Drag personality Dixie Lynn Cartwright stars in Barney the Elf this holiday season. The story follows Santa Claus passing away and his wicked son taking up the historic job. Barney the Elf flees his northern home afterwards and winds up in a drag bar. The jokes begin as Barney tries to save the day while learning about love and makeup.
Cartwright's credits include Snow White and the Seven Drag Queens, The Bitchfest Club and Scream Girls. She currently hosts shows at the bars Sidetrack and Berlin.
Windy City caught up with Cartwright's alter ego, Drew H. Nixon, at a coffee shop recently.
Windy City Times: So I read that we went to the same college: Western Kentucky University.
Dixie Lynn Cartwright: Did you? Were you a Hilltopper for Christ?
WCT: I climbed that hill! What did you study in school?
DLC: I started at a Southern Baptist college in Mississippiyou know, with self-hatred and all that stuff. I have a twin brother who is a pastor. I was studying vocal performance there. Needless to say it did not go well. When I slept with all the closeted boys it was time to leave, so then I studied special education at Western. I taught for eight years after that.
Dixie took off and, with the late nights and early mornings, I couldn't teach anymore.
WCT: So you only do Dixie now?
DLC: No. I tried for six months, then needed health insurance. I work for a STD call center now. I get benefits there working 30 hours a week. I also get benefits from my partner.
WCT: You perform regularly at Sidetrack, right?
DLC: I am their go-to. I feel bad for the people that don't enjoy me because any big event at Sidetrack I will be there!
WCT: You are really quick. I was impressed with your hostessing the other night.
DLC: Thank you. You are so correct! I really turn it on. In every day conversation I am kind of a dud. It is a tears-of-a-clown kind of thing.
WCT: Where did the name "Dixie Lynn Cartwright" originate?
DLC: I started doing drag with the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus when I first moved here. It was a way to meet people. When I would speak I would get nervous and my Southern accent would explode all over the place. I figured I had to be a Southern character and Dixie is the most southern name in the world.
My mother's middle name is Lynn, like every Southern woman. They all have three names.
I tacked Cartwright on at the end because I am always right!
WCT: How long have you done drag?
DLC: Just a few years. I would do it once a year for the chorus. Regularly I started two years ago.
WCT: You have come a long way.
DLC: Thanks to the Chicago drag community. They are so supportive of one another. I owe big props to Trannika Rex. She runs this town, let's be honest.
Since RuPaul's Drag Race many queens burn out and are a dime a dozen. I feel like Sidetrack has kept me afloat.
WCT: Would you want to perform on Logo's Drag Race?
DLC: Yes. That is an instant career. I'm biding my time. I don't want to be the first to go home, so I want to be really good.
WCT: Talk about Barney the Elf.
DLC: I did the show last year. It was a sold-out run. They extended it for even more performances. It is based on the Will Ferrell movie Elf but our elf is gay. Santa dies and Santa Junior is a huge homophobe. Barney is kicked out for being gay. He comes to Chicago and works at a gay bar, where he meets me. My name is Zooey and I play a drag queen. We have a little romance.
It goes back and forth from Chicago where Barney finds out who he is, to the north pole where Santa Junior is a slave driver. The stories then collide.
It is a musical parody so all of the songs are from past musicals like Wicked. We just change the words.
WCT: What is the difference from last year's production?
DLC: Last year, we had a drag queen chorus but this year they have been removed and Mrs Claus is telling the story. Maggie Cain plays her and has been in everything. A lot of character comes out of her and she is wonderful.
Barney is played by Bryan Renaud. I wasn't sure what it would be like with the writer being in the show. He is totally down to play with the part. He didn't have a lot of experience as a drag queen so he let me shape her. What Dixie does at the gay bar in the show is what I do at Sidetrack. They really let me play with the audience. Bryan's voice is butter.
WCT: Do you sing a solo?
DLC: I do. I have a big giant ballad in the middle when I upset Barney. It is from The Wedding Singer musical called "Come Out of the Dumpster" but my version is "Come Out of the Closet." It is so sweet.
I sing "Last Christmas" but with different words like "I saw daddy f—king Santa Claus."
WCT: Oh, my: fun for the whole family…
DLC: Last year we did have a woman bring her two kids but they stopped her at the box office to tell her it is an adult-themed show. She got her money back but wrote a negative review online: "I brought my kids, they said it wasn't for kids. I got money back, not happy."
WCT: She should have done her research.
DLC: And sentence structure escaped her!
WCT: I just saw Rudolph at the Chicago Theatre, and it was so gay.
DLC: I feel like all Christmas shows are gay. Ours is just way more open about it and has songs about boners.
Can queer holiday cheer save Christmas? Find out as Barney the Elf plays now through Sunday, Jan. 1, at the Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave, upstairs studio, at 8 p.m. Thurs. through Sat. and Sun. at 3 p.m. Visit GreenhouseTheater.org or call 773-404-7336 for ticket information.