Divine/Intervention: Talking to the woMan in the Mirror

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar


I graduated with a double major, one of them was a B.A. in Theatre Production Management, a requirement of said major was to see 75 productions in my four years of education.  Since college I haven’t missed an opening night at The Walnut Street Theater, and have volunteer ushered at least once a month at various theatres around the city.  So when I say “Holy Shit, this play stands its ground!”  Take my word for it, there’s something unique and gripping about E. Dale Smith (author) /  Braden Chapman’s (concept / director) new play "Divine/Intervention."

Glenn Milstead skyrocketed to stardom as drag queen, Divine, in John Waters’ cult films including "Pink Flamingos," "Desperate Living," and "Hairspray." In "Divine/Intervention," Glenn Milstead, alone in his dressing room on the night of his untimely death, the quiet man behind the mascara struggles with his inner demons and comes face to face with his larger-than-life creation: Divine.  With a mirror image set, Ryan Walter and Bobby Goodrich simultaneously play Glenn and his more famous alter ego, exploring the duality and demons of the world’s first drag superstar.

It’s something we all struggle with, personal identity. Now imagine having two personal identities. Could you blend them together seamlessly to create one recognizable, and hopefully, likeable person? It's a the question(s) that looms at the heart of Braden Chapman’s new play "Divine/Intervention." Does the name Braden Chapman ring a bell?  If not, you may recognize him more as his alter ego, Mimi Imfurst (of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame).

In a candid conversation with Braden following the show, it became clear that while this play uses the character Divine, and her male counter part, Glenn Milstead, as the horse to pull the story along, the play really is about a struggle almost everyone faces at one point or another. “The play is a metaphor for that struggle we all face, how to be our true self vs the public self we put out there. This story revolves around what happens when the public self (and ego) become more well known than the real self. I think its something we all struggle with, entertainers especially and drag queens definitely. Divine was a person who was an extreme example of that." Braden said.

 We’ve all got some semblance of a “split personality,” you know, you portray yourself one way in public, and another behind closed doors with close friends or a lover, but sometimes your public personality becomes more popular than your real persona, and then what?

"Divine/Intervention," used stage conventions that I had never seen before. Glenn, and his altar drag ego, Divine, share the stage for the entirety of the show. They’re separated by a dressing room mirror through which all of their communications occur. I’d be remiss not to mention how amazing the set is; completely symmetrical on both sides with duplicate towels, phones and custom Divine photo wall paper really give the illusion of the mirror metaphor. 

The mirror illusion wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing work of, Bobby Goodrich (Divine), and Ryan Walter (Glenn Milsted).  Together they mirrored moments in the show with such precision you would have sworn they were actually the same person.  But where their strengths really showcase is in the final moments. Glenn attempts to split himself from Divine and start a career without his drag altar ego, who at this point is coming to the self-realization that there will always be a Glenn, but there may not always be a Divine. 

The play is littered with other minor characters that played a role in Divine’s life. From the famed John Waters, to the plethora of boys that littered Divine’s dressing room at her shows. Cosimo Mariano brings to life two of the most important people in Divine’s life (Daniel and Bernard Jay) with amazing differentiation between the two. 

You’d be remiss to not see this show before it leaves Philadelphia for a run in New York! It's seriously an artfully crafted story that needs to be seen. For show times and tickets visit www.TheDivinePlay.com


Read Related Posts...