Just the Facts, M’am: Play Parodies Popular Sitcom at Empire Stage
You take the good, you take the bad,
you take them both and there you have
The Facts of Life, the Facts of Life.
For eight seasons, these familiar lyrics kicked off one of the most iconic sitcoms of the 1980s. A generation of viewers grew up with the girls of Eastland School—Blair, Jo, Natalie and Tootie—while devoted housemother Mrs. Garrett struggled to keep them out of trouble.
The girls were mostly good, but what if they hadn’t been? That was the question playwright and performer Jamie Morris asked himself nearly a decade ago.
Like so many others, Morris, 45, found himself in front of the television every Saturday night laughing at the girls’ misadventures. One night over cocktails, he asked himself that very question. In just a few minutes, Morris, the creator of the long-running parody Mommie Queerest, had sketched out a story on a napkin.
“I was cleaning out my apartment in New York, getting ready to move to Las Vegas and found that napkin,” he recalled with an evil chuckle. “I couldn’t believe I’d saved it.”
Morris and his Mommie Queerest castmates had been in a bar in Portland, Oregon after a performance enjoying several drinks when a video from the musical, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, played.
“I had always wanted to do something with Facts of Life and then that video came on. I thought, ‘What if we made them all hookers?’”
The Facts of Life was certainly “ripe for parody,” he said in a phone interview. “We all grew up with it. Half the work was done because the characters are already there. I just had to give it my twist.”
Dubbed, The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode, the play starts with the announcement of budget cuts at Eastland that will result in the layoff of Mrs. Garrett. The girls are determined to do anything to save her job, even take up the world’s oldest profession, to raise a few bucks. The story goes downhill from there.
The play premiered nine years ago in Provincetown and has been thrilling mostly gay audiences ever since. Morris said using male actors lends an unusual degree of camp to the production and the rotating cast members each bring unique touches to every incarnation.
Morris stars as Mrs. Garrett while Brooks Braselman portrays Natalie and Charlie Logan is Jo. Both Morris and Braselman brought audiences to their knees when Mommie Queerest last played at Empire Stage two years ago. Joining the cast are two local actors, David Tracy as Blair and Shawn Burgess as Tootie, who were auditioned via Skype.
Morris still resides in Las Vegas with his partner, Christopher Kenney, the show’s director and host of the Cirque du Soleil production, Zumanity. Morris stars as Father Mark in the long-running Tony and Tina’s Wedding, but always looks forward to the opportunities to hit the road with one of his own productions, especially the sunny beaches of Fort Lauderdale.
If You Go
The Facts of Life: The Lost Episode
by Jamie Morris
Thursday – Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m.
Through Aug. 4 (no show July 4)
Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale
Tickets $30 at EmpireStage.com
Save $5 by using discount code ‘EMPIRE’