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By Jessica Fondo
“It’s the farthest thing that I can be from myself,” Mark Chambers said.
Chambers dons drag in his return to the Hippodrome Theatre to play Miss Tracy Mills, the queen of drag queens in “The Legend of Georgia McBride,” currently on the Mainstage.
The opportunity to tell this particular story brought the San Francisco resident back to the Hippodrome.
“It’s lighter fare, you think, on the surface, and then it goes much deeper than that.”
Miss Tracy Mills wouldn’t be the first feminine character Chambers has played; drag has been a large part of his career from the get-go.
Since his theatre debut as a flying monkey in “The Wizard of Oz,” Mark Chambers has notably played the part of the mad, sexually deviant scientist Dr. Frank-N-Furter, wheelchair-bound former Hollywood star Blanche Hudson and East German transgender glam-rockstar Hedwig.
When Chambers, a company member, first acted at the Hippodrome in 1994 in “The Sisters Rosensweig,” he sensed that the theatre was a rare find.
“I think it’s the most special theatre that I’ve ever worked in,” Chambers said.
A company member at the Florida Repertory Theatre in Fort Meyers, and often performing at the Penobscot Theatre Company in Maine, he travels to theatres with roles for him.
The Hippodrome’s collaborative approach sets it apart from other theatres, he said.
“You’re not just a hired worker here,” he added. “It’s a thoughtful, mindful, respectful place. I love it!”
This show marks Chambers’ 23rd year at the Hippodrome, but he began acting long before that.
Since his experience as a child actor in Memphis, Tennessee, he knew he wanted to be onstage. As his father was a puppeteer, his parents didn’t want the risks of a performer’s life for him. He pursued it anyway, and they supported him.
He has worked as a cosmetologist and barber, but now acting is his only job. In his free time, he likes to read, walk and paint. He tries to read a play every week, he said.
Now, he is rereading “The Legend of Georgia McBride.” It’s about questioning the status quo and becoming a better version of yourself, Chambers said.
“You need to figure out what this means to you, and then you need to learn how to be better at being that person.”
This play is especially powerful in front of an audience like Gainesville. The small-town feel of this city brings people together through culture in a way that is unusual outside of college towns, he said.
“The arts and letters seeps into daily life for all ages, unlike in a bigger city,” Chambers said, “You can have all those, but they’re so segregated by age and money and the class system.”
Chambers said he feels a special connection to Gainesville, as though he has watched it grow up while he has been returning year after year. Chambers said he simply hopes to never retire.
“I’m still just a working actor,” Chambers said. “I hope and pray for the next part, the next role.”
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