The last time Drew Droege graced the New York stage he was in a wig, embodying his drag impersonation of Chloë Sevigny at last year’s popular Wigstock revival.
Now he is back, this time Off-Broadway at the SoHo Playhouse in his new one-man show, Happy Birthday Doug, making its New York premiere on June 29 for a special one-night only Pride weekend event. NewNowNext spoke with Droege about his new show, the Heathers TV reboot, and his thoughts on Pete Buttigieg.
Hey Drew! So pretend I know nothing. Tell me what Happy Birthday Doug is about.
So it is a 41-year-old named Doug’s birthday party. And he is talking to basically a lot of guests from hell, which is what I love to write about. [Laughs] It’s nine characters—eight party guests and Doug. He comes out at the end. So it’s all people talking to him at a party. I wanted it to feel like when you’re at a birthday party. A lot of it is, like, going into your 40s and sort of curating your parties better. Like, learning who to invite and who not to. Who to celebrate. A lot of it is also about friendship and holding onto the people that matter because I wanted to deal with that as well. I wanted it to celebrate lots of different kinds of gay men. All the characters are gay men. So it’s all versions of myself—my favorite and least favorite qualities in myself—and all of my favorite and least favorite qualities in gay men I know.
Bright Colors and Bold Patterns was inspired by a real event. Was this play, too?
Kind of! This one was less inspired by a real event and more like a mashup of a lot of parties that I’ve been to and parties that I’ve had. And also, I’ve been sort of, like—the last play was all leading up to the big event, leading up to a gay wedding. And this play takes place in the middle of a party. But also the idea of having to be present, having to stay present as the belle of the ball—how difficult it is to kind of navigate that and take care of yourself at the same time.
Since it’s another one-man show, do you just hate other actors?
They get in the way of everything! [Laughs] No, it’s really funny. I just want to—you know, at some point—write a play and have other people in it. I guess that will be my next challenge to myself. But I definitely like having something that I can sort of throw on a backpack and just perform. I don’t do stand-up. I do a lot of storytelling and stuff, but I really like the format of solo performance.
You were in New York recently and saw a few plays, right?
Yeah! I was there in April. I saw The Prom, which I loved so much. I was shocked by how much someone as cynical as me enjoyed it. The adults were such monsters in the most delicious way! And the whole thing just warmed my heart. It’s such a gem. I also thought Gary, Taylor Mac’s play, was mind-blowing. I think Taylor is a genius. But I just love when things like that can kind of sneak through. Because it’s so hard in commercial theater to have anything that’s new and groundbreaking and queer.
I wanted to know your thoughts on the Heathers TV series, which you had a role on, but was pulled from the Paramount Network schedule.
I am such a fan of the original movie. It’s always been something that I’ve just loved. The theme of Heathers is popularity corrupts. And if we’re all human beings, we’re all equal, and we all have the possibility of being monsters. We as queer people know monsters very well. It was a very queer cast—the writers, the creators. Women and queer people were writing on the show. Anyway, it’s terrifying to me when we can’t laugh at monsters, or when we can’t laugh at evil people in power. We’re scared of that. What are we saying? Are we supporting them? No. Comedy is a corrective. Comedy is a thing to say, “Don’t be this way. Don’t do this to each other.” And I really think liberal people should be made fun of as much as conservative people. Like, if you’re a closed-minded idiot, no matter what, you should be lambasted. You should be satirized. We sort of knew that we were going to get some of this, but I sort of understand not wanting to have a show as a their flag to wave in the middle of this argument. So I understand it. I mean obviously, selfishly on a total “actor who needs a job” level, I’m bummed, but I really do believe the show was wonderful.
Mayor Pete is having an event in NYC the same weekend as your show. What are your thoughts on him?
I’m endorsing a lot of them! He’s not the only one. I’m really excited about a lot of the candidates. But Mayor Pete is really special to me. There’s something about him that’s so presidential. It’s huge that an out gay man is getting the attention, the traction, that he’s getting. It says so much about where we are, and I think the power in him is that he’s been very open about his marriage and being gay. But he’s also like, “We’ve got other shit to do. We’ve got other things to take care of.” I’m so excited by him, and I did get to meet him when he was in L.A. Being in that room with him—you get that feeling when people talk about what it’s like to meet Obama, or when people meet J.F.K., like, “Wow, this is somebody who’s really, really special and really exciting.” I think he’s just a kind person, an intelligent, measured, person, a veteran, a true American. He really wants to get in there and fight for better rights for all of us, not just queer people.
Bringing it back to Happy Birthday Doug—RuPaul has said that for a man, life begins at 40. Do you agree with that?
Oh, yeah! I totally agree. I just turned 42, and it does get better. For me, I started writing this at the end of last year. I was 41, and I didn’t want to make it a 40th birthday. I’d seen that a lot, and I wasn’t really about turning 40. Also ‘cause now, maybe because I am that age, I’m like, “40’s not that old!” It’s really not that crazy thing that I thought it would be at 20. But I was like, “Okay, what does 41 look like?” I have smaller parties now; they’re more satisfying. I have less people that I would call “good friends,” and that’s a good thing. That’s a great thing. And I know who I am now. I can stand behind my opinions. You come into it all in your 30s, but you’re navigating it a lot. I loved my 30s, but there’s something about my 40s that just feels like it’s all me right now. There’s a real power and confidence in that that I love.
For more info and tickets to Happy Birthday Doug click here.