The Bay Area-based actress will grace the stage (in a role Mae West created for herself) in “Sex,” opening today at the Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley. West wrote, produced, directed and starred in the controversial 1926 show, which was raided by police in 1927. West was arrested (along with the cast) and charged with “corrupting the morals of youth.” She spent 10 days in prison; the publicity surrounding her arrest provided unprecedented nationwide exposure.
What do you do to prepare yourself to embody screen legend Mae West? The part I play in “Sex” is a character named Margy Lamont. “Sex” was written two years before Mae West perfected her famous persona with her successful play “Diamond Lil,” later to become the film “She Done Him Wrong.” I suspect Margy Lamont will move and sound an awful lot like Mae West, but will be more of an homage rather than a straight impersonation.
Is it easier presenting the play “Sex” given today’s political climate? “Sex” actually ran for a year without any trouble from the censors. It was only when Mae West was planning to open her next play, “The Drag,” that “Sex” was raided as a means of keeping it from opening. I expect the exploration of hetero sex was much more acceptable than opening the Pandora’s box of the exploits of cross-dressing men. Who knows how that show might be accepted in some of the states today?
What is your favorite West quip from the show? One of my favorite West quips in the show is when Margy, a prostitute, confronts a society lady she knows has stepped out on her husband with Margy’s ex-pimp. Margy tells her, “The only difference between us is that you could afford to give it away.”