Executive Producer Casey Childs on Charles Busch, Imagining Doors, and Things Ridiculous

On a chilly October evening in 1993, I walked several blocks from my home at the time in Sag Harbor to the Bay Street Theater to see a reading of You Should Be So Lucky, a new play by Charles Busch. I was familiar with Charles’ early work with his company Theater in Limbo on plays like Vampires Lesbians of Sodom and Psycho Beach Party. I had always admired Charles for his ease at transforming, for his sly humor, for his adoration of old movies and movie stars, and for his knack at repurposing bygone theater conventions. But mostly I admired Charles as an all-around man of the theater: actor, playwright, comic, producer, founder, visionary.

You Should Be So Lucky

Primary Stages’ 1994 world premiere of “You Should Be So Lucky,” written by and starring Charles Busch

I recall an interview from the seventies with the great Charles Ludlam, who was the founder of the most aptly named entertainment establishment in history, the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. When asked how he got his start, he replied that when he was ready to enter the business, there was no obvious door for a person of his talents to do so.

“The first thing I had to do was invent the door.”

For me, this wisdom from the Father of the Ridiculous speaks volumes as to why so many young artists flounder in the early stages of their careers. They are looking for a traditional way in. They are not natural self-starters and they throw themselves at the mercy of an industry that rarely has any idea what to do with them. They do not understand how to create opportunity by inventing doors for themselves.

Olive and the Bitter Herbs

Dan Butler, David Garrison, Marcia Jean Kurtz and Richard Masur, and Julie Halston in Primary Stages’ 2011 world premiere of “Olive and the Bitter Herbs,” directed by Mark Brokaw.

Charles Busch, (who briefly worked for Ludlam), has never had any problems inventing unconventional new doors. If he had waited for someone to give him a big break, he might still be waiting. His is a rare combination of talents and as an eager young performer he knew instinctively he would have to self-produce until the rest of the world caught on.

Primary Stages began making plans to produce You Should Be So Lucky in New York City soon after the Sag Harbor reading. The play was special in the Busch canon in that it was the first in which he would play a man. Also featured in the cast were Stephen Pearlman, Matthew Arkin, Donald Berman, Jennifer Kato, the irresistible Julie Halston, and Rocky Horror Show legend and Chelsea nightclub owner, Nell Campbell. We premiered Lucky in the fall of 1994 at the 45th Street Theater with Ken Elliot directing.

The Tribute Artist

Julie Halston, Cynthia Harris and Charles Busch in Primary Stages’ 2014 world premiere of “The Tribute Artist,” now playing at 59E59 Theaters

It was a quick success. Audiences adored Charles playing a young man as much as they had come to love him in his more extravagant female creations, and Primary Stages and the Herrick Theater Foundation moved the show to a commercial run Off-Broadway. Since then, Charles has gone on to create a multitude of new works for Broadway, Off-Broadway and film. His skills continue to grow and enrich. He has already created a lifetime of work with no end in sight, but he never stops reinventing. He never stops imagining new doors.

– Casey Childs, Founder and Executive Producer of Primary Stages

The Tribute Artist, Charles Busch’s latest collaboration with Primary Stages, is playing at 59E59 Theaters through March 30. For tickets or more info, click here! To read more about the show, click the Tribute Artist tab!

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