Edie Takes on Cirque do Soleil
Edie, Zumanity’s fresh "Mistress of Sensuality," was born on Halloween 2000 in New York’s West Village. "I was going to go out as a Superhero," says Edie’s alter ego, Christopher Kenney, "but my friend insisted that we go in drag." Once Kenney was in heels and a wig, Edie simply emerged. Kenney believes that every man has an inner drag queen, "I think every single man, but especially every gay man, has an idea in his head, if I do drag, I will look like this." Edie came out of Kenney’s own sense of style. "I love timeless elegance," he said, "Simple elegance." As Zumanity’s emcee, Edie is all long-legged elegance in sexy black silk stockings and little else. Kenney said, "I haven’t ever worn anything that naughty. I had to go to Montreal three times for fittings. I said, ’Please don’t let my butt hang out!’" Kenney said that the Cirque de Soleil designers built the costumes around the character of Edie to make her the "Mistress of Sensuality." He said, "That is their magic."
Edie’s elegant legs come from years of training in classical ballet, which Kenney began when he was eight years old. He has danced professionally with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and Ballet Chicago. Kenney danced in drag with Ballet Grand Diva in a 12-city tour of Japan. He said that his technique is totally different when he dances in drag than when dancing male roles. Although Edie does not dance in Zumanity, her fluidity of movement and statuesque bearing make good use of Kenney’s dance training. Kenney’s other professional credits as Edie include her 2006 Broadway debut in the Tony-nominated revival of The Threepenny Opera alongside Alan Cumming and Cyndi Lauper.
How did Cirque du Soleil choose Edie for her current role? "They called me! I don’t know how they knew about me or who threw my name in the hat, but I am thrilled," Kenney said. "When I got the call, I thought it was a friend’s prank and I said, ’Shut up! Who is this?’ These are the calls people dream of!"
Edie centers Zumanity’s ever changing, sometimes shocking sexual acrobatics. Kenney said, "The whole show is scooped up in Edie’s arms." Similar to the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, Edie is an Everyman/woman who guides the audience in an exploration of their own sexuality. Kenney says that Edie "invites the audience as guests" to meet her friends-the Zumanity family. Edie makes the experience "safe" for the audience without making it tame. "Sex and sexuality don’t have to be harsh," Kenney said. He said at first he didn’t think he could do drag because, "I can’t be snappy or bitching. That’s not me." But he learned that that’s not what drag is. He says, "I never want to belittle the audience. I just want people to have a good time."
Sometimes they have a little too good of a time. "The audience loves to participate," Kenney said. "From our perspective up on the stage, we see a lot of groping," he said. One couple got so caught up in the show that they were actually having sex and had to be escorted out by security. Kenney laughs, "The performers love to show off. Our job is to make the audience get carried away, but the ushers’ job is to keep things in check."