Twenty years ago, Rockford native Mike Werckle rounded up a group of friends to perform the play Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, a bawdy cross-dressing comedy burlesque by famed female impersonator Charles Busch.
“We didn’t think anyone would come,” says Werckle, who has recently moved back to Rockford after a successful career as an animator and filmmaker. “We were shocked — shocked when we had a line halfway around the block.”
Now, along with producer Liz Newman, Werckle is bringing Vampire Lesbians of Sodom back to Rockford at a new performance space called The West Side Show Room.
Werckle believes Rockford is a theater town at heart. “We train actors in the CAPA program and at the colleges,” he said. “We have a community that enthusiastically supported NAT, and who continue to support Artists’ Ensemble and Starlight Theatre. What we don’t have is a space for young and emerging artists to create exciting new and vital work.”
Werckle hopes The West Side Show Room will fill that void by eventually workshopping and producing original plays, as well as presenting other types of performance including music, dance and performance art.
For the time being, however, The West Side Show Room is happy to start off with a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. “The secret of Vampire Lesbians is that people come in expecting something trashy or lurid, but they are won over by the play’s heart and sense of good-natured fun,” Werckle said.
With a run of more than five years, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom is one of the longest-lived off-Broadway plays of all time. According to Busch’s website, the play “tells the saga of two fatally seductive vampiresses whose paths first collide in ancient Sodom. Their bitter rivalry as bloodsuckers but more importantly, as actresses, endures for 2,000 years with stops along the way in 1920s silent movie Hollywood and contemporary Las Vegas.”
The cast includes Beloit, Wis., comedian Vickie Lynn, Second City Training alum Kevin Poole (who recently portrayed Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Show at Starlight), veteran performer Chad Brazzle, as well as Werckle, and Newman who performs with local bluegrass band The Stragglers.
Vampire Lesbians will be presented with companion play Sleeping Beauty or Coma, a send-up of 1960s mod culture in London that has the same flamboyant sense of fun as Vampire Lesbians of Sodom.
Vampire Lesbians of Sodom will be performed at The West Side Show Room, 410 Mulberry St., in Rockford, next to the old Parthenios Restaurant. Performances are at 8 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 20-21 and 27-28, and Jan. 3-4. Advance tickets are $10 for general seating and $15 for priority seating, and can be purchased online at www.thewestsideshowroom.com. General seating tickets are $12 at the door the night of the performance. The theater opens one half-hour before show time.
From the Dec. 11-17, 2013, issue