When the third annual Summer Hummer hits the Signature Theatre stage on Monday night, history will be made – again. The burlesque-style fundraiser showcases Washington’s top talent in a forum like no other. From the iconic striptease to rowdy production numbers and deliciously off-color patter, each Hummer is a legend in its own right.
Eric Schaeffer, co-director of the evening with Matt Gardiner, remembers, “The performance of ‘Miss Pussy Foot’ last year had us all laughing so much we were crying.” Delivered by Sherri L. Edelen in a leopard-print leotard, the song hails from the light-hearted Goldilocks, a short-lived Broadway vehicle for Elaine Stritch, circa 1958. In Edelen’s paws, lines like “There is no other pussy like I, strutting down the alley,” took on a whole new meaning. “There’s nothing better than hearing a song about someone’s pussy,” Schaeffer insists, before correcting himself. “I mean ‘cat.’”
Oddly, animals also play a role in the memories of Tracy Olivera, a Hummer veteran. “My favorite moment from the first Summer Hummer was definitely bringing my dog Beesley on stage,” she says. “When she got up there, she sat right on cue. She hasn’t done that before or since.” The number was Sondheim’s “I Never Do Anything Twice,” performed by Donna Miglicaccio.
“The first verse hints at the narrator experiencing a three-way with a handsome captain and a husky St. Bernard,” Migliaccio explains. “Evan Casey [Olivera’s husband] led Beasley on for that verse and they both stood obediently until the verse was over, then exited left. The final chorus is the narrator reaffirming that she never does anything twice, no matter how pleasurable, ‘except....’ At that point Tracy led Beasley back on. I eyeballed Beasley lingeringly, then sang ‘No, I never do anything twice’ and kissed Tracy. It made a great button for the song, and of course, Beasley was cool as a cucumber about the whole thing, just like her parents.”
For Casey, the drama backstage is almost as good as what’s happening out front. “It’s the best kind of organized chaos,” he says, “with people running, prepping, and rehearsing for their next number or costume change, be it in a negligée, a jockstrap, or in drag. If you're not preparing for the next number, you're often watching from the wings, taking in the hilarity and debauchery. It's basically what you're always hoping the Helen Hayes after party will devolve into.”
Happily, the riotous atmosphere is contagious. “I think the audience feeds off that backstage energy,” Casey says. “There’s hooting, cheering, and laughter the likes of which could only occur on a night like that. I also think the fact that it's being done for Taking Care of Our Own brings with it a special sense of pride and community spirit. Not only are we all treated to a one-night-only showcase of DC's finest talent at their most irreverent and revealing, but we're doing it all to support the wonderful artists that make this such a vibrant theatre community.”
theatreWashington’s Taking Care of Our Own fund provides emergency assistance to members of the theatre community who find themselves in sudden need. To date, more than $100,000 has been raised through a combination of Summer Hummer proceeds, individual donations, and the Bucket Brigade, which gathers donations following performances at a rotating series of area theatres. Carefully administered through an application process that is both swift and discerning, the fund has distributed more than $16,000.
Casey has high hopes for this year’s Hummer. “What I look forward to the most is seeing the créme de la créme of DC theatre let their hair down and truly be silly for an evening,” he says. “So often we only know these actors by the roles they tackle, be it interpreting Shakespeare or Sondheim. To see them step ‘out of character,’ as it were, and really let loose is a real treat.”
Olivera adds, “I think people like to participate in the Hummer because it gives us a chance to do things on stage that we don't normally do – even if it's just dropping four letter words. This community is so supportive of one another though, and has a blast doing it.” Schaeffer agrees, “It's such a good cause and we've helped so many friends in our theatrical family over the past year. And it's just a fun night where everyone gets to be a bit raunchy.”
Click here to purchase tickets for Summer Hummer: Menage a Trois, at Signature Theatre, 8pm, Monday, August 18, 2014.