“Casey is a guy working as an Elvis impersonator, married with a kid on the way. He loses his job because the bar is being turned into a drag bar. He stays on as a bartender to make ends meet. One night, one of the queens gets too drunk to go on stage. He steps in, and a legend is born.”
That is how Patrick Jordan would summarize The Legend of Georgia McBride, a 2015 comedy play written by Matthew Lopez. Jordan’s own theater company, Barebones Productions, is hosting a production of Georgia McBride that began on Valentine’s Day and runs through March 9. Jordan directs.
In the play, Casey, played by Andrew Swackhammer, is taught the ins and outs of a career in drag by seasoned drag mother, Miss Tracy Mills, portrayed by Shua Potter.
“She’s a motivational queen of sorts, she wants to make the best of her life and everyone around her,” Potter says. “And she’s fabulous!”
The role is a natural fit for Potter, who performs a regular drag cabaret at Arcade Comedy as his drag persona, Schwa de Vivre.
“It’s kind of a sidestep from the character I do in my show,” Potter says.
Jordan first discovered the play around the time it was originally published, and had had his eyes on it since.
“I read the play a couple years ago when it was first produced,” Jordan says. “The first time I read it, I thought it had so much heart. The underlying message of acceptance is really strong.”
The Legend of Georgia McBride is certainly an ambitious, campy and different kind of play, but that is exactly the kind of work Jordan wanted to put the spotlight on when he started Barebones Productions in 2003.
“I thought there was a void in the theater landscape, that a lot of different playwrights that appealed to younger audiences and were a little edgier weren’t getting produced in Pittsburgh,” Jordan says.
The early days of Barebones epitomized their name, doing shows in old bars, storefronts and abandoned buildings.
“The first show we did underneath the old Forward Lanes bowling alley in Squirrel Hill, in a storage room with clip lights and furniture from my apartment,” Jordan said.
Barebones was also not founded with longevity in mind. Instead, Jordan hoped that putting on these more obscure, edgy productions would help to push the mainstream theater scene to do the same.
“We thought we would just do one show and be done with it, and we ended up doing a second one, because people came,” Jordan said. “We thought other companies would start doing these kind of shows, but they never did, so we just did show after show after show. It just blossomed over the last 15 years.”
After bouncing from space to space for six years, Barebones moved into their first permanent space in 2009.
“In 2009, we went into residency at the New Hazlett theater, and we were there until three years ago,” Jordan says.
2015 marked their first show in Braddock, where the theater company is now based. They host all productions in the 70 seat Barebones Black Box, and Georgia McBride will be no exception. While Jordan and the rest of the cast know audiences will be delighted by the camp and comedy of Georgia McBride, they also want the audience to leave taking the play’s message of acceptance and inclusivity to heart.
“This is an important play, while also being incredibly fun and inspiring,” Potter said.