First Person

‘Mildred Fierce’ speaks

Varla Jean Merman, alter ego of actor Jeffery Roberson, plays the lead in the new parody by Ryan Landry and his Gold Dust Orphans.

Varla Jean Merman
Rex Bonomelli
Varla Jean Merman

Believe it or not, the last time I was in Boston with the Gold Dust Orphans, I was playing a virginal high school girl. I guess I was 39 at the time. The hardest words for A YOUNG INGENUE to hear are that it’s time to play a mother role. But there’s a lot more roles this way, and there’s a lot of pressure off. You don’t have to waist-cinch anymore, which is really nice.

This is such a great role. Mildred is doing everything she can to PLEASE HER CHILDREN, but the funny thing Ryan does is: She loves only one of her daughters. She can’t remember the name of the other one. It’s so sick. I don’t have a daughter, and I don’t think legally anyone would ever let me have one, but I do have a dog, so I’m reading all my lines out to my dog, Mrs. Danvers. She seems to be quite bored right now.

Ryan writes these CRAZY, CRAZY STORIES that are so out there, but there’s this emotional core. He wants to have heart and feeling, too. He does that so well, to be so ridiculous at one moment and so emotional as well.


I travel a lot and do a lot of solo shows, and after doing that for a long time, you want interaction. So when I last did a Gold Dust Orphans show, Phantom of the Oprah, it was just such a great time, being around so much ENERGY AND CREATIVITY.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

What’s next? I don’t know, dowager roles? But LOOK AT MAGGIE SMITH. Hello! She’s still working, and she steals the show.  — As told to Joel Brown

Mildred Fierce runs Thursday to March 17 at the Boston nightclub Machine.

Interview has been edited and condensed.