by Corinne Whiting
– The Capitol Hill Times –
In this town, Jerick Hoffer wears many hats err, wigs, rather. A recent graduate of Cornish College of the Arts, he has appeared onstage at Balagan (in “Spring Awakening”), Book-It Theatre (“Threepenny Opera”) and, most recently, as Angel in the 5th Avenue Theatre production of “RENT.” Many Seattleites also know Hoffer as drag queen chanteuse Jinkx Monsoon, host of the popular “An Evening at Le Faux” at Julia’s on Broadway. This month, Hoffer stars in the leading role of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” opening at The Moore Theatre Jan. 15, and he competes in this season’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 5” on Logo, which premieres Jan. 28. We recently chatted with Hoffer about the many roles he currently juggles and some of his local claims to fame.
Capitol Hill Times: When did you move to Seattle from your hometown of Portland, and how has this city helped develop and shape your theatrical talents?
Jerick Hoffer: I moved to Seattle in 2006 to attend Cornish College, and I think this city has had an intense impact on me as an artist. The amount of variety Seattle has to offer has exposed me to so many different forms of artistry that I am continually inspired to explore new facets of my own work. Seattle has a very unique flavor, and while I know I started developing my work in Portland, Seattle’s distinct, Northwestern Je Ne Sais Quoi really lit a fire under me as an artist.
CHT: Did you always know you wanted to be a performer?
JH: If you read my baby book, it says that I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was five years old. It has been a lifelong aspiration of mine. I’ve never not wanted to be a performer of some kind.
CHT: What were your biggest takeaways from studying at the Cornish College of the Arts?
JH: Cornish challenges you to find out all your hidden talents. Before attending Cornish, I had never taken a clown class focusing on the traditions of “Commedia Del Arte” but, now that I have, it is the basis of my drag work. Cornish gave me a vocabulary and a set of tools and know-how as an artist, which took my lifelong passion of being a performer and infused it with a sense of responsibility and integrity as an artist.
CHT: Which of your Seattle performances thus far have been most meaningful to you?
JH: For me, nothing can compare to the first role I played in a professional theater. I was cast as Mistress Quickly and Alice in the 2010 production of “Henry V” at Seattle Shakespeare Theater. I remember, on opening night, a feeling like “Yes, this is what I’ve always wanted to do with my life. Yes, this is where I belong. Yes, this is what I want my life to be.” It was a profound moment of assurance that I had chosen the right path for me and a newfound conviction to the art.
CHT: How do you feel about recent local fame you’ve achieved, like being selected as one of City Arts’ ones to watch on their “Future List”?
JH: The fame is a bi-product of doing a good job. I am passionate about being an artist, but it is also my only means of supporting myself as well. I have to look at this whole venture as an artist as a passionate devotion to my life’s dream AND as a business. So the recognition I’ve received as of late is just a little reassurance that business is good. I’m proud to know that the work I am pouring myself into is having a positive impact on my community, and I hope to continue that throughout my work.
CHT: You are also known in this town as preeminent drag queen chanteuse Jinkx Monsoon. Can you talk a bit about your inspiration behind Jinkx?
JH: Jinkx is a combination of my favorite aspects of comedy and femininity. I draw a lot of inspiration from both my favorite female comedians and the women in my family. I was raised by my mother, my aunt and my grandma, and I have found ways to honor each of them in my drag work – to pass on the things I learned from the powerful women in my life to my audiences. Of course, she’s very tongue-in-cheek. Jinkx Monsoon is a satirical look at the American single mother. Having been raised by a single mother and having many friends who were also raised by single mothers, I think I have tapped into a universal appeal with Jinkx being the tragically hilarious, haphazard heroine that she is.
CHT: What does An Evening at Le Faux at Julia’s on Broadway entail, for those who’ve never been?
JH: It is the number one celebrity impersonation show in the northwest. Meaning, you’d have to go to Vegas to get anything close to what you’ll get at Le Faux. We have a cast of extremely talented female impersonators who put on little mini-concerts inspired by some of our favorite pop stars and queer icons of our generation. There is also a cast of wonderfully talented and dedicated dancers who take the whole show up the next level. Then there’s me, singing torch songs throughout the evening and cementing the whole thing together with some dick jokes and some obscure references. It’s truly a lot of fun; it’s a great chance to just sit back and be extremely entertained.
CHT: How do your on-stage roles at theaters around town complement your work as a drag queen?
JH: I’ve been lucky to get to balance drag and theater work in my career. I think getting the chance to work on some really profound pieces this year continues to inspire me to find my own moments of profound inspiration in my drag work. Even though my drag work is highly based in comedy, as an artist, you must always be asking yourself “Why this, now, for this community?” Even though, as a drag queen, I may give you 90 percent off-the-wall, wildly inappropriate, mildly jarring, hilarious antics… at least 10 percent of that is coming from a place of sincerity. Under the comedy, there is a message, for those who are tuned in well enough to hear it.
CHT: Any dream roles you’d like to play in the future?
JH: Always and forever, my dream roles are: Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd,” Mama Rose in “Gypsy” and the Witch in “Into The Woods.”
CHT: What are you most excited about as you look ahead to 2013?
JH: Traveling. I am so based in the Northwest, and I have done so little traveling in my lifetime… I’m being given the opportunity to travel a lot this year and I can’t wait for it. I’m ready to see some of the world!