Everyone’s a critic. But only the lucky ones get paid. One such charmed soul is Dallas Observer theater critic Elaine Liner, one of our favorite people on the planet.
She’s everything we love in a woman: smart, witty and not interested in us sexually. So when we heard that the actor and professional journalist had added playwright to her résumé, we decided to get the scoop on Sweater Curse: A Yarn about Love (her one-woman show), getting a makeover from a man in a dress and the surprising power of yarn.
Gay List Daily: How did you raise funds to produce your show?
Elaine Liner: I knitted my fingers to the bone for 15 months, making and selling shawls, scarves and “cup cozies” (wooly sleeves for Starbucks cups). I did fundraising performances for a bunch of knitting groups and their friends here in Dallas. The play’s not just for knitters, but they’re my best audience. I also had generous contributions from friends and family. My goal in producing Sweater Curse was to pay everyone who helped me on it – my director, Tim Hedgepeth, and the designers who did my graphics and props. I managed to do that without having to go deeply into debt. That’s a small miracle. The Edinburgh Festival is an expensive place to produce even a solo show.
GLD: You perform the play yourself. Can you ever envision another actor taking over the role?
EL: Meryl Streep. Or one of the Olsen twins. The taller one.
GLD: Performing 25 times at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe has got to be exciting and exhausting. We imagine a workout routine similar to Madonna’s prior to a world tour. Close?
EL: I only found out later than you can budget in days off. Nobody told me. But since I’m there, why not do as many performances as possible? It’s a great challenge to my energy and my ability to do my hair every day. To prepare, I’ve done a year of Pilates and I gave up gluten and dairy. I also did a week of intensive flamenco lessons to loosen me up and make me less afraid of the audience. Flamenco is all about flirting with the audience.
GLD: Are you worried that any negative reviews you’ve written about other people’s plays will be some sort of karmic boomerang?
EL: Not at all. I know that bad reviews often mean the critic just needed a nap or a sandwich. I don’t take any review personally. Nobody should.
GLD: We own a traveling scarf. It’s colorful and sparkly, but we use it to cover those nasty wooden beach tables when we travel to Caribbean and need a pretty place for our seaside cocktails. Something tells us your traveling scarf is a bit different.
EL: Yes, mine is a talisman that goes with me to every performance. I ask knitters in the crowd to add rows to it. So far it has a Texas flag knitted into it and the Batman logo. In Scotland, I hope someone knits a plaid haggis or a profile of Benedict Cumberbatch.
GLD: What was it like getting a makeover from the fabulous Coy Covington, a man famous not just for his great acting, but his acting as female characters? Are you basically now a woman in drag?
EL: I’d never worn false eyelashes before lessons from Coy. He’s the most elegant man and he knows the secrets of hiding flaws in “woman drag.” I only wish my upper arms were as toned as Coy’s. My costume is designed with kimono sleeves to hide my bingo wings.
GLD: What’s your favorite new accessory that resulted from his advice?
EL: A lip gloss called Vivid Emotion. It’s the only gloss that doesn’t come off while I talk for 55 minutes onstage. It’s like cinnamon-flavored bright pink glue. Coy gave me that and a big powder puff, with instructions never to wash it. I haven’t yet. I think I saw it crawling away yesterday.
GLD: Between writing Sweater Curse, arts critiques and answers to these questions, what else are you making time for this year?
EL: It’s been my most creative year. I also wrote a full-length two-act comedy called Finishing School, about how assisted living is like high school all over again. I wrote it for Dallas actors Larry Randolph and John Davies and they did a reading the other night. They sounded even better than they did in my head.
I’ve also written a novella called 2084, about a future America where privacy is outlawed and a fundamentalist Christian government has taken over the White House and Congress. A horror story that makes Hunger Games sound like Peter Pan.
And I have a photo project going called Every Place I’ve Ever Lived, where I’m taking pictures of every house, apartment or dorm I lived in since birth. I even went back to Brooklyn this year to shoot the two places in Park Slope where I lived in the early 1980s. I couldn’t afford them now. I’m 59 and I’ve lived in more than 40 places. A peripatetic life.
Oh, and I’m teaching a workshop once a month for creative people called Be a Media Darling, all about demystifying media and helping artists get the publicity they deserve. I started it as a public service and now it’s become a booming little enterprise. I hope to take it on the road this fall to Austin, San Antonio and Houston, then to NYC and LA. Nobody in the arts world knows how to deal with all the different media now. I make it easy.
When I’m not writing or shooting or workshopping, I watch Real Housewives and knit stuff.
GLD: Anything else you want to get off your chest in a forum filled with love and support, here’s your chance.
EL: On January 1, 2013, I declared this my “Year of Why Not?” I highly recommend taking the “Why not?” attitude when you come up with a fresh idea or you have doubts about trying something new. With each “Why not?” this year, something wonderful has happened. My list of “Why nots” just keeps growing.