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stage When Alexandra Billings hits the Renberg stage


at The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/ Jane Wagner Cultural Center with her theatrical cabaret showS/He & Me, she’ll be telling her life story through words and lyrics. The show, highlights theTransparent star’s tran-


sition, from the often complex process, but all told and sung with wit and candor.The Rage Monthly spoke with Billings about her early showbiz inspirations, what it’s like being onTransparent and howS/He & Me came about. Of her childhood and natural inclination towards performing, Billings said she was “sort of born singing and dancing.” This dream was encouraged by her family, as she explained. “My father was a college music professor at Harbor College in Cali- fornia and was the musical director at the L.A. Civic Light Opera House,” Billings said. “I was about six or seven years old when my parents divorced and we moved from California to Illinois. My brother and I would spend summers with my dad, while he and his team put together musicals, so my early life was filled with Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kander and Ebb and Carol Burnett.” Her theatre career began with Charles Busch’s


Vampire Lesbians of Sodom in 1987 and she’s worked steadily on stage ever since. There is one person who she cited as being the one who taught her the most about her craft. “My Dad. He told me before I could set foot on stage as a performer, I had to understand what it took to create, to dream and to understand the responsibility of art,” she recalled. “I learned what others did and how much work went into doing what we do. I never forgot it and it’s something I carry with me to this day. It’s also something I teach my own acting students.” Speaking of which, Billings teaches at CSU Long Beach and said her acting students are “…my life’s work and my greatest teachers.” She has definitely proven herself to be a trailblazer: Whether it’s being the first transgender actress to play such treasured theatrical roles as Mama Rose fromGypsy, to the distinction of being the first transgender female to play a transgender character on television in the TV movieRomy & Michele: In the Beginning. She recently found out, in fact, that there was another actress who holds that mantle. But she doesn’t mind the change in her status as “second has distinction, as well.” Her role as Davina onTransparent is a “dream


come true,” in that it has opened up channels for communication on the subject of being transgender. “I truly believe this has started a huge dialogue.


CABARET WORDS AND LYRICS BY ALEXANDRA BILLINGS


by tim parks


Given permission, if you will, to an already growing need to speak openly about otherness and what that means,” she explained. “We are living in precarious times, to say the least, so any forward movement is good for humanity. I am honored to be part of what seems to be an open portal to a usually closed subject.” Seeing as her life is essentially an open songbook


in S/He & Me, she filled us in on the show’s origin and why it was decided to illustrate her story with song. “This was Joanne Gordon’s (the director) mad idea. She is the ignition to this show and she is the dreamer. It began on Facebook, weirdly. Most of the pieces in the show were Facebook posts and Joanne said one day to simply put them together into a show,” Billings said. “This is what she does though. Her brain works in a way that is so utterly creative


and powerful and since we’re both musical theatre freaks and usually sing our lives to each other over the phone, we added our favorite songs in place of dialogue or scenes.” Billings has a specific hope for what the audience


take away will be. “I hope they find that whatever it is that happened to them in the past is a gift and gave them the grace and understanding to free themselves in the present. And, I really hope they take away some joy... Life’s nothing without a good pie fight or two.”


S/He & Me: A Theatrical Cabaretruns fromThursday, May 25 through Sunday, June 11at the Renberg Theatre inside The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Center. For more information and to purchase tickets, log onto lalgbtcenter.org/theatre


S/HE & ME: A THEATRICAL


MAY 2017 | RAGE monthly


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