D'Arcy Drollinger's 'Project: Lohan' plays the Costume Shop
by Richard Dodds
It's a story that practically writes itself. But one of the problems that writer-actor D'Arcy Drollinger has to face as opening night for Project: Lohan approaches is that the story insists on continually writing new chapters. Drollinger's goal is to chronicle actress Lindsay Lohan's high-profile cycles of rises and falls in a kind of docudrama that both feeds into and plays off gossip sensationalism in the Internet era.
"This is living theater," Drollinger said, "and the heat will go out of it when she's not topping the Google charts or, God forbid, she dies. A few weeks ago, Lindsay was found unconscious in a hotel room, and our director called me up and said, 'What are we going to do if she's dead?' That conversation is there."
It turned out Lohan was fine, simply suffering one of her frequent bouts of "exhaustion and dehydration," and as these words are being written, she hasn't crashed back into the headlines or any unfortunate trees. Project: Lohan is a tough show to freeze, the backstage term for declaring a production closed to further revisions, but Drollinger is hoping that the July 26-Aug. 19 run at ACT's new Mid-Market performance space, dubbed the Costume Shop, won't require any hurried rewrites.
An earlier version of Project: Lohan had a run last year at New York's La MaMa Theatre. A new director, Tracy Ward, is helming the SF production, but Drollinger again takes the title role. "When I first started writing this, I wasn't going to play Lindsay, but I got so involved in her that I felt I needed to take it all the way," he said. "I don't look much like Lindsay Lohan, but I felt that I began to breathe her essence a little bit. I get to go from Carol Burnett-slapstick to a very fragile, dark place, and for a performer, that is kind of fun."
Although Drollinger is the creator of Project: Lohan, he is quick to say, "I didn't write a word of it." All of the text comes from interviews, 911 calls, court transcripts, news stories, and recorded phone calls that Lohan's father sold to a gossip site. "I started off by creating a timeline with as much content as I could find, and then weeded through it to build a kind of character arc," he said. "I try very hard not to pull things out of order so we can understand where it all started to crumble."
In addition to Drollinger, there are five cast members who play multiple characters, with genders often in reverse. "I feel this show is an example of a really good use of cross-dressing, because we deal with some hard issues," Drollinger said. "Like the documentation of her parents' court case when Lindsay's mother was filing for divorce, and she alleges her husband threw her down a flight of stairs, slammed her arm in a door, and sodomized her in the basement against her will. We basically reenact that on stage, but we cross the genders, so what could possibly be a very uncomfortable scene becomes humorous."
Drollinger, frequently seen in SF's alt-theater scene before moving to New York 14 years ago, was waiting in a grocery checkout line, scanning a Vanity Fair cover story on Lohan, when the idea for Project: Lohan began forming. "It's almost like the story of a modern-day Icarus who flies too close to the flashbulbs," said Drollinger, who has moved back to SF. "I thought, what if I took something that seemed very fluffy, and, let's face it, funny, and built it into something that straddles high camp and heartbreaking moments."
Promotional imagery for the production is geared more toward its high-camp aspects, and Drollinger admitted to a bit of bait-and-switch. "What I think makes the show interesting is that kind of sucker punch to the audience. The goal of the show is to be fascinated by its subject, and then take a minute to look at yourself looking at the show."
Multi-media effects help toward this goal, with some scenes projected live on a big screen as they are being acted out. "It enhances the sense of Lindsay living a life with the media constantly watching," Drollinger said. "We also do all the costume and hair changes on stage, which tries to give the feeling of being backstage on a movie set."
Lohan has made herself an easy target for gossip mongering, but she has also displayed a resilience that has led her back into the ring for yet another round. "I don't want to use her as a punching bag," Drollinger said. "She has this kind of Thelma-and-Louise fuck-you charisma that I love. I want to make her fabulous and at the same time make a comment on the situation of celebrity today. The only way for this show to have integrity is not to judge her for her choices."
Project: Lohan will run July 26-Aug. 19 at the Costume Shop. Tickets, $25-$30, are available at www.projectlohan.com.