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The Loves of Miss Jimmie LeRoy

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Margaret Morrison
March 27, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Playwright and actor. I play Miss Jimmie LeRoy.

What is your show about?
Sometimes lesbian love means wanting to strangle your ex, if only you didn’t need her so desperately. It is 1942 and Miss Jimmie LeRoy is desperate to reunite with the love of her life, when her ex Margery shows up, ready to reopen old wounds, recall glory days and remind Jimmie that even bitter old love can be sweet.

What do you do when you’re not working on a play?
I'm a tap dancer and a dance historian, I've written some scholarly works on tap, I teach at Barnard College, and work with the American Tap Dance Foundation. My research and performance projects address race, gender, queer sexuality, history and tap dance.

Why do you do theater (as opposed to film, or TV, or something not in the entertainment field)?
I performed professionally for 25 years as a rhythm tap soloist, all over the world, with the American Tap Dance Orchestra and Tap City on Tour. For years I had felt closeted, and that my feet could only say so much. I started writing plays so that I could keep myself on stage, talk about butch-femme romance, bring invisibilized women into the spotlight, and address the complex intersections of race, gender and tap. I still love dance and there's always a lot of emotional choreography and jazz themes in my plays.

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
I'm thrilled to be performing on stage with my all-time favorite scene partner, Cheryl King, who is also directing the work. She and I met in 1995 in acting class, 15 years later Cheryl directed my first short play, and she runs a terrific play-writing workshop, "Writing Your Heart Out," where I've developed a bunch of work. I wrote the role of Margery with Cheryl in mind and love how she's embodying a manipulative, passionate, has-bian (as in has-been/lesbian).

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?
SEXY! The play looks at lesbian seduction, the sheer terror and erotic charge of coming out, and that moment when we turn to an ex-lover for help, but get confused because we still want to screw her.

How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Diversity is central to why I became a playwright. We live in a city and arts community highly segregated by race and money. I do everything in my power to desegregate my performances, my casts, my audiences. This play is part of a larger work about an inter-racial lesbian relationship. Because it's an excerpt, I wasn't able to bring the African-American character on stage this time, or hire a black actress. But the two white characters confront issues of racism.