Actor Coy Covington dons wig and heels for his 10th outing as a female character in a Charles Busch play
Tammye Nash | Managing Editor
Aas Coy Covington what he thinks of being called “the Charles Busch of Dallas,” and he’ll tell you, that’s high praise indeed.
“It’s a thrill and an honor. They can tag me with that all they want,” Covington declared. “Truly, it is a huge honor, and just a hoot. I enjoy doing his work so much. I am grateful to be acknowledged for it, and grateful that [Busch] is so generous with his work.”
Theatre Three opens its 2016-17 season, beginning this weekend, with one of Busch’s campy classics, Psycho Beach Party, described as an “hilarious and outrageous mash-up of Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello and The Three Faces of Eve.”
It is the 10th time Covington has donned wigs and heels for a roll in a Busch play. But it is the first time, he said, that he has had the chance to debut a new version of one of the playwright’s works.
“Charles and I, over the years, have gotten to be friends,” Covington said this week. “We’re not ‘buddies,’ but we have gotten to be friends. He’s just a fabulous person really, and he’s always been very supportive of and generous to me.
“I tease him often — although I’m not really teasing — telling him that even though he’s having so much success right with his cabaret show [which he brought to Dallas’ Wyly Theater last October], he needs to keep writing more plays because I need more roles!”
And while Beach Party is not a new play, really, this is a new version of it, thanks at least in part to Covington’s participation.
“When he found out I was doing this play this summer at Theatre Three, he contacted me [and T3’s acting artistic director, Bruce Coleman] and said, ‘Would you guys be willing to use this new version of the play?’” Covington explained. “Of course we said yes. We jumped at the chance. So the audiences in Dallas will be the first ones to ever see this version of it.”
In Psycho Beach Party, Covington plays Mrs. Forrest, mother of the show’s main protagonist, Chicklet Forrest, a teenage girl who desperately wants to be part of the 1962 Malibu surfer crowd, but has to find a way to overcome her own issues — which include multiple personality disorder — to do so.
Covington describes his character as “the overbearing mother. … the over-protective mother who’s just a little bit whacked out herself.” It is the first time he has taken on a supporting role in a Busch play instead of one of the central characters.
It is a “really exciting opportunity,” the actor said, that “grew out of Charles Busch’s generosity and his willingness to reach out to me. It’s really kind of cool we’re doing this revised play. It’s kind of fabulous.”
Busch is “just terrific,” Covington continued, “and very honest. When he told me he was revising this play, I asked him, ‘Can’t you do something to pad my part?’ He just said, ‘No. It’s a supporting role, darling. I know you are used to being center stage, but this is a supporting role.’
“And you know, that impressed me even more!”
Covington, who began his stage career in the early 1990s, is known for specializing in female roles, performed in drag, and this is the 10th time he has performed a female role in a Charles Busch play.
“I started doing his plays — I think the first one was in 1992, Red Scare on Sunset. I just sort of fell into his rhythm,” the actor said of his affinity for Busch plays. “He’s just got this kind of effortless, brassy elegance that draws me toward him.”
As a performer and a playwrght, Covington said Busch is “very theatrical and generous,” with a “witty, urbane glamor” that shines through his work.
“His vernacular and his syntax is just so unique,” Covington said. “So he’s fun to talk to, fun to read. I mean, his Facebook posts are legendary. His writing is just so specialized, so stylized, but at the same time, that makes it hard to memorize.”
He noted that because this is the first time the revised version of Beach Party will be staged, “We’re trying to go word-for-word, to do it exactly as it’s written. And there is this one line I kept getting wrong. I kept saying, ‘I can see clearly now.’ But when I went back and reread the script, I realized that the actual line is, ‘I see now clearly.’
“It just puts a more theatrical spin on the lines,” Covington said. “He just has a certain way of arranging the words that gives it that Charles Busch spin, which is just more fabulous than the usual.”
Covington admits that he has thought of following even further in Busch’s footsteps and writing his own plays. “He doesn’t do parodies; he does satire. He pays homage to these glamorous old movies, and if I wrote, I would definitely do that. I would probably have similar themes, the same comic sensibility.
“So yes, I have thought about writing, but I haven’t ever gotten around to putting pen to paper.”
He would also strive, Covington said, to add another element of Busch’s work to his own writing: “His writing is also a little bit naughty. There’s glamor and elegance, with some of the movies’ innuendo — and then there’s just a little bit of raunch thrown in, and I love that. It just adds a whole new layer.”
While he may someday write his own plays, for now Covington said he is focused on doing his best with Busch’s work. “I just really look up to him,” Covington said. “And he really does need to keep writing!
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 24, 2016.