As one of the beauty contestants in the Off-Broadway musical, Pageant, and one-half of The Skivvies, Nick Cearley is doubling the pleasure for theater fans. On a recent Saturday evening in New York City, writer (and amateur photographer) Augusten Burroughs captured the performer as he went from vying for a crown to playing with Perez Hilton during back-to-back performances of both shows. Cearley was kind enough to walk us through an evening of wigs and undies.
12 p.m. Ahead of his call time for Pageant, Cearley spends nearly three hours running through a sound check at 54 Below where The Skivvies have an 11 p.m. show that evening.
3:30 p.m. Cearley walks nine blocks from 54 Below to the Davenport Theatre where the Pageant performs every Saturday through Monday. That particular night, the entire cast performed a “put in rehearsal” because an understudy was joining for the first time in a new role.
5:30 p.m. Once the rehearsal is complete, Cearley begins getting ready the show, which starts at 8 p.m.
The makeup takes the longest,” Cearley says of the getting ready process. Through a sponsorship with Broadway Cares, MAC donated their time to the show to help the men learn how to do their makeup. But each cast member has to do his own makeup prior to show time. “I’m not the best at it — I mean I’m not supposed to be — but the other guys taught me the proper technique.”
When it comes to getting ready, the men are constantly helping each other, especially Cearley: “Everyone is generous because everyone wants to help especially because there’s something about [my character] Bonnie Louise where everyone feels sorry for her. The line in the show is, ‘Beauty impaired,’ as Miss Texas says — but Miss Texas whose name is Alex and he’s in drag a lot — he’s very skilled and wanting to help.”
All the men have to shave prior to every show. Cearley does his pruning work at home before going into the theatre. “You know that scene from The Crying Games where he’s just crying,” Cearley says of his private shaving experience.
8 p.m. Showtime! Cearley takes the stage of Bonnie Louise aka Miss Great Plains, one of six beauties vying to become Miss Glamouresse.
Photo courtesy of Pageant
9:30 p.m. Following an 85-minute performance, the chaos begins for Cearley as he has to get out of makeup and back over to 54 Below by 10 p.m.
9:45 p.m. After about five minutes of greeting fans at the stage door, Cearley is in a cab on the way to his second performance of the night
10 p.m. Immediately following Patti LuPone’s performance on the stage, The Skivvies and their guests for the evening take over to do one last rundown prior to the 11 p.m. show. “We run through at least all of the new [arrangements],” Cearley says of the final hour of prep time.
Pushups or jumping jacks have also been integrated into Cearley’s pre-show routine. It’s something he picked up when the show’s guests started doing it ahead of performances. “I think energy-wise, it kind of gets my blood flowing,” Cearley says of the exercises.
While Cearley and Lauren Molina have no specific rituals that they do prior to the show, the two do always gather to run through a checklist of items to make sure they are ready. “We make sure we both have guitar picks,” Cearley says of something that they often forget when they head out on stage. “We don’t say any prayer.”
11 p.m. “So hot!” Cearley and Molina take the stage at 54 Below to run through a performance of pop covers and mashups. That particular night featured Perez Hilton, Andy Karl (Rocky), Kate Rockwell (Legally Blonde), and Greg Hildreth (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson).
Hilton's performance was very different than the typical mashups the duo performs with on-stage guests. “He had a story he wanted to tell,” Cearley says. “The story he wanted to tell of all his auditions of shows he’s never gotten — I thought it was very funny.”
2 a.m. “I always reward myself with a beer on Skivvies day,” Cearley says when it comes to relaxing after it’s all over.
A special thanks to Burroughs for photographing Cearley for the evening. The author first met The Skivvies through their manager and his husband Christopher Schelling. He later directed the duo’s first music video for “Hardbody Hoedown.” “They are (obviously) hugely talented and so incredibly hard working,” Burroughs says. “The video was so much fun to shoot and we did it in just a few hours out in Brooklyn.”
You can check out more of Burroughs’ photography on Flickr.