with Pegasus Theatre artistic director Kurt Kleinmann. But when it comes time to prepare for a role, Covington insists he doesn't draw distinctions based on the type of costume he'll be wearing. While discussing this, he reveals the secret to his deft, intelligent delivery of the Gay '90s most overexerted aesthetics: drag, and her overbearing big sister, camp.

"In order for material like Charles Busch's to work, you have to play it straight, and hope you're funny in the process. Usually, the more real you play it, the more laughs you get. The humor has to rise naturally from the situations of the play, not from anything you impose on it."

Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and Sleeping Beauty, or Coma runs through June 6. Call 821-6005.

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