It only took 25 years, but Paris Is Burning's one-woman Greek chorus Dorian Corey (née Frderick Legg) is getting the musically dramatic treatment she deserves.
Dorian's Closet is a musical written by Los Angeles-based playwright Richard Mailman with music by Ryan Haase, the artistic director of Stillpointe Theatre in Baltimore. The production, directed by Joseph Ritsch, will run from April 26 to May 14, 2017 through Columbia, Maryland's Rep Stage.
"It is not a musical version of the documentary," Ritsch told The Baltimore Sun. "This really spans Dorian's life, especially the incident after she passed away from AIDS, when they found a mummified body in her closet, the body of a man who had been dead 15 years. That part is really intriguing. There is a whole bunch of theories trying to explain it. [Mailman] is exploring his fantasies about what really happened and why."
The musical is based on a real-life incident involving the death and subsequent mummification of Robert Wells, as Michael Cunningham recounts in "The Slap of Love":
...several months after Dorian’s death, a few of her former children were going through her sewing room looking for Halloween costumes when they found a trunk that contained a mummified human body. It was wrapped in strips of leatherette and covered with baking soda. It proved to be the corpse of a black man in his thirties, who had died of gunshot wounds and who had been dead more than twenty years (which meant the body had been moved out of and into several different apartments). Pinned to the body was a note that said, "This poor soul broke into my apartment and I was forced to shoot him."
The story even made the cover of New York Magazine, bearing the imaginative title, "The Drag Queen Had a Mummy in Her Closet."
Meanwhile, can we talk about what's happening with that "Blacks vs Jews" headline? Oh, the '90s.
Dorian's Closet serves as an interesting but ultimately fitting epitaph to Corey's life. Remembered for interminably applying her makeup while doling out gems of wisdom in Paris Is Burning, Corey's final words in the film reveal the heartbreaking reality lying just beneath the surface of the glamor and opulence of the ballroom community:
"I always had hopes of being a big star. But as you get older, you aim a little lower. Everybody wants to make an impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think, you’ve made a mark on the world if you just get through it, and a few people remember your name. Then you’ve left a mark. You don’t have to bend the whole world. I think it’s better just to enjoy it. Pay your dues, and just enjoy it. If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you."
She made a mark on the world, she shot an arrow and it went...well, high enough. Hooray for her.