Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 13, Ed. 1 Friday, August 12, 2011 Page: 32 of 56
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Fort Worth actor
David Coffee gets
in touch with his
feminine side as
the local debut of
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MARK LOWRY I Special Contributor
From a young age, it was clear to everyone
around David Coffee what he'd be when he
grew up. In second grade in Fort Worth, he had
to perform "some sort of talent" for his music
class,,So he lip-synched all the parts to the entire
The Wizard of Oz soundtrack. Later, when visiting
his grandparents at an old folks' home in Oak
Cliff, he'd act out the TV shows as the residents
watched them on the tube.
He told everyone he wanted to be a doctor. But
his second grade teacher and a double amputee
at the home set him straight: Acting was clearly
the path for him.
Remarkably, the 53-year-old Coffee says that
he's lucky that he's been able to make a living as
an actor, most of it in Fort Worth. Aside from
brief teenage stints as a shoe
salesman at an Arlington depart-
ment store and a mail boy at his
father's business, Coffee has con-
sistently worked onstage, begin-
ning his professional career in
The Wind in the Willcnos at what
was then called Casa Mahana Children's Play-
house, in 1968.
"Since that time, I've either been playing a
show, learning a show or forgetting a show," he
says in his dressing room, where he's playing
Edna Turnblad in Casa's locally-produced pre-
miereof Hairspray, which opens Saturday.
Coffee spent years touring the country in non-
Equity shows in small towns (he's now an
Equity member), 20 years of returning to the
Granbury Opera House, and of course, plenty of
time at Casa. He has starred with such leading
ladies as Cyd Charisse, Betty Buckley and Sandy
Duncan. So far in 2011, his work has included
Touchstone in As You Like It at Fort Worth's Trin-
ity Shakespeare Festival (it was his third year of
making himself a standout as a Shakespeare
clown at TSF); and as Herr Schultz in Dallas The-
ater Center's revival-for-the-ages of Cabaret. In
December, he'll play Ebenezer Scrooge for the
19th time at North Shore Music Theatre in Bev-
But the panties role of Edna — played by Har-
Casa Manana Theatre, 3101 W.
Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth. Aug.
13-21. $40-$65. CasaManana.org
vey FSerstein in 2003 Broadway debut and by Di-
vine in John Waters' 1988 source film — is his-
toric for him: It marks his 75th show at Casa.
It's no wonder he's been able to make it. Char-
acter actors typically get more consistent work,
and Coffee has been playing roles much older
than him since he was a teenager. With a round
face and bald head ringed by brown hair, he re-
sembles the image of the wind, that man in the
clouds blowing in the sky. When he started as
Scrooge at North Shore, he was in his 30s — a
part he says has only changed slightly as he has
"I clicked into him even as a child," Coffee
says. "I never felt an affinity to Tiny Tim as a
child, it was an affinity to Scrooge."
All of the experience goes into Edna, a com-
edy role perfect for an actor who has become
synonymous with comic relief, who knows how
to be hammy without overdoing
the pork. It's the first time the
straight actor has played a
woman, although he understud-
ied the.role at North Shore in
2010. The actor playing Edna gave
the advice to make sure that the
fat suit has a zipper in the vaginal area, so he can
relieve himself without taking off the entire suit.
"I've seen people play it soft and feminine,
and I don't do that," Coffee says about the chal-
lenge of playing Edna. He Sfeems to be in touch
with his inner woman, though: He sat through
the entire interview wearing a pair of pumps
that we've requested for the photo shoot after the
interview. "I don't pull any big bones about it.
The femininity will come through the physical-
ization, but I don't do with it the voice. You just
play what's there and you're OK. You don't ig-
nore the fact that it's a guy in drag, because there
are a couple of places in the show where they
play it up; but other than that, you don't worry
That's just one thing Coffee doesn't have to
worry about, along with having to rely on a day
job like almost every local stage actor. Now that's
some sort of talent. ■
Mark Lowry is a Dallas-based writer and co-
founder and editor of TheaterJones.com, where you
can read the full Q&A with Coffee,
HAIR APPARENT | Playing drag as Edna Turnblad is a first for David Coffee, but that didn't keep him from
wearing pumps during his entire interview. (Photo courtesy Robert Hart Studio)
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Nash, Tammye. Dallas Voice (Dallas, Tex.), Vol. 28, No. 13, Ed. 1 Friday, August 12, 2011, newspaper, August 12, 2011; Dallas, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth239180/m1/32/: accessed April 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.