Category Archives: Behind the Mask

Frankie, Todd and Taffy put on their faces for Ptown Carnival 2016


Roo, The Wonder Boy

photo courtesy  of buzzfeed

Linda Markarian recently posted on her Face Book page a touching article about a three year old boy, Roo, who likes to wear a tutu. The human interest here is that the kid and his Mom were being harassed by some slob who berated them both because Roo, a boy, was wearing his tutu. Roo’s ultimate comment was, “I feel beautiful, I feel brave, I like the way they look.”



Roo ruminates on the  foibles of adults

photo courtesy of buzzfeed

I was glad that Linda, a constant champion of  kindness, introduced me to Roo and this was my response,

“Wonder Boy is simply expressing the universal and timeless human urge for adornment .We all want to be beautiful because our world is shimmeringly gorgeous and we want to be a part of it all. Rock on Wonder Boy!”

Click for more of Roo’s story 

In my book, The Family Jewels,  in a scene depicting the parade of guests arriving at the Dynasty Ball, I wrote, “There was of course a bearded nun, who kept drawling, “Oh Mary, oh Mary” while genuflecting, a performance that made forward progress sluggish. But the Crowd accepted this with good grace as a necessary benediction along the pilgrimage of the absurd, of which Gay people have an intimate perspective.”


Three little Girls from the school of hard knocks painting the town with rainbow colors

photo by Iory Allison

Now, I don’t mean to imply that little Roo is in anyway Gay, he may turn out that way but that is for him to discover, however, his fututure sexual proclivities are an entirely separate issue. What I mean by making the reference to Gay people having an intimate perspective of the absurd is to say that we, ie Gay people, understand that ascribing sexual identity to inanimate objects is absurd and misses the point. So what is the point? For me that is The Mask.



photo by Iory Allison

I believe that we all universally have a lingering desire to be more than our single selves. This is why we tell and listen to stories, read books, go to movies and theater, attend sporting events and perhaps even tell lies. We want to break free of the limits of one identity and enjoy the freedom to create and be our own imaginary friends. This is the essence of empathy, coming from the Greek word empatheia, to be, “in – feeling.”  “To empathize is to  project one’s own personality into the personality of another in order to understand them better.” (Webster)  I believe this is because, in some peripheral way, we remember past lives or the collective unconscious, if you prefer. We are trying to recapture the complete experience of being one collective essence with infinite expressions and by extension of having empathy with all creation



photo by Iory Allison

One of the tools to accomplish this is to create and wear a mask, costume, disguise, or drag. And with the later choice all serious intent is disguised with humor, which may reference the “ frenzied ritual” (see reference below) because what is laughing, except to join in the intense effervescent joy of living.



photo by Iory Allison

An actor wears a mask to extend his life beyond his time and place, to adopt another’s outward form and to disguise himself   speaking with many voices.  The mask is universal and timeless. People have fashioned masks throughout time in every culture, country and continent seeking to travel beyond the limits of a single existence. The outward image of the borrowed soul is for a moment worn, allowing us  to see through another’s eye and to escape mortal limits. The mask of the hero imbues the actor with god-like grace and power. Masks releases the finite individual to create multiple personas of his own design. The mask enables a godlike freedom of metamorphoses, entering into the life or form of another being. The basic masks of Greek drama are Comedy, Tragedy and the Satyr, these variations of character  allow the individual’s emotional possibilities to expand beyond his own fate and beyond the script written for his present drama. The actor speaks through the mask amplifying his voice  carrying it to a larger audience. Theater derives from ancient rites of frenzied ritual that over time was articulated into a dialogue of individuals expostulating on their fate.


The Joys of creating

photo by Iory Allison

So, all of that is a mouthful leading me to babble on sommore ‘bout my friends, Frankie, Taffy, Todd and their camp follower, Smoldering Beauty who wafted about in various disguises being generally alluring. The three main thespians extraordinaire carry on in Ptown with such gusto, expertise and chutzpah as to fairly take your breath away.


the pink champagne  Bubbly Girls

Photo by Iory Allison

This August found The Two Happy Husbands, Mssrs. Iory and Leo,  lounging around the beaches and cafes of  Ptown biding our time waiting for the Big Event, Carnival 2016, “Back to the Eighties!” On the mornin’ of the parade while Mr. Leo staked out our claim in the sidewalk bleachers I invited myself over to the Three Little Girls from Ptown’s joint to witness and record their  metamorphosis process where, with the aide of liberal slurps of pink champagne, this trio of dignified Boston business men pecked through the chrysalis binding their true natures and became the aforementioned “Girls.”.


Leo and Iory giggling all the way to Ptown on the fast ferry

photo by Elise Misiorowski


Franky spills the beans

photo by Iory Allison

 A )  Who designed the costumes and accessories?

F ) I designed the costumes and accessories.

I A  ) How did you conceive of the ideas for the designs?

F) They always announce the theme for carnival at the end of the previous carnival. As soon as I heard “Back to the 80s”…I swore we wouldn’t be Madonna! I also noted the lack of prefix.  I thought it would be fun to go further back (1880) for elegance, but to nod to the recent 80s in fabric and style (1980).  Once the idea was in my head I did some research on 1880 costumes.  When i realized it was “Sunday in the Park with George” costumes…I was thrilled!

I  found a modern pattern for the top of the dress and I found a company that has re-created old sewing patterns for dresses from the 1800’s—same size and same “directions.”  This was probably the biggest challenge—transferring the old pattern to fit a man AND trying to understand the sewing instructions which were made for women (likely) who spoke another language! I studied the instructions for weeks before diving in to transfer the pattern onto muslin.

carnival-ptown-2016-37Todd loves Franky’s curls

Photo by Iory Allison

I A ) Who made the accessories?

F ) I  found the parasol kits on Etsy. Todd  was a doll and helped with the parasols which were more complicated than anticipated.  The parasol kits came from the UK with very poor directions.  There was lots of “figuring out” and hand sewing.

F I A ) How long did it take to finished them?

F ) The costume process began in September 2015 and went right up until the week before Carnival.  I would spend many Saturdays in my sewing room working on the costumes—mostly since January.  I began with the hoop underskirt Each dress needed about 10 yards of the theme print and another 6-8 yards of the complementary fabric.


Gathering rose buds, the proof of the pudding

photo by Iory Allison

I A ) Which are the custom fabrics used in this production and how/where were they done?

F )  Fall of 2015 was mostly about searching for and purchasing fabrics. When I did our Candy-land costumes (last year’s theme) I came across a lot of quilting websites they had all sorts of themed fabrics.  It came in handy as we started looking for popular 1980s fabrics. Todd had originally wanted Care Bears, but we couldn’t find any vintage prints at a reasonable price and available in the right amount. The only custom fabric was the Pacman ghost fabric.  There is a website called Spoonflower which has many artists with their custom work.  I had decided to go with yellow dots to complement the Pacman print, but I happened to come across the ghost fabric and just had to have it.  Pacman is the only one of the three with three different prints.


Don’t step on the petticoats please!

photo by Iory Allison

I A )  Have you ever performed in drag before and if so what is the briefest history of those escapades (yes you can be cryptic)

F ) Frankie is the only one who has performed in drag—for 13 years as part of Fresh Fruit Productions.  There are still some of their videos on YouTube for those who are interested.(“P’town/Bean-town” and “Boston Common Girl” are two favorites.)  Taffy did spot light for Fresh Fruit, but he was never in the spotlight.  Todd would rather die than be on stage.

I A ) Have the three of you always been a collective bunch?

F ) Taffy and I have done Carnival together for close to 10 years.  Todd came into my life in 2011—we actually met at Carnival ( these two are now love doves capital L. D. ) He joined us in 2012 and we have been a collective ever since.

I A ) What is the most gratifying reaction you have gotten from a performance?

F ) Well, these days, marching in the parade is the only performing we do.  It is lovely to get appreciation from the Carnival crowd.


Let the magic begin!

photo by Iory Allison

I A )   How do you feel when you know that your audience loves you?

F ) “Then you walk out and if it’s a really great audience, a very strange set of emotions can come over you. … A really great reception makes me feel like I have a great big warm heating pad all over me.”  Judy Garland  (Frankie’s quote of J. G.)


 The Three Girls in all their glory!

photo by Iory Allison

I A ) Please add any tid bits that your public should know about the process of  metamorphosis

F ) Costume making has become my artistic expression.  I just love the challenge of a new design.  I also love the details.  For example, finding cassette tape charms to add to the buttons of Taffy’s outfit.  Or the buttons on Todd’s dress—little ponies and stars.  Finding two different types of fringe to make one fabulous edge.  It is great fun.


The Monarch waiting for her Queen, another of Franky’s creations

Photo by Iory

Click here to see Iory’s full photo essay of The Chrysalis unfurling