Mink Stole has a devoted cult following that dates back to the 1970s, when she became an outrageously wacky fixture in the trash comedies of John Waters. The actress and singer is currently appearing off-Broadway in a rare production of Tennessee Williams’s affecting tragicomedy The Mutilated, directed by Cosmin Chivu and co-starring downtown performance artist Penny Arcade. Stole plays a wealthy woman who lives a lonely and secretive life in a run-down hotel in New Orleans’s French Quarter.
What is your take on The Mutilated, which opens with the line: “I think the strange, the crazed, the queer, will have their holiday this year”?
Tennessee Williams often dealt with the disenfranchised, with the odd ball, and the person who was trying and failing to connect with other people. And he dealt very well with women in this position. What I think the play is about for my character, Trinket, is the fact that when the play had its very short-lived run in 1966, breast cancer was something that we didn’t talk about. Mastectomies were a shame. Any loss of femininity was considered almost the woman’s fault and it was unseemly to discuss it. Trinket is dealing with this sense of shame of the actual loss of a breast. And for years she has been willing to support Celeste—the Penny Arcade character—just in order to keep her mouth shut and to also have somebody to share the secret with her, because it was a horrible burden to carry. Celeste has the secret to hold over Trinket, but Trinket has her wealth to hold over Celeste. So there’s a conflict between these two women. They are…the term now is “frenemies.” They need each other, depend on each other, and at some basic core level they love each other, but they resent each other at the same time. The fact that this play takes place on Christmas Eve adds a religious context—specifically Catholic, which is suitable for New Orleans. Whether or not the two women can stay friends or not is very open for interpretation, I think. And if we do our job right, we will make the audience wonder.