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Tanya O’Debra Pitches “The Ultimate Stimulus”

Photograph by Lenyon Whitaker

Photograph by Lenyon Whitaker

Hi there Tanya! Thanks for taking time out of what I assume is a busy rehearsal schedule as you get ready for the New York International Fringe Festival. How are you doing my dear?

And thank you for chatting with me! Gurl, my mouth is tired. And not for the usual reasons. I had to memorize 7,000 words for this show. Lot of talking.

Well fortunately, by all accounts, your mouth is clearly your strongest muscle. For those readers out there who aren’t fortunate enough to be in New York City, can you tell a little bit about what the Fringe Festival is? It doesn’t have anything to do with that sci-fi show that Pacey from Dawson’s Creek was on, does it?

I’m sorry, I’m only familiar with the porn version, Dawson’s Crack. Anyhoo, the Fringe Festival is the largest theater festival in America, with 200 productions over the course of 2 1/2 weeks. I think it’s their 18th year. So, it’s just slightly older than we are.

Wow, so it’s only old enough to drink if it has a good fake ID? Hard to believe you’d be associated with something like that. But serious, two hundred productions over that short a span of time is amazing. Are there plays going on around the clock?

The first play starts at noon and the last play starts at 11pm every day, and during the weekend my twin Diane O’Debra and I will be running the midnight cabaret show, Variety Power Hour.

Wait…there’s two of you?? Are you the good twin or the bad twin, as if I didn’t know the answer already.

I’m definitely the mean twin.

I’m pretty sure that is a given my dear. Let’s hop in the Delorean and go back in time for a bit so the good readers can learn a little bit more about you. Where does your story begin?

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Tanya O'Debra Pitches "The Ultimate Stimulus" 11

Well, Diane and I were born out of cabbages in a McDonald’s bathroom in Dublin, then we were separated at birth and shipped to America. By the power of destiny, we met again when we were earning our Associates Degrees at the Rosie Perez School of Braiding. We’ve spread mirth and filth all over the great city of New York. I went on to win the Miss Fag Hag Pageant, and she went on to say funny things about her gigantic boobs to the people of the world.

So basically you had the typical upbringing then? When did you start to feel the lure of the stage?

Basically, minute one. In my real life, I am the oldest of five kids, so I think I figured out a really effective way of fighting for attention. It’s so gross when you really get to the core of these things. Embarrassing, really.

But you won right? That’s what’s most important!

I’m a winner!

I figured you were more Marcia than Jan.


So desperate cries for attention aside, what was your first experience as a performer?

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Tanya O'Debra Pitches "The Ultimate Stimulus" 11

I was the Goose in Charlotte’s Web in 4th grade. My mom made me this hilarious costume where she cut feathers out of fabric and sewed them on to a sheet. It was a hit.

I was trying to come up with a good goose gander joke but I don’t have enough caffeine in my system. Were you hooked at that point?

It’s hard to make sex jokes about 9-year-olds, even with “goose” as a prompt. But yes. I decided right then and there that I was moving to New York as soon as I graduated high school. I had never even been to New York at that point.

Wait, I didn’t know sex jokes were on the table! I’d ask for a do-over but I guess this is technically supposed to be more about you than me so I’ll press on. So I assume you made the move to New York right after high school and you found success, fame, wealth and happiness almost immediately right?

Yup. Just doing this interview from my penthouse. Well, I took a year off after high school to be a gothic teen and do Rocky Horror Picture Show in Cambridge. Then I moved to New York and went to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. After that, I started writing plays with friends and doing comedy with Diane. Now I write plays on my own, friends cast me in their shows, and Diane and I still do comedy together. Basically, my profession is to wear sparkly outfits and say gross things. It’s a dream come true!

Wait, isn’t that Joan Rivers job?

She’s the pioneer of that job!

Well, I’m sure you’ll just slide into her spot when she finally passes away. If she ever does. She might be undead. Well anyway, let’s talk about the production that you’re going to being at the Fringe Festival, a light-hearted little romp called, “The Ultimate Stimulus”. Now this is a Rom-Com right?

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Tanya O'Debra Pitches "The Ultimate Stimulus" 11

Well, in a way! It’s like a long-form satirical TED Talk. I play Amanda McCloud, a renegade economist whose idea to solve the income gap crisis is a government-sanctioned program where wealthy Americans take on low-income concubines. People live happily ever after in a world where copious amounts of sex with complete strangers of all backgrounds leads to societal bliss. It’s written by the hilarious and demented Felipe Ossa and directed by the intuitive and exuberant Sara Wolkowitz.


Sounds like that “godless librul propaganda” if you ask me! Of course, like Stephen Colbert famously said, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” so maybe there is some validity to it. For people in the greater New York area, how can they get more information and more importantly get tickets for it?

They can get tickets here.  We open on August 9th, so get them while they’re hot! (Complete Fringe NYC Show Listings here)

And you’re pulling double duty so to speak at the Fringe Festival. You’re also hosting the Variety Power Hour like you said. Talk a little bit about that if you could.

Variety Power Hour is an hour-long midnight extravaganza featuring acts from FringeNYC, games, a no-pants rewards policy, and general chaos from your hosts, The O’Debra Twins! Diane will be with me every Friday, and I’ll go it alone every Saturday. It’s free and fabulous, and it’s at The C.O.W. every weekend of the festival. For more info, go here. And you’ll be joining us to swerve and swivel on August 23rd!

Wow, I didn’t expect you to go into full scale promotional hype mode like that! That was impressive! Have you ever considered taking over for the “SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY!” guy who does all the radio spots for the monster truck rallies? That could be your true calling!

I dunno, does it pay? Then I’m in!

Well by pay do you mean actual money or the sense of pride you get from doing a good job?

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Tanya O'Debra Pitches "The Ultimate Stimulus" 11

Pride? Like, the parade? I’m not really sure what you mean.

Moving on. So what is on your agenda once August is over? Sleep?

I go back to school right after the Fringe ends. The show must go on!

So what does the future hold for you? Do you have any plans for future shows on the horizon?

Well, Diane and I have been working on a TV series called The Secrets of Avondale Falls. We’re trying to win a contest with it right now, so I’m not sure how much I can talk about it. Next summer I’ll probably tour again, but until then, I’ll be very busy as a school girl.

So what is on your bucket list of things you still want to accomplish? I assume an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) is in play?

Well, I just try to make art and take each piece as far as it can go. I hope that earns me a comfortable living some day. And if that includes an EGOT, who am I to say no?

It’s an illustrious list: Marvin Hamlisch, Audrey Hepburn, Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg, Tracy Jordan….and presumably you someday. Thank you so much for your time Tanya. You know I’m a big supporter of yours. Hopefully “The Ultimate Stimulus” will be playing to a packed house this month. Do you have any final bits of wisdom to impart upon us?

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Tanya O'Debra Pitches "The Ultimate Stimulus" 11

Your lips to the unicorn in the sky’s ears! Wisdom… must be in the same place as my pride. Thank you so much for having me!!! You’re the best!!! Mwah!!!

Be sure to check out Tanya’s website here and follow her on Twitter here!

Written By

Despite being a drag journalist for almost a decade, Chiffon only recently realized that she missed a golden opportunity back then to change her drag name to Rhoda Story.

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