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Miss Jaye is ready to swing on Mt. Tam – Marin Independent Journal

Miss Jaye is ready to swing on Mt.  Tam – Marin Independent Journal

Miss Jaye plays Lola in Mountain Play’s “Kinky Boots.” (Photo by Robin Jackson)

Miss Jaye knows the power of theater. As a teenager in Ohio, it changed her life to see actor and singer Billy Porter play Lola, a tireless drag performer who works to save a failing shoe factory, in the award-winning musical “Kinky Boots.” ‘a Tony.

“I think Billy Porter really paved the way for a lot of black queer artists to come forward in the theater world,” she says.

The trans artist and drag performer is ready to put her own spin on Lola during Mountain Play’s production of “Kinky Boots,” which opens Sunday at 2 p.m. at Cushing Memorial Amphitheater at Mount Tamalpais State Park. The show continues at 2 p.m. on June 8, 9 and 16. For tickets and more information, visit mountainplay.org.

For the 24-year-old, this will be her second time playing Lola and her seventh production overall of “Kinky Boots,” a series that has taken her across the country.

Miss Jaye plays Lola in Mountain Play's "Naughty boots." (Photo by Robin Jackson)
Miss Jaye plays Lola in Mountain Play’s “Kinky Boots.” (Photo by Robin Jackson)

“The fact that this company allowed a young black trans person to come into this space and tell this story to a massive audience is really special to me,” she says.

Miss Jaye, who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in musical theater from Kent State University, also performed in Renaissance Theater’s “A Chorus Line,” among other productions.

Q How do you capture Lola?

A Learning and creating my own variation of what I see from Lola and telling the story in my own way has been really special to me. And there is a moment in the series “Not My Father’s Son” where she appears for the first time in this costume. It’s such a vulnerable side of me – it almost makes me feel like a kid again – to be able to tell your father’s story, but also, in turn, my own too. Making this trip is also something very special for me. And sharing that with people is really beautiful that way. I have two fathers, my real father and my stepfather, who I don’t really have the best relationship with. So this song is really personal to me. Eileen Grady asked me about a week ago, “What could you call on to help you get through the number without crying or breaking down?” And I kept telling her, my mother, how she allowed me to be my authentic self, supported me, and stood by me. Being able to picture it in my mind was something really special for me. I’m not my father’s son, but I’m definitely my mother’s child. She and my aunt are my inspirations for everything. They are two very strong women who have experienced so much in their lives and they are so beautiful; all my makeup and everything is inspired by it.

Q You last played Lola at the Oregon Cabaret Theater. How is your approach different here?

A With a big amphitheater, all my dances are bigger. My movements are bigger. My voice is louder. The Mountain Play changed some lines in the show to be more inclusive, as there was a lot of transphobic jargon that is outdated. And it’s been really nice to be able to talk about it with the actors and help them understand why we need to get rid of these things. By doing this show in regional theaters, we can do it in places where it’s not as diverse. So it’s really important to me that they get to witness and experience this great, funny character and also learn a lot about what this person went through in their life to get them to where they are today . I think the hardest part is that Charlie on the show starts off nice and ends up saying a lot of hurtful things to Lola. And I think people will see themselves in that and see how they’ve treated queer people, unintentionally or intentionally, and maybe learn from it. I had the chance, especially in Oregon, to talk to a lot of people who came to see the show. I received letters. The moment they always came back to was, “I loved everything you did on the show, but watching you perform ‘Not My Father’s Son’ changed my perspective on the way I treated gay people, the way I the way I treated black people, the way I treated gay people. I have treated people who are different from me because we are all human and we all go through things and we all relate to different experiences. It’s really special for me.

Q When did your love of theater begin?

A For high school, my mom and I did orientation, with booths everywhere at all the different clubs. And I remember we were walking past the drama club, and she was like, you should really do that. I auditioned and started doing shows. In one, I was a priest who dies and then comes back to life. Seeing people laughing with me and being in a show with me was really crazy. I got to do “Godspell” in high school, and it completely changed my life. Playing Judas was the craziest, most emotional, and most nerve-wracking experience a child could ever have. But it taught me a lot about my abilities, and I had a director, who is still one of my closest friends, who believed in my skills and abilities. I think that lit that fire for me to keep going.

Q When did you know you wanted to become an artist?

A Beyoncé was my #1 idol and inspiration. Constantly studying her, watching her perform, watching her create the magic that she created, I was like, I want to do that. My priority was to make music. I wanted to be a singer, which I still want to do. My goal entering college was to take musical theater classes in order to learn all the skills – singing, dancing and acting – and translate that into a music career. I performed Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” live in high school my senior year. All the money we made from that went to my friend whose mother had a stroke that year, which was really moving. And then I had to turn around and start again in 2018 at university. And it was the first time I performed in full drag. It was magical. People were standing along the theater because the seats were all taken – the best experience of my life.

Q What inspired this?

A I think I was really trying to find a way to express the femininity that lived within me. I had an old TV. I remember scrolling through the channels and coming across “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” I was like, it’s crazy, there are men who do drag. I never thought this could happen. Once “Drag Race” became more mainstream, I really thought maybe I should try this. Now I can say that as a drag artist, I’m probably one of the most entertaining queens in my city, and that’s very special to me. I think through this I discovered myself as trans, sometimes presenting as a man, but like when I wear men’s clothes it doesn’t change who I am inside. This doesn’t change the fact that I still identify as female simply because of how I was born, how I look, or what I look like to the outside world.

Q Can you talk a little about this Marin production?

A Cody Craven, my co-star who plays Charlie, is one of the most supportive, loving and talented human beings. I have never worked with anyone who I felt was a more perfect pairing and complete opposite of what I bring to the table and what I offer as a drag artist. I think the best part of this experience for me was working with the costume designer, Amie Schow. She collaborated so much with me. She asked me what I needed and wanted, especially since I’ve been doing this show for so long. The things you’re all about to see me in are absolutely insane, like this silver glitter moment, and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever worn on my body. I have never felt so beautiful in a show.

Q What do you want people to take away from the series?

A That they come with an open heart and mind and are ready to have a good time, let loose and experience the show as it will be. And if it changes people’s lives, I’m very grateful. If people just come to the show and have a good time, I’m grateful for that too.