“I love to hide onstage behind the character,” says Ron Megee, without a seeming trace of irony.
Because if you’ve seen Megee on-stage, you know that he doesn’t hide. His characters find their proverbial light even when blocked into the shadows. From the red meat swagger of a rodeo Romeo on the run as Deke, in Mother Trucker to the screaming acquiescence into Stepfordization, as Joanna in The Stepford Wives, the lauded actor, director and demiurge of the now infamous Late Night Theatre has left long-lasting impressions.
The memory of Ron Megee’s lanky physicality and emotional largesse linger well after the show closes and the make-up and costumes come off. How does Megee find the balance between his characters and his own indelible persona when off-stage?
“I try to let people realize that it’s just a part of me—just a character. I always do that, I’m not sure why but if someone thinks they’re talking to Tippi (Hedren of The Birds) or Barbara Perkins (Anne in Valley of the Dolls), or whatever, I’ll just go with it. I’ll do the voice and do one line (from the play) and then be done with it, drop that bomb and then go away. I really want them to know it’s just me, that I do this—is that weird? I just want them to think that, ‘Wow, he might be talented. Look at him. He did this character and look how he really is in life.'”
The fact is that Ron Megee is a lot of things to a lot of people. Maybe it’s because he’s so many people himself.
Megee has disported himself to nearly every stage in Kansas City theatre, playing innumerable roles ranging from nuns to nutjobs. Part of his charm is his permeability—this due to the fact that he often plays both sides—as actor and as audience. He giddily breaks the 4th wall while also somehow retaining it. Audiences love him for this.
“I don’t think you can ever give up on the fact that it’s fake,” says Megee. “You can feel the audience and you can’t just ever forget about that.”
Ron Megee hit the scene in the early 90s with performance art extravaganzas left behind now in infamy. These performances were harnessed into what would become Late Night Theatre in 1997. Megee and Co. opened with The Birds, a low-brow/high-camp all-male stage adaptation of Hitchcock’s classic film. Megee recalls that opening night with frisson. “I realized that we had a new beat for this city.”
And the beat went on for the next 10 years.
Famed for the creative pastiche of the now ephemeral Late Night, Megee was the ringleader of a troupe who served up fulsome parodies of movies of yore.
From the basement of a coffeehouse to a brief tenure in a dilapidated porn palace and finally to the marble interior of a former bank, Megee and LNT players took wildly diverse audiences (and seats, set pieces, props and costumes) with them to new performance venues dotting the city. Fueled by Crown Royal and camaraderie, Megee and friends created thirty-some gender-bending spoofs (among them, Dangerous Dirty Little Liasons, 1983 Drill Team Massacre, A Scary Carrie Christmas).
Megee was crowned with kudos in 2008, winning both a Charlotte Street Foundation Performing Arts Award and Pitch Mastermind Award, honoring his creative craft. He thanks his friends, many of whom comprised the Late Night troupe.
“Without my peers, I would not be where I am today. And that is a fact. They help me achieve my goals through creative input and friendship. I NEED THEM.”
After the creative fire of Late Night Theatre, he bears the visage of a hard-learned wisdom and bonhomie.
“I needed my life to be a lot simpler. And being simple, I can see further out on the vision…I can look farther now. I can solve problems further out than I ever could which makes me happy.”
Written by David Wayne Reed, 2010
You can follow Ron Megee on his Facebook page.