She’s fine, feathered, and all sorts of fabulous. Birdie LaCage has quickly made a name for herself flocking around Washington’s nightlife scene. In fact, she’s so fun that we’ve asked her to host our performance cabaret this Friday at Arena Stage for the BYT/Capital Pride FLASHBACK Opening Party. Running for two shows, the cabaret will feature Adore Delano, Frenchie Davis, and a nest of other talented acts – all right next to our main dance floor. Tickets always sell out. So, grab your tickets to FLASHBACK now as we check-in with Birdie LaCage.
Brightest Young Things: Birdie seemed to have come out from nowhere. You (Collin) were a fixture of the DC theatre and nightlife scene. Then one day, *poof*, Birdie seemed to hatch. Can you tell us a little bit about how that happened?
Birdie LaCage: The term “hatch” is so appropriate, because I would say that the character has always been inside me (Collin); in incubation. It wasn’t until a friend’s costume-themed birthday party years ago that prompted my first (very tragic) appearance. I am not the type of drag queen – if you can even call me that – that comes from a family lineage. Many queens have what they call a “Drag Mother.” In my case, there isn’t really that person.
There have been a few key people who have helped me along the way, but the rest has come from my theatrical background and observation. The shift from casual appearances at parties or special events to having my own show came when David Peruzza offered me a show on Tuesdays at JR’s. Back when you weren’t really allowed to dance at JR’s, I would obnoxiously flit and strut around on Monday nights for Showtunes Night and David eventually got sick of yelling at me. The rest is history.
BYT: Unlike most drag acts, you tend to sing live. Why is that?
Birdie LaCage: Thank you for calling it singing; others might call it squawking. For me, it’s a way of connecting and interacting with an audience. I often change the lyrics, to cater to what or who is in front of me. Sometimes it’s to make a dirty joke, sometimes it’s a way to flirt with a cute man and, sometimes, I just forget what the actual lyrics are in that moment.
It can often be a scary thing to do because my background music is all pre-recorded. So, I have to follow the background music instead of the other way around like typical cabaret-styled acts. I did a lot of musical theatre acting when I was younger, both educationally and professionally. Now that my daytime career as a theatre designer has me backstage most of the time, this is my way of giving myself the spotlight – even if it is just on top of a bar.
BYT: What’s a typical Birdie Show like at JRs on a Tuesday night?
Birdie LaCage: Drunken. No, I’m kidding…sorta. A typical Birdie Show is somewhat cabaret-styled: it’s me singing and interacting with the audience and bar patrons. But there are also elements and parts of my “act” that are more variety show in style. I have what I call my “wheel of ambiguity” for contestants to spin and test their luck, a few puppet friends who I do duets with, and a bunch of other games. One of my favorites is a game I call “Tit for Tat.” It’s basically a way for me to get the cute boys in their underwear. You’ll have to join me on a Tuesday to see how!
BYT: You seem to be everywhere now. Apart from JRs, where else can we see Birdie?
Birdie LaCage: Recently, I started as the emcee and hostess for STK’s new Drag Brunch. The brunch is one Sunday a month from Noon to 3:00pm, and it’s me with a cast of other fabulous queens. So far, we’ve had BaNaka, Sasha Adams, and Jordan Sinclair. Each of them has turned it out, and the patrons are raving about the fabulous time they’ve had. The way that I structure and approach the brunch is different from any other drag brunch. Check us out! Next month’s show is July 12th.
I also make guest appearances at the CTRL party (at Town, the last Saturday of each month) and sometimes BreakfastClub at the Duplex Diner too. I am grateful to all of those boys for having me when they can. I always have fun with them.
BYT: What’s your favorite part of performing?
Birdie LaCage: My favorite parts are always the unexpected. I find that you can never fully pre-plan a performance. And if you do, you’re not allowing the potential for some fantastic moments. One of my favorite performance I’ve done was a CTRL event at the Capital Skyline hotel. It was a pool party and I wasn’t even supposed to do a second song. But, I did and ended up it the middle of the pool on a raft. None of it was planned, but it was one of my most dynamic performances!
BYT: Birdie seems to get a lot of inspiration from showtunes and Broadway legends. What influences there do you draw from that?
Birdie LaCage: Birdie’s name combines two of her favorite works, the 1996 film, “The Bird Cage” and the 1983 Original Broadway Musical it is based on, “La Cage Aux Folles.” Where many queens consider themselves ladies of illusion, I consider myself a lady of delusion. I would say my greatest inspiration is early Bette Midler; the way she styles songs with jokes in between, and interacts with an audience. She got her start in bathhouses (“Bathhouse Betty”), mine’s on a bar. I do have a dream of taking my show to the Crew Club and calling it “Birdbath Birdie.”
BYT: You won’t just limit Birdie to just your paid performances. We’ll often be out at a party and just see Birdie LaCage hanging out. You’re socially popular in your real identity. What is it about drag that makes you want to let Birdie out of her cage for more than just your performances?
Birdie LaCage: Ha! Did you just call me a slut? You’re right, I do sometimes go out just for fun. And that’s exactly why – for the fun. It reminds me of where I started. It’s when I get to meet people I might not otherwise interact with. For me, drag is more than make-up and pantyhose. It’s the feeling; the un-capturable feeling; the feeling between moments of recognition by a stranger and moments of catching my own reflection in the mirror. There’s an empowerment about being Birdie LaCage. Not to get too sentimental, but being Birdie has taught me a lot about myself and really changed the way I view and interact with the world on a daily basis. I am a much more accepting person of both myself and others. I am much more willing to approach a stranger.
One quick story to end on. I was at the club, full feathers; the music pumping, the lights flashing, and there in the corner is this young lonely looking boy. I couldn’t help but approach him. After talking for a bit, I learned this was his first time out, he didn’t really have any gay friends and he didn’t really know how to navigate that environment. I bought him a cocktail, introduced him to some new people, got him dancing, and I said, “Honey, it’s about confidence!” At the end of the night, I saw him again; he was not the lonely skiddish boy he was a few hours before. We made eye contact across the dancefloor and while dancing away he mouthed the words “thank you.”
Birdie Lacage will host our performance theatre at our BYT/Capital Pride FLASHBACK Opening Party this Friday, June 12 at Arena Stage. Discount advance tickets are $20 and day-of tickets (if available) are $25.
– BYT & Capital Pride Present FLASHBACK –
The Official Opening Party of Capital Pride
This Friday, June 12 – Arena Stage
$20 Advance – $25 Day-Of (If Available)
Get your tickets now as we always sell out
Featuring: Adore Delano (RuPaul’s Drag Race), Pearl (RuPaul’s Drag Race), Frenchie Davis, Summer Camp, Pussy Noir, Jezzibel Jaxknife, Adam Kyle, Mundy, and DJs Shea Van Horn, Lemz, Matt Bailer and Cassidy.
Get more DC queer nightlight info by connecting on Twitter with the @BYGays.