Pop-Culturalist Chats with Drew Droege
Drew Droege knows how to make people laugh. You may have seen his hilarious impersonations of Chloë Sevigny, or seen him in one of the many television shows and films he’s acted in, like Idiotsitter. He’s also had a full career on stage, performing both improv and acting in plays.
His current project is the off-Broadway show Bright Colors And Bold Patterns; he wrote it and stars in the one-man show. We were able to chat with Drew about his love of acting, collaboration, and the evolution of Bright Colors And Bold Patterns.
P-C: What drew you to acting and then, specifically, into comedy?
Drew: I always loved doing it. I was the kid who wanted to be a serious actor growing up, but would always get laughs and be really mad about it. I took acting classes in college, but giving too much—not really knowing who I was and what my strengths and weaknesses were. I was really reluctant to get into comedy because I wanted to be what I thought was legit. Then, finally, later in college, I realized that comedy was more of my bend, and I learned to embrace it and enjoy it more.
P-C: You’ve worked in a variety of mediums—stage, screen, podcast—do you have one you find yourself enjoying more?
Drew: I like to mix it up and do a lot of different things. I feel like the more projects I have going and the busier I am, the better it is for me. Then I don’t stress over one thing too much. But, I really love live performing. Theater is my favorite thing to do; it’s so immediate—having that conversation with an audience. When you’re filming something you don’t really have an idea of how it’s going, and it can be edited a certain way. You have less control and less connection with the audience.
P-C: What is the biggest challenge you face doing live theater?
Drew: Well, it depends on what the project is. With Bright Colors And Bold Patterns, every night is so different. I’m going on stage with three other characters in the play that are just represented by furniture on stage that I’m talking and reacting to. So, it’s wild how every night I feel different energy based on the audience reaction from that.
I think this play is a little complicated with this character. Some nights, I think the audience finds him delightful, and they’re having a great time with him; other times, I think they’re really offended by him or turned off. It’s just navigating that every night. That also makes it fun because I don’t get bored with the show.
P-C: What inspired you to write Bright Colors And Bold Patterns?
Drew: I received a wedding invitation to a friend’s wedding. They asked the guests not to wear bright colors or bold patterns to the wedding. They wanted a neutral color palette. It was such a title to me. It was also right around the time when gay marriage became legal, and I saw everything immediately going toward—in gay publications and conversations—marriage. As wonderful as marriage equality is, I just wondered what if this invitation was for a gay wedding, and are we, as gay people, losing our bright colors and bold patterns in the quest for “keeping up with the joneses?”
I also wanted to write a character who was very much in a crisis moment. I always waned to write my dream role: a big, loud, drunk mess. I wanted to explore that and perform as someone in that place: that person who you meet at the party who might be fun at first, but then cross a line. It’s someone we all know—someone we may have been at times—and, then, I wanted to have the audience spend an hour with him and see where he’s coming from.
Drew: There’s a lot, but, ultimately, I think that I’m somebody who loves to hold court among his friends. I think I have definitely crossed a line many times; in the quest for making the room laugh, I may say the wrong thing or hurt someone’s feelings. I think a lot of it is when you’re this person, you’re misunderstood, and you’re thought of as the clown. No one thinks, “Oh, you might hurt. You might be coming from a place of hurt by making this horrible joke, or offhand comment.” So, that I really identify with.
P-C: What was the process like transforming Bright Colors from the original show to this current production?
Drew: When I originally did it, it was in a 30-seat theater with a couple of chairs and a table. Then, Michael Urie saw the show in cabaret form, and he came to me and said he wanted to help turn it into a bigger production. He had such a great vision for it being a play. A lot of it was flushing out the set which helped me understand and find the characters much more. Then, it was just about really going through the play and beating out each moment. We just treated it like a play, and it really opened up the whole piece to what it is now.
P-C: Do you find the solo writing process easier or do you prefer something more collaborative, like where Michael Urie came in and joined you?
Drew: Both. I had worked with a director in L.A. named Molly Prather. She directed the original production of it in L.A. a few years ago. She’s a writer. I wrote the whole thing in a chunk of time, and I love doing that first step all by myself. Then, I brought it to her, and she really helped with the writing and the creating of the whole thing. She would say, “Move this. Change this. Cut this.” As a writer, that’s how we work.
Michael has approached this show as a director. He’s like, “I would never dare change the words. Change the way you’re playing it. Maybe we’ll change the tone here or there.” Michael treats the script like it’s the script, and he comes from the theater so he looks at it like a play. I’m the one who’s like, “Let’s cut it and change it,” since I wrote it. He’ll say, “No no. It’s great the way it is. We’ll change how we present it.”
I love collaborating with other people, ultimately. It’s me sitting with my laptop and I need somebody else to bounce things off of to say, “This works; this doesn’t.” It’s really great working with both of them.
P-C: You said this role was your dream role. Have you thought about what your next dream role and project would be?
Drew: I just did a great part on Heathers, the TV reboot of the movie, that comes out next year. I’m playing a drama teacher, and that was so much fun to do. I’m happy when I have something meaty to dive into. This role…I wanted to play all the roles and play a role that nobody else was going to write. So, I have no idea what my next dream role would be. I’m just enjoying this one.
P-C: Since you mentioned Heathers, what is your favorite remake of something?
Drew: That’s a great question…I really loved Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween. It was just a really wonderful reimagining of one of my favorite movies. I think he did a really great job of making it his own. This Heathers show is so loyal to the movie in tone, and, yet, it totally takes on its own vibe because it’s set so much later, and the world is so different. I really like when someone has total respect for the original material and then takes it and keeps the spirit, but also makes their own thing.
P-C: So, what is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Drew: When I first moved to L.A., my roommate’s dad was friends with Kevin Costner. We went to a premiere of a Kevin Costner movie, and I was so young, so green, and I didn’t know any better. We met him, and we met his agent. I went up to his agent, and I was like, “Hi I’m an actor, and I need an agent. You rep Kevin Costner, and you should rep me.” I was a complete idiot about it! But, she gave me her info and talked to me on the phone for an hour the next day to basically say, “I’m not going to be your agent, and here’s why.” It was so kind of her to do that because she could have easily not returned my call. Instead, she was like, “You need to go to class. You need to get good at what you’re doing. You need to train. Even if I was your agent, I couldn’t do anything for you. You know, you have to pay your dues and be ready for the opportunities as they come. You wouldn’t want these opportunities now. You need to be able to handle them.” She was basically saying to relax, go to class, and don’t be so focused on your career. You need to focus on being good at what you do and respected for what you do. Then things will come to you. The more I think about that, the more I am appreciative of her doing that because that is how it works.
Pop-Culturalist Speed Round
Guilty Pleasure TV Show or Movie
I don’t like “guilty pleasure” because what you like is what you like. But, I watch Serial Mom by John Waters at least once a month.
Nashville, the Robert Altman movie
Misery by Stephen King
Favorite play or musical
Sunday in the Park with George
Artist You Could Have on Repeat
Desert Island, Three Things
Sweet potatoes, whisky, and a movie theater
Photo Credit: Russ Rowland