The Dumpsta’s Take On Pari$$$

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Earlier this summer it seemed that the whole world watched Paris Hilton being sent sobbing back to prison, where she was originally sent there as punishment for violating her parole for driving without a license (which in turn was suspended due to her driving drunk several months before). The whole drama that was played out in media was just like one giant reality TV show called “The Passion Of The Paris.” But she is not the only young female celebrity who is making a killing drunkenly slutting it up these days. Lindsay Lohan gets ten times more press with her exploits of bouncing in and out of rehab and crashing cars than the most deserving of hard working entertainers are. And the world watches for Britney Spears to pull her next stunt such as shaving her head, flashing her vagina, having a breakdown on a stripper pole, attacking paparazzi with whatever means, and being a “bad mother” for whatever the media claimed she did. But all this coverage meant that these exploits were taking away press coverage from more serious political issues. Michael Moore was originally supposed to the June 28th edition of the Larry King show to discuss his latest movie, Sicko, which criticizes the US health care system, but when Paris sprung out of prison CNN dumped Michael from his slot just so there could be a full hour of asking America’s No. 1 media whore what was her stay in prison like. No word on whether Paris pulled a Marie Antoinette and said “Let them eat band-aids!”

The Dumpsta’ Players, a mixed improvisational theater troupe that irrevently skewers pop culture, sends up the whole media obsession with their latest show Chardonna Jenkins: PARI$$$ OR BUST! In it Chardonna Jenkins, a self describes ghetto avenger who tastes like “Flavor Of Love,” meets Pari$$$ Hilton when both of them land in jail. But when they are both let out, Pari$$$ snubs Chardonna aside for her celebutante friends such as Lindsay Blohand instead. Chardonna exacts her revenge by killing mindless rich folk who hog up media time. Pari$$$ doesn’t take this lying down of course, and the story climaxes at an American Idol event.

For over a decade The Dumspta’ Players have been putting on shows that combine satire and comedy, drag and genderfuck, and lip-synching to trashy pop music. The majority of their performances are done down at Bob and Barbara’s down on South Street. Even though the cast is busy getting ready for their Thursday August 15th show, I did manage to get a word with a couple of the troupe members.

Ricky Paul (a/k/a DJ K-Tell), co-founder, director and producer, tells how the group began. “We were a bunch of friends with too much time on our hands. We were bored with the scene around us and we were really bitchy about it. We decided to channel our energy into something constructive AND fun.”

“I have known Ricky for over twenty years now,” says the Divine Miss Jimmi, another troupe member. “We started doing shows at the Bank and with a traveling party called Vagabond. We also had another friend named Raven. The three of us had put on some pretty wild shows back in the early 90’s. You could say it was the catalyst of what would become the Dumpsta’s!”

“I started attending the Thursday Night Drag Show [at Bob and Barbara’s] back
in 1995, said Ricky. “I knew the DJ (Lexy) from my earlier work with Vagabond,
and he invited me to guest spin there on a Wednesday night. I dug out all my old disco and 80’s 45rpm records and headed over. The owner liked it, and in December 1996, DJ K-Tell (me) got his own monthly party. All my freak friends starting showing up. Sometimes in drag or costumes, and often entertained the crowd with impromptu lip-synch performances. We had our first “Prom Trash” show in April 1997.”

“I had dropped out of performing for a while,” explained Jimmi. “I ran into Ricky in 2002 and he asked me to play Divine in one of the shows. I became hooked to performing again and have been there ever since.” (Jimmi will also be appearing as Divine at the next Sex Dwarf, a new-wave 80s party held at Fluid on Friday August 17.)

When asked what was the most unusal gig the group had performed at, Ricky said: “We played the Reject Film Festival with special guest John Waters in 1998, a special Mother’s Day show at Fluid where we were born-agains protesting the “sodomite performers” (our friends) inside, but most of the really wicked and weird action has been inside the walls of Bob and Barbara’s, over 110 shows full of freakiness.”

On average how long does it take to put together each show?

“Most of our performers are not full time professional actors. We hold day
jobs and our free time is very precious to us. We generally have three or four
rehearsals to throw the whole thing together. As a performer, you are expected to study on your own. Of late we’ve been doing one show every two months, although for 10 years we did a show nearly every month. That was a helluva turn around time and we’d often produce a new script a few days after the last performance.”

The Divine Miss Jimmi said that the best thing about putting together the shows was doing them. “I live for the night; we take all the hard work that we have done and bring it before the audience. It is a real make or break time and is so exciting. I love performing live because you know right away if the show is gonna be a hit or a miss!”

I ask Ricky why they have chosen to skewer the likes of Paris, Lindsay, Britney et al this time around. “Isn’t that what they want anyway? There’s no such thing as bad publicity…”

“The Dumpsta’ Players pride ourselves on social satire and commentary. The whole issue of media saturation and celeb-reality is certainly very hot right now, and the time seems right to slam the entertainment industry.”

When asked about the future of the Dumpsta’s Ricky said: “A phantom is crashing a chandelier to the ground next show and a helicopter will careen into the stage the show after that! Seriously, we really don’t limit our creativity much. We’ve had earthquakes onstage, wrestling matches, numerous birthings, domestic disputes and dysfunctional family gatherings. Expect more of the same, and a lot more
Eurovision music
in the near future.”

“What’s the key to our longevity? Keeping it real, and really fun with just enough theatre. To give it structure and a nice helping of trash to give it sass.”

You can ctach the Dumpsta’ Players performing Chardonna Jenkins: Pari$$$ Or Bust! on Thursday August 15 at 11pm at Bob and Barbara’s on 1509 South Street in Philadelphia. There is a $1.99 cover, and over 21 admitted.

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