On his days off this week, “Pageant: The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest!” actor Brian Clowdus eschewed shoes.
Clowdus plays Miss Texas in the rollicking musical send up of beauty pageants currently running at the 14th Street Playhouse.
And while the terrifyingly serious about winning Miss Texas gets plenty of laughs in the show, her collection of strappy high heels are also an occupational hazard.
“I have a whole new level of appreciation for what women go through every single day in order to achieve beauty,” Clowdus concedes laughing.
The six contestants, you see, are all played by men in the production.
Writes director and “Pageant” co-creator Bill Russell in his director’s note: “I’m often asked ‘Why not have women play these roles?’ And my response is that if we put a woman in a swimsuit and paraded her down the runway we would be exploiting her in the way we’re making fun of. But having a man do that as a woman makes a larger point about our expectations of what ‘beautiful’ means in terms of gender in our culture.”
Plus, for the actual tiara-accessorized women sitting with their “girls’ night out” gatherings in the audience, it’s far funnier to watch a guy try and walk in high heels on stage.
When it comes to the talent portion of the “Pageant” competition, the actors get to demonstrate some interesting attributes.
Nick Morrett, a pianist off stage, has to roller skate and play the accordion simultaneously as Miss Industrial Northeast.
Clowdus, meanwhile, tap dances in cowboy boots while twirling a baton.
After a successful opening season as artistic director of the critically acclaimed Serenbe Playhouse (just south of the city in the eco-friendly Serenbe Community) this summer where he acted, directed, built sets and fund-raised three productions into fruition in two months, Clowdus considered a vacation.
And then he got a gander at Miss Texas’ wardrobe.
Says Clowdus: “God, when I saw that gold lame’ dress of hers, I knew I had to do it!”
Since “Pageant” features an interactive audience of judges at each performance, the actors had to rehearse scenarios for each of them winning the contest.
But many “Pageant” fans familiar with the show openly conspire in the lobby at intermission to ensure that Miss Texas loses.
“I certainly get a lot of fun stuff to do when someone other than Miss Texas wins and I love that,” Clowdus says. “But a tiny little part of me really wants that crown!”
“Pageant: The Musical” runs Wednesdays-Fridays at 8 p.m. Saturdays at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. through October 24.
To buy tickets, go to the Woodruff Arts Center website or for more information go to the official “Pageant” Atlanta website.