Daphne Ferraro launches one-woman show ‘Tall Tale’

Michael Dixon has been entertaining audiences in Tampa Bay and Central Florida for more than two decades.

He’s most frequently done so as Daphne Ferraro, affectionately known as “the tallest drag queen in captivity,” but his love for the stage doesn’t end where she begins.

That’s because while drag is a critical and cherished part of Ferraro’s life – something she proves weekly at Enigma Bar & Lounge as the St. Petersburg staple’s show director – much of her passion stems from the theater.

“I want people to understand I’m a performer and actor before I’m a drag queen,” she says.

That’s never been clearer than after the launch of Ferraro’s one-woman show “Tall Tale.” Nearly 100 people attended its June 27 premiere at Stageworks Theatre in Tampa to witness “a little prince’s journey to becoming a big ol’ queen.”

The 90-minute production, a mixture of live monologues and music videos, was written entirely by Ferraro to bring her life story to the screen and stage. It features seven professionally recorded parodies, five of which were written exclusively for the production.

“Tall Tale” begins with one of those songs, the appropriately titled “Daphne Ferraro” based on “Roxie” from the musical “Chicago.” Others include “Anomaly” derived from “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club; “Don’t Stop Improvin’” in the style of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey; “Filling Me Slowly,” based off on Roberta Flack’s hit “Killing Me Softly” and “I’m Not 6’5” from Gloria Gayner’s “I Will Survive.”

Also included are two parodies the performer previously showcased on her YouTube channel: “Part of RuPaul,” which mirrors “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid” and “Worse Things,” Ferraro’s first professionally produced parody released in 2019. It’s based on “There are Worse Things I Could Do” from “Grease.”

“I’ve always enjoyed writing parodies,” Ferraro says. “‘Worse Things’ told a portion of my life story and then I went on to produce ‘Part of RuPaul,’ which was another part. They were glimpses into my world, but nobody really knew what inspired them.”

Ferraro decided to share those stories last year. While she was unable to connect in-person with most of her friends, family and fans, the performer utilized COVID-19 shutdowns to launch 31 weeks of “Daphne and Friends: A Socially Distant Drag Show.” Her virtual efforts raised more than $15,000 for out-of-work entertainers.

They also strengthened her skills in audio, graphic and video editing. “In the background I was writing other parodies,” she recalls. “I have probably 15 or 20 that are floating around in my head at all times.”

Ferraro says she was also inspired by Ginger Minj, the Central Florida-based entertainer currently competing on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars.” Each is a former Miss Comedy Queen – the national drag pageant focused on glamorous humor – which crowned Ferraro its first winner in 2005 and Minj its eighth in 2012.

“I went to Ginger Minj’s one-woman show a couple of years ago and I really liked the format, how she was telling her story and doing some live singing,” Ferraro explains. “My roots are in theater; I was president of the thespian society in high school and a theater geek.

“I do drag and I’m on stage, but there’s nothing like that theater environment and actually performing,” she continues. “I was like, ‘I can do this too.’”

So she did. Ferraro began writing comedic monologues in support of her existing parodies, soon professionally recording the others. Over time and with the diligent work of Ferraro and her nearly 100 collaborators behind and in front of the camera, “Tall Tale” was born.

“I wanted to give people a glimpse into who I am as a person,” the entertainer says. “The whole show is about this journey to self-acceptance; of accepting every inch of who you are. Things that I’m self-conscious about are the things that actually make me who I am … I wanted to show people a glimpse into my motivations and some of the things that have carved me into who I am today.”

Ferraro approached Stageworks to help her do that, already a fan of the venue. It’s billed as Tampa’s longest-running professional theatre company, having welcomed audiences of all sorts since 1983.

“They do a lot of experimental theater that you can’t see in other places,” she explains. “They take risks and they’re true to artists.”

She says that’s particularly the case with Producing Artistic Director Karla Hartley. Ferraro met with her prior to bringing “The Evolution of Drag” to St. Petersburg’s Palladium in 2019, her 11-woman show presenting drag culture through the decades. It served as a fundraiser for the Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, welcoming more than 600 people and raising $12,000 in the process.

“I knew that if I had a more intimate show that Stageworks would be great for a premiere,” Ferraro says. “I really love the space and I asked Karla if she would be involved because I respect her work and value her opinion.

“She told me how the whole process should work,” she continues. “Karla attended the first script reading and helped me host the feedback session after the premiere, still giving me advice there. She was so incredibly helpful.”

“It was an absolute pleasure to help Daphne bring her story to the stage,” Hartley says. “Stageworks has always been committed to highlighting diverse voices in our community and Daphne’s show is a perfect example of that. She brought honesty and vulnerability and humor to her play that one rarely sees today.”

Ferraro hopes she can continue doing so by performing “Tall Tale” for audiences throughout Florida. She’s currently exploring opportunities in Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Orlando while weighing another fundraiser for TIGLFF, which was among the sponsors for its premiere.

“Anytime I can be involved with something where there’s an element of helping the community or I can do something to give back, I’m all about it,” Ferraro says. “If I can put this show to good use and make money for them, that would be a great partnership.”

While the entertainer isn’t sure where “Tall Tale” will land next, Ferraro is more eager than ever for its return. In the interim, you can find her performing at Enigma each weekend and check out her digital spotlight at TheDaphneFerraro.com. You can also view three parodies featured in “Tall Tale” below via YouTube:

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