A fixture of the New York City drag scene since the early ’90s is returning to one of Wilkes-Barre’s LGBT-friendly venues during the holidays.
Actor, comedian and drag queen Sherry Vine will perform at 11:30 p.m. Friday at Heat Bar & Nightclub. Celebrated for her career in film and television as well as her prolific YouTube channel, Vine will visit Wilkes-Barre to do what she is, perhaps, known for most: raunchy, live-singing comedic parodies of pop-music hits.
Getting her start in drag in 1992, Vine has built her creative resume as the co-artistic director of Theatre Couture in Manhattan; co-creator of the StarLust cabaret, which toured the United States and Europe; and appearances in film and on television series, including “Project Runway” and “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.”
She was even the co-creator and host of her own variety show, “She’s Living for This,” in recent years.
But it all began, Vine said in a recent phone interview, with music and comedy.
“I started with parody in high school, way before I had thought to do Sherry Vine or use parodies as an act,” the performer said. I had auditioned for a play in high school, ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ I wanted the part of the scare crow and didn’t get it. I was so upset, I wrote a filthy parody of the entire show and was going to insert lines into the show, but I didn’t.”
After earning a Bachelors in Fine Arts in her home state of Maryland, Vine went on to earn a Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts.
Before drag became a part of the routine, she was performing in a comedic duo in Los Angeles, spoofing songs and movies.
“Carol Burnett was my absolute, number one idol and influence,” Vine said. “I would watch that show and my mom would say when I was 3 or 4, it was very clear that that’s what I wanted to do.”
Vine’s work parodies songs by pop icons like Madonna and Lady Gaga and even delves into the songwriter territory of Billy Joel and Leonard Cohen. Between songs, the multi-faceted performer keeps audiences entertained with her comedic chops.
“I think most of my stand-up and storytelling is usually connected to setting up a song,” Vine said. “I’m definitely not a joke writer, but I think I can tell some funny stories or take something that really happened to me and share it, and it happens to be absurd or funny.”
From 2012 to 214, Vine reunited with longtime collaborator Joshua Rosenzweig — the pair ran Theater Couture together — to create “She’s Living For This,” which was broadcast on cable subscription network Here TV.
“This was my dream project, because it’s totally Carol Burnett inspired,” Vine said. “It opens with a number; there’s some sketch comedy, special guests, another number. It’s knocked off of how (Burnett) did her show. If you were to give me a blank check and say do what you want, it would be another season of that show. I got to be my most creative.”
The show was recently licensed to Hulu, which, Vine said, is bringing it to new audiences.
A recent “cherry” on top of her theater career found Vine in the title role in an interpretation of Stephen King’s “Carrie.” Doing something daring, like casting a drag queen in an iconic female role, was inspired by advice the actor received at USC.
Vine’s professor, Anna Deavere Smith, told the young performer — then performing under given name Keith Levy — that he didn’t fit conventional male Hollywood roles.
“She told me, ‘You have to create your own path,’” Vine said of Deavere Smith. “I really took those words seriously.”
Vine and Rosenzweig pitched Stephen King’s people on a new take on “Carrie,” and, after an initial no, King’s lawyer responded that the author was interested. Another of Vine’s creative colleagues, writer Erik Jackson, put together a script for King’s consideration.
“We got an email from Stephen King saying, ‘I love this idea. You have my blessing.’ It sold out for the whole run,” Vine said. “It was a massive hit.”
Vine’s creative endeavors have taken her around the world, to the silver screen and into the story line of one of America’s great living authors, and now she’ll bring her talents to Heat.
“I’m going to give these people in Wilkes-Barre the exact same amount of energy and commitment as I would if I was doing Carnegie Hall,” Vine said. “I would stress for this show that I have a bunch of new material.”