San Diego Theater Company Circle Circle Dot Dot is producing its third play in less than 2 years. It receives far less press than veteran companies like the Globe and the Playhouse. But with its latest production, "deconstruction of a Drag Queen" (running through April 21 at Tenth Avenue Theatre), it finds its inner diva.
Katherine Harroff says Circle Circle Dot Dot is community based theater: "Community based theater comes from the practice of going out into the community and finding different, interesting stories to turn into a play."
She is the artistic director of Circle Circle Dot Dot. She founded the small company in 2010 and writes an original play for each new production.
"It's a challenge," she says, "and we are young and broke. We still pull it together because we care about what it is that we are doing.
Compassion is key to successful community theater. Harroff cares about the communities she enters. She also knows how to ask good questions and then listen carefully to the answers. For "Deconstruction of a Drag Queen," she found her newest story in Anthony Diaz.
"I work with San Diego dance theater and I was fortunate to meet him and watch him be a beautiful dancer," Harroff recalls, "And then one beautiful morning I went to San Diego Pride and saw him perform."
Diaz was performing in drag as Grace Towers and Harroff was hooked.
"She went out into the gay community," says Anthony Diaz, "the drag community, and she wrote a play about that."
Last weekend the play had its premiere and Grace Towers was in attendance in all her glamorous glory, and posing for photos with patrons in order to raise money for Mama's Kitchen. The 27-year-old Diaz says the play's about him finding the courage to become Grace Towers.
Diaz admits, "There was some hesitation when I was first thinking about potentially putting my life on the stage this way with Katie."
Hesitation because Diaz had a difficult relationship with his mother. That relationship is pivotal says actor Shaun Tuazon, who plays Diaz's stage alter ego.
"You sort of see him exploring ways to express himself," says Tuazon, "and in the play you see his mother holding him back from being his true self."
In the play Michael (played by Tuazon) tells his mother: "What if I want to dance and be on stage and I like fashion and clothes and I'm good at school? What can't I be all that?"
But he answer is a definitive, "No." That is not what she has in mind for her son. Harroff then has Michael's mom lock him up in a gold cage to keep him from any distractions.
In real life, Diaz would find a new and more supportive family within the drag community and the play pays tribute to those flamboyant divas. But the drag community has been appreciative of how the play finds the humanity beneath the glitter. Harroff spoke about drag with Fernando Lara whose performs as Fifi at Lips.
"He said a lot of times, most times , drag queens are seen as clowns or strippers and that the art of it is really lost on a lot of people."
Diaz adds, "There's a lot that goes into it. It's not just putting on make up, it's not just putting on a wig, there's a lot of preparation there's a lot of creating the illusion, there's a lot of creating the performance and just like any other art form we are passionate about it."