When you think of the performing arts scene in San Francisco, 'typical' is the last adjective that comes to mind. Sure, New York may have the well-oiled machine that is Broadway, but we San Franciscans find pleasure in productions that err on the left-most side of zany. Or at least the devoted fans of D'Arcy Drollinger do.
“In San Francisco, the culture is more risk-taking,” D’Arcy said. “I lived in New York for a time and there is more of a dependency on commerce. There is a freedom and ability to take risks in San Francisco that is great for incubating new work – the community really rallies new stuff in a way that I don’t see in places like New York or Los Angeles.”
As a performer, writer, and choreographer, D'Arcy has an incredible knack for creating productions that are equal parts raunchy, ridiculous, and nostalgic. If you've laughed your way through any of Darcy's recent shows (Sh*t & Champagne, or its sequel, Champagne White and the Temple of Poon), then you're well aware that anything she touches turns to camp-classic gold. It's the kind of humor that is so over-the-top -- at times bordering on absurd -- that it has the power to wax the highbrow off of even the most stoic of theatergoers.
Humor aside, the direction, comedic timing, and sense of pride in D'Arcy's performances let the audience know that this is so much more than a drag show, and labeling it as such would be a complete misnomer. In a world where the majority of queens simply lip-sync for their lives, D'Arcy has raised the satirical bar for her peers. Humor is afoot nearly everywhere in the world of drag, but it's D'Arcy's unique brand of homegrown creativity, coupled with her finger on the pulse of anything and everything campy, that truly sets her apart. That, plus the fact that she has the most sizzling pair of legs south of Market Street.
But this is not to say that D’Arcy hasn’t worked hard for her success.
“I sent my Sh*t & Champagne script to a number of different producers and venues and several people told me it was terrible or they just ignored me, but it turned into probably one of the biggest hits of my career because I believed in it and knew I could make it funny. I knew it was funny even though it was about 50 pages of poop jokes!”
Sh*t & Champagne was indeed a runaway hit in the City, boasting two separate runs, and judging from the diverse, multi-generational crowds that flocked to them, its success served as proof that potty humor is timeless (no matter what your parents say).
D'Arcy's latest offering, Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls, was actually a brainchild that spawned from a band she was in during the late '80s and early '90s.
“Enrique was an art and punk band, almost like a '70s revival band in the '80s. We played all over San Francisco and finally ended up with a permanent home at the Transmission Theater, which is now Beatbox. We played there for about nine months and the new show was definitely something that organically grew out of the band, so it was a very collaborative project from the beginning.”
Though the original script for Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls was written in the '90s, D’Arcy has dusted it off, updated it and infused it with her love of tasteless wit.
“The reboot is a little more current and, like the way that Sh*t & Champagne was inspired by the Blaxploitation films of the '70s, this one riffs off of a Russ Meyer film, written by Roger Ebert, called Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and elements of Showgirls. They were both so ridiculous, over-the-top, trashy, melodramatic scripts that almost shouldn’t have been made since they were so cheesy. But instead these films had huge budgets. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls had a budget of over one million dollars, and that was in 1970! Both of these films have amazingly lush cinematography, but they also have ridiculous plot lines and dialogue.”
Millennials, who may not be familiar with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, can certainly relate to the nostalgia of Showgirls – the overdone tale of a Las Vegas hopeful turned rebel played by Saved by the Bell alumna, Elizabeth Berkley. In a world where practically everything under the sun gets a facelift (Fuller House, anyone?), why not revisit the downright ridiculousness of such memorable camp classics? Although D’Arcy’s new show is more of a satire than a replica: “While it is a send-up of the two films, it’s totally original and it’s a musical – we have a five-piece rock band!”
So what's it about? The show’s website says it best:
The story follows SUPER VIXEN – a struggling all-girl rock band with big dreams, big boobs, big hair and big everything else. Chablis, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer claw their way up the underside of the music industry where they meet low life record company exec Mr. Richard Face, who promises them super-stardom. When Dick talks Gewürztraminer into leaving her band mates, she changes her name to Sherry, hooks up with even trashier back up girls and becomes an overnight sensation. Naturally, her rejected friends embark on a painful and hilarious downward spiral of sex, drugs... and revenge!
Or as D’Arcy likes to describe it, “an everything but the kitchen sink melodrama.”
This weekend is your last chance to see Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls for now, so go snag some tickets! If you can't make it for whatever reason, don't fret. In between productions, you can always visit D’Arcy at Oasis, a nightclub that she co-owns with San Francisco legend, Heklina, or you can catch her each week teaching Sexitude at Sunday Skool – a body-positive, age-positive, sex-positive dance experience for those who are looking to make their dreams of becoming a famous back-up dancer a reality. Who knows? You may unwittingly be cast as the next starlet in one of D’Arcy’s future shows!
When asked if she has any words of encouragement for future generations: “Don’t wait around for someone else to make your art happen. I have been self-producing from the beginning. If I hadn’t self-produced, who knows if I would have produced anything. Especially if you aren’t producing things that fit a mold, then you have to find your own path sometimes.”
Thank you, D’Arcy, for going your own way. And for all the poop jokes.
Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls is playing at Oasis (928 11th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103) through May 14, 2016, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00 p.m.