UPDATE: Due to an inury sustained by John Epperson, the run of LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET has been cancelled!
"Call Me Adam" chats with John Epperson, a.k.a. LYPSINKA! herself about the return of his smash hit show LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET, which will play at The Connelly Theater (220 East Fourth Street) from July 22 through September 12! Click here for tickets!
This award-winning revue features some of Lypsinka's greatest bits. Using a soundtrack created from films, musicals, and concert recordings, the supreme archivist of irony showcases the modern challenge of being overly-blessed with femininity, ego and celebrity. The return engagement of LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET will feature additional special material which will change weekly during the eight-week run.
1. After sold-out performances last Fall, this summer you are returning to the stage with LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET from July 22-September 12 at The Connelly Theatre in NYC's East Village. What made you want to bring this show back so quickly? There are several reasons. One is simply that the show was popular; and another is that the theatre was available and the stage there is a great "frame" for "The Goddess of Showbiz," Lypsinka. Thirdly, my friend, the famed costume jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane missed the show last Fall/Winter, and he offered to step in a s a producer on this encore engagement.
2. What do you enjoy most about performing this show? The reaction of the audience is almost always enormously rewarding.
3. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET? I want them to say, "Gee, that was so much more than I expected it to be."
4. In creating this show, what was it like to go back through your career to pick out which moments you wanted to include? The primary impetus was simply to make the audience laugh, so that was first in my mind. Secondly, there’s some subtext in the show to chew on. I always try to give the audience member something to ponder.
5. Were there any moments that you wanted to include that you didn't get to? I think one of the best sequences I ever came up with was using THE THIRD MOVEMENT (ELEGY) OF THE BARTOK CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA as underscoring, and putting sound bites on top of that. But that sequence doesn’t work out of context.
"THE BOXED SET" does contain sequences from a show called "LYPSINKA MUST BE DESTROYED" that I only performed once, in San Francisco in 1996 for two months. I should perform it in New York someday, it has some wild stuff in it. You can see some of it on YouTube.
6. What's it like for you to perform a show of all your "greatest hits"? It’s fun. A lot of hard work! It’s physically demanding, but it always has been. I’m grateful that I can still so it, and that the public wants to experience it.
7. In addition to performing your biggest hits, during this limited run, you are also incorporating new material every week. What excites you about this weekly change in material? It’s fun to give myself a challenge, and the audience always enjoys being in on something new.
8. Going back a bit to the beginning of your career, how did you come up with LYPSINKA? I wanted to do a drag performance that was rooted in a tradition. I wanted to poke fun at that tradition and at the same time raise it up high. I chose lip-synching partly out of fear. I was intimidated by the professional scene in New York at the time, and by lip-synching in female costume, I could hide behind the makeup and someone else’s voice. But I got over that fear long ago.
9. What has been the best part about performing as LYPSINKA? When I did my first Off-Broadway show for almost 12 months in 1988/89, I could feel myself growing as a private person. I had a lot of damage to get through.
10. What was the greatest hurdle you overcame as LYPSINKA? It pleases me that because of my reputation, some people don’t see me as a "drag queen," a term I personally loathe. Of course, there are some who still use that term to describe me.
12. What have you learned about yourself from being a performer? Well, in addition to what I mentioned before, I have also learned that I did the right thing for myself by leaving Mississippi. But it must have been heart-breaking for my parents that I wanted to lead an unconventional life.
13. If you could have any super power, which one would you choose? To leap over all the baby stroller, and dog leashes and cell phone users in a single bound.
14. If you could create your own signature drink, what would you call it and what ingredients would you put in it? I don’t know much about drinking and cocktails. I like fine red wine and Blue Label Chimay Ale. I also like fine chocolates. So, if anyone wants to send anything to The Connelly Theater this summer, now they know what to send!
15. As LYPSINKA, what's your favorite skin care product? I use Kiehl’s moisturizer, and if I can’t get that I will use L'OREAL.
John Epperson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, a long way from the exciting worlds in which LYPSINKA travels: movies (Witch Hunt with Dennis Hopper, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Wigstock: The Movie, Angels In America, Kinsey, Another Gay Movie, Another Gay Sequel); television (HBO specials Sandra After Dark with Sandra Bernhard, and Dragtime; George Michael’s video Too Funky, PBS’s The United States Of Poetry and special features on the Mommie Dearest and Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? DVDs); fashion (appearing in the Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles shows of haute couture designer Thierry Mugler, modeling for Valentino, Pauline Trigere, Barneys New York, and launching lines of cosmetics for Prescriptives, MAC, and Isabella Rossellini); advertisements (The Gap, LA Eyeworks, Naya Spring Water, Ilford Film); theater, including I Could Go On Lip-Synching!, The Fabulous Lypsinka Show, Lypsinka! Now It Can Be Lip-Synched, Lypsinka! A Day In The Life (New York Theater Workshop, two Drama Desk nominations, including Most Unique Theatrical Experience; revived in 1993 Off-Broadway at The Cherry Lane Theatre), Lypsinka! As I Lay Lip-Synching, Lypsinka Must Be Destroyed!, Lypsinka IS Harriet Craig!, Lypsinka! The Boxed Set (2001 Drama Desk nomination, Washington, D.C. Helen Hayes Award win for Outstanding Non-Resident Production / Outstanding Lead Actor nomination, wins for Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Award, Best Sound Design and L.A. Weekly Theatre Award for Best Solo Performance); and special events (such as Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly, on Broadway with Bette Midler, Elaine Stritch and Patti LuPone, and London’s Meltdown Festival curated by Morrissey).
Formerly a rehearsal pianist at American Ballet Theatre, John’s theatrical career was launched in the mid-1980s when he wrote the book, lyrics and music of Ballet of the Dolls and Dial "M" For Model at La Mama ETC. The year 1999 brought Epperson’s dramatic stage debut in Messages for Gary at The New York Fringe Festival. In 2004 John appeared Off-Broadway in The Roaring Girle with The Foundry Theatre. The same year he was the subject of a stage festival at DC’s Studio Theatre, which included his autobiographical piece John Epperson: Show Trash, As I Lay Lip-Synching, and his play, My Deah: Medea for Dummies, the Medea tale set in The New South. Also in 2004 Epperson played "The Stepmother" in the New York City Opera production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella at Lincoln Center’s New York State Theater. The play My Deah opened in an Obie Award-winning production Off-Broadway in October 2006 and is now published and licensed by Samuel French. His acclaimed Off-Broadway show The Passion of the Crawford, a fantasia on the personality of Joan Crawford, toured to California, Florida and Washington, D.C.
Lypsinka launched the 2007 Spring collection of MAC Cosmetics centered around the Barbie doll. Epperson’s version of James Kirkwood’s infamous play Legends! was produced at Studio Theatre in DC, Summer 2010. In 2014 in New York City, John devoted himself to a unique challenge for a solo performer by performing three of his shows in repertory under the umbrella title LYPSINKA! THE TRILOGY. John and Lypsinka are the subjects of an Emmy-winning television documentary for PBS. He provided the preface for the Rizzoli photo book Persona, and is the author of a new screenplay Happy Everything. John has also written for The Guardian (U.K.), The New York Times, The Washington Post and Interview and The Daily Beast.