For Charles Busch, Washington is akin to a first love. The long-ago memory has all the elements: joy, discovery and resonance -- even as some of the details have faded.
"It was the first time that I was performing a full two-act evening solo," Busch recalls of the affair begun in 1980 at Source Theatre on 14th Street NW, with Charles Busch Alone With a Cast of Thousands. "I got absolutely rave reviews across the board. It was the most thrilling thing. I was taken so seriously. It was an incredibly exciting experience. I came back and did every year till '83 or '84. That's when I actually became a drag performer."
Those drag performances earned Busch renown well beyond Washington, with campy stage and screen hits such as Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, Die Mommie Die! and Psycho Beach Party. Along with Julie Halston, who has acted alongside Busch in many of his shows, the gay theatrical legend is returning to Washington to launch Ganymede Arts' 3rd Annual GLBT Arts Festival, where he'll share stories of his three-decade career.
"Julie and I will regale the audience with anecdotes -- humorous and touching -- of our very long collaboration," Busch promises, explaining that Ganymede's artistic director, Jeffrey Johnson, will prompt the conversation with questions. Johnson is also giving Busch a reason to stick around for an extra day so that he may see Johnson's drag persona, Agent Galactica, in a new show the following night.
Unfortunately, that nearly sums the entirety of Busch's Washington return before its back to his Greenwich Village home.
"No time for cocktails with the Obamas, I'm afraid," he sighs.
The Ganymede Arts GLBT Fall Arts Festival Opening Night Gala is Friday, Sept. 18, at 8 p.m. at Miss Pixie's Backroom Palace, 1626 14th St. NW. Charles Busch Live On Stage with special guest Julie Halston follows at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $30. Visit www.ganymedearts.org or call 202-290-1502.