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Featuring Project Runway’s Zulema Griffin

Thursday March 23, 2006
UCB Theatre

Written by Wendy R. Williams
Photographs of the show by Ben Strothmann

Starring: Eric Bernat; Julie Brister; Jackie Clarke; Jesse Falcon; John Flynn; Jeff Hiller; Bobby Moynihan; and Lennon Parham as Nomi Malone. Directed by Jason Mantzoukas. Videos by Luke Ward. Written by Jackie Clarke and John Flynn.

Showgirls, the 1995 movie, unintentionally became one of the funniest movies ever made. Universally panned by critics, it instantly became a cult classic due to its paint-by-numbers plot, deadening dialogue and the total lack of acting ability of its star, Elizabeth Berkley, who was seemingly hired for the role after she took off her clothes but before she opened her mouth.

Showgirls, the UCB spoof, is a send up of the movie, featuring film clips from the actual movie. Here is a quote from the UCB show press release: “ The UCB Theatre is proud to present an evening with Mr. Joe Eszterhas (or an actor playing the esteemed scribe) as he is interviewed by noted film historian, Jackie Flynn Clarke. Experience the power and sanctity of Esztheras's words live onstage. It’s half staged reading, half “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” and half female empowerment, Eszterhas style.”

The night I attended, Project Runway’s Zulema Griffin was the guest star. Before the show, the audience was treated to clips from the movie (shown on a movie screen) and fun facts (also projected on the movie screen) from both the movie and the show we were about to see. One of those facts was that Joe Eszterhas’s stage directions were going to be read verbatim; there would be no changes.

The show started with Jackie Clarke (playing a Queens College film professor), John Reynolds (playing Joe Eszterhas) and John Flynn (playing Jackie’s “gay” husband and stage directions reader) taking their seats on the stage. Jackie then proceeded to conduct a film class, interviewing Eszterhas and showing film clips of the nude actors in the movie (there is a lot of nudity on screen). There were also reenactments of the movie by the very talented but clothed cast (sorry, there is no live full-frontal nudity from the cast or Zulema Griffin). All the while, the stage directions were being read by Jackie’s “husband.” These stage directions are some of the funniest I have ever heard. Eszterhas’s directions micromanaged every movement of the actors, a huge no-no in the film and theater world.

The cast was very funny in their deadpan interpretation of the movie’s stage directions. Of especial note was Lennon Parham who gave a hysterical puppet-on-a-string send up of Elizabeth Berkley’s zombie-like portrayal of Nomi Malone. Jackie Clarke and her “husband” John Flynn were also a total hoot, delivering their lines totally dead pan, heightening the ludicrousness of the show. And then Zulema Griffin came to the stage to portray the dance director, the “if you can’t ……, then I can’t use you” dance director. Zulema was a contestant on one of my obsessions, Project Runway. She was portrayed as a bitch on the show. Well duh, the editors can make anyone look like anything they want them to when they work on the show in the editing bay and after all DRAMA IS CONFLICT! Zulema became infamous as the designer who “stole” fellow designer Nick Verreos’s model (“I want a walk-off between three models”), only to be eliminated in the next competition. But that night she seemed incredibly nice. Every time she had to say one of her mean lines, she kept cracking up. And both Zulema and the audience really cracked up when Zulema asked the actors to do a walk off.

Zulema Griffin - Photo Credit Wendy R. Williams

This show is very funny. I laughed all the way through. The part where the sex scene in the pool (with Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle McLaughlin) is shown on the screen while Eszterhas’s stage directions are being read aloud is beyond hysterical. There is a sign on the screen asking everyone to tell their gay friends about the show but whether you are gay or straight (there were a lot of heterosexual couples in the audience), this show rocks.

Showgirls plays at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater at 306 W 26 th Street (at 8 th Avenue). Tickets are $5 - 212-366-9176. The guest host changes every week or so. For more information about Showgirls, check out: and

Afterwards, I met Zulema and asked her if I could send her a few questions. She said yes so I did and she responded.

Wendy R. Williams:   Now that you have performed in Showgirls, what do you think about the costumes?

Zulema Griffin: The costuming is perfect! Because the show is a reading and not a play, the all black blanket wardrobe of the cast is perfect. (Zulema is a costume designer in addition to designing a clothing line so she probably thought I was being serious.)

Wendy R. Williams:  What about the way the open bathrobe prominently displayed Joe Esterhas's  belly? Would another color or style of bathrobe be more flattering? Should Joe use a self tanner to so his white belly does not reflect quite so much of the stage lighting? Or should he go for a new look all together?
 Zulema Griffin: Joe Esterhas should never tan. The paleness of his skin and his portly physique lends to his character’s tragically comedic essence.

Wendy R. Williams:  What about Ms. Clarke's neck brace?  When you consider the way she became injured (performing a certain sexual act), there must be a growing market for attractive neck braces.  Perhaps the ever popular camouflage or maybe women (and men) should just go for it and wear an iridescent hunting-orange neck brace so they can be visible in the dark?

Zulema Griffin: I agree the neck brace should be decorated. Something that says literary scholar, like brocade in the Rococo style.

Wendy R. Williams:  Do you know of a good source for battery operated twirling pasties? And are feathers on pasties considered gauche, perhaps a little too Santino Rice?
Zulema Griffin: Why are we entertaining gauche when speaking of showgirls and strippers. A dancer would be gauche without them (twirling pasties).
Wendy R. Williams:  Do you have any other comments on how the actors could improve their costumes or should they just perform in the buff like the actors in the movies.

Zulema Griffin: I believe the actors did a great job with the wardrobe [I told you she is actually nice and is also a costume designer]. When doing a show of this nature, basic black is best with elements added to show character changes and evolutions. Though, I have always been a fan of nudity.
Wendy R. Williams: Tell us what you are doing now that Project Runway is over. Where can we see your line?
Zulema Griffin: I am currently preparing for the first ever Brooklyn Fashion week as well as New York Fashion week. My BK fashion show will be a spring '07 preview and it will premiere May 5, 2006 at the Tobacco Warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn. The BK Style foundation and the Brooklyn Borough President’s office will provide water taxis to transport Manhattan residents to and from the venue.

Wendy R. Williams: I did not ask you about Project Runway because I don't know what restrictions their legal department has placed on the contestants.

Zulema Griffin: As for that show, I have received a warning from the legal department because of truths that were stated in previous articles. So, I must refrain from speaking further on the matter until I consult my attorney this week. Anyway, I've moved on to bigger and better things.

(Note from Wendy: Perhaps it is time for the Project Runway lawyers to do a walk off.)

P.S I will keep you posted with upcoming events and appearances. You can print all above statements.

For more information on Zulema, check out her website at


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