The Second City's Salute to Pride is waving a welcoming flag this June with an all LGBTQ identifying cast. Head upstairs to UP Comedy Club on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and there you will find drag queen Lucy Stoole presenting a show with a variety of people from our community. The troupe combines sketch comedy, improv, music and drag to create a show that's inclusive to everyone.
Evan Mills is one of the openly gay cast members and is also the creator and writer of Queer Eye: The Musical Parody, running this month at The Playground Theater on Halsted St. If that's not enough, he also performs as a comedy music duo Evan & Mary Jane.
Mills met up after a recent performance to give readers a behind the scenes story.
Windy City Times: Where are you originally from?
Evan Mills: Michigan. I am half filipino and half white. I came to Chicago in 2010. I was pursuing filming had gotten a degree in film and photography. I stumbled upon this place in 2012. I got a job here and started watching shows every single night.
I had no original plans of doing this when I moved to the city, but I am glad I am doing it!
WCT: Did you come out of the closet at a young age?
EM: I came out when I was 22. I was living here. I told my dad first on the phone. Mom was coming to visit me on the same day. I knew I had to tell her or she would be really mad!
WCT: What does Pride month mean to you?
EM: It's very important to me. My dad is also gay. He came out when I was four. My parents separated. I learned at a very young age what their relationship was and how my dad was, but it took a while for me to figure it out myself. When I did come out, luckily I have the most supportive family. I am an only child, so there's more pressure on me when I am the only kid. I was really nervous about coming out. My family was a hundred percent supportive and really wonderful.
Pride is super important to me. I celebrate it every month! I love doing a Pride show. My parents are coming to see it closing weekend.
WCT: Did you tour some with Second City?
EM: I did the Bob Curry Fellowship two years ago, from that I went to DC and did a summer show called Generation Gap there at the Kennedy Center. In December, I started understudying for the touring company. Now I am an official member of the touring company. I am on it with Jordan Stafford, who is in the Pride show with me.
WCT: How did the troupe create this show?
EM: A few of the cast members were in the show last year and that was all archived material. This year, they took three cast members from the last show and three brand new ones, which was me, Jordan and Laurel Zoft Pelton. We spent about three weeks writing it together. It's all original content, which is amazing. This building is known for its archive material and improv, but this time it's all new.
It's fortunate that all six of us were really good friends prior to the show. It was easy to work with each other. All six of us have such a unique style and voice. It was really great seeing everyone bring in their own point of views and meld it together.
Having Lucy Stoole in here was unbelievable. We asked her if we could write her into some sketches and she said, "Bitch, please!"
WCT: What topics did you want to focus on?
EM: I came in and just really wanted to collaborate. I wrote the song I did based on a real thing that happened to me two months ago. There were a lot of things we wanted to say and I liked that we did it together. People came in with ideas and we molded it as a group. As a collective we came together and made it our own show.
WCT: Does improv happen within the show?
EM: Kind of. Now that we are set in what we are doing, we like to play around with each other. We think something will work and we try it. Audiences can tell when it happens because it throws everyone off. Someone will break up onstage.
It's fun because we all trust each other. There is no set spots for improv, but there's definitely moments of it.
WCT: So this only runs in June?
EM: Yes, but we are saying it shouldn't just be a Pride show. We would love to do the show in lets say September. Why box us in? Let's just do a regular gay show for Second City!
WCT: How does your project the Queer Eye parody work with copyrights?
EM: When I started it I brought on my music composer who works in the industry. We found ways to get around it, especially in the title. As long as you say "parody" you are okay, since it's based on characters and not real people. We did a lot of research on what we could get away with. We are not making fun of them. We are heightening their tropes.
It's been really great. We sold out our entire last run, now we are back for Pride.
WCT: How are you doing both shows?
EM: We schedule Queer Eye around my schedule [laughs]. Well, and everyone else's schedule, too. It runs Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
WCT: Who do you play in Queer Eye?
EM: Tan France. Jonathan Van Ness got us fourth row tickets to his recent show. He reposted our story on his Instagram.
WCT: Have you met any of them?
EM: We haven't, but we wrote in Betty Who and she said she would try to come see it when she's in town. The cast is very active on our social media and they are aware that we exist.
WCT: Do you have a favorite song in the parody?
EM: "Bobby's Song." It's the first song I wrote for the musical. I won't give too much away, but we know he's the interior designer and gets the least amount of screen time, although e does the most amount of work. We pick on him during the show, but I wanted a redeeming number.
People cry and go crazy after the song is over. It feels really good to know people are getting the message. The response for this show has been great. I would like it in a bigger theater or travel it around the country.
Salute to Pride tickles funny bones on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in June at The Second City's UP Comedy Club, 230 West North Ave. Tickets start at $26 and are available at 312-337-3992 or SecondCity.com .
Queer Eye: The Musical Parody marches on at ThePlaygroundTheater.com with more information and schedule on the website.