Another Edgy Success at Empire Stage

Brooks Braselman returns to Empire Stage in another gender-bending role. (George Wentzler)

For playwright Stacey Bean, inspiration often comes from campy film noir, “The Carol Burnett Show,” the movies of Mel Brooks and the performances of his friend, actor Brooks Braselmann.

Bean will offer a little of each, including a return appearance by his muse, Braselman, in “Reflection of Evil: Die Twin Sister Die,” his world premiere play opening July 10 at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage.

“We’ve been very good friends. I love to write for him, he’s a brilliant comedic actor. Any writer who writes comedy would kill to find somebody like Brooks to write for,” explained Bean, who met Brooks in New York City in 1994 while working on a production of his plays.

Bean has always been a fan of comedic spoofs and for “Reflection of Evil,” he turned to the Bette Davis/Glenn Ford movie, “A Stolen Life.” The film, he recalled, was one of an old Hollywood genre of “evil twin” movies featuring the same actor as both characters.

While watching the film on Netflix may give audiences a reference that may help them enjoy his play, Bean insists with a noticeable Southern drawl, “It’s only an option.”

He added, “The play is a lot of fun. If I can read it a hundred times and it still makes me laugh, I know it’s gonna work. Real actors make it even funnier.”

Empire Stage landed the opportunity to premiere the work thanks to the endorsement of Braselman, who has appeared in several commercially successful spoofs there, including “Mommie Queerest,” “The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode” and “Silver Balls.”

Ultimately, Bean still has his sights set on Hollywood, calling himself a journeyman writer. He is currently working on the script for a television movie that is promising.

“Hollywood is a catch 22. As a writer, you can’t have your work read until you have an agent, but you can’t get an agent if you haven’t had work produced,” Bean said. And even then, he says it helps to know somebody.

He added, “The entertainment industry is a long slog for most people. You have to be patient and persistent.”

It’s definitely been a long journey for Bean, 54, who got his start writing at the age of five in rural Arkansas before spending 25 years in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. He returned to Hot Springs a few years ago to tend to a family business while pursuing his writing.

“All of us are born with certain instincts. As soon as I could get a pencil in my hand, I started to write stories,” he said. Being gay hasn’t hurt, either, especially when it comes to his brand of camp humor.

“Of course, the stereotype is that gay people have a stronger sense of camp, although I’ve met a lot of straight people who appreciate that zany humor,” Bean said reluctantly, uncomfortable about perpetuating stereotypes. “Mel Brooks, now he understands camp.”

Bean cited an early play about two families living in a trailer park that perplexed audiences in Texas at its debut.

With the reassurances of Braselman and Empire Stage artistic director David Gordon—as well as strong advance ticket sales—Bean doesn’t have any concerns about the audiences in South Florida “getting it.”

“Reflection of Evil: Die Sister Twin Die,” written and directed by Stacey Bean, will be performed at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive in Fort Lauderdale, July 10 – Aug. 2. Tickets are $30 at EmpireStage.com.


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