Q & A with Ingrid Cole of "Menopause The Musical"
By Leela Ginelle, PQ Monthly
On March 25th, "Menopause The Musical" returns to the Winningstad Theatre. The play, which debuted in 2001 in a humble Orlando, FL theater, has an international sensation with productions having been staged in Italy, Great Britain, New Zeland and South Africa. The show presents four older women shopping for lingerie at Bloomingdale's, who confront their "silent passage" in decidedly vocal ways, belting out musical number, which play off of familiar Boomer-era tunes (ie: "Stayin' Awake," "Puff, My God, I'm Draggin,'" and "My Husband Sleeps Tonight." "Menopause's" record for the longest run at the Winningstad testifies to its connection with an audience not often represented in our culture. The current production features the return of award-winning Ingrid Cole, who will reprise her performance as Earth Mother. Cole caught up with PQ for a Q & A about "Menopause," LGBTQ visibility is musical theater, her philanthropic work, and more. Here's our talk: PQ: You've appeared in many productions of "Menopause The Musical" now. Can you talk a little about what attracts you to the project, and the role of Earth Mother? Cole: There's nothing like being on stage and having hundreds of women screaming and yelling and cheering for you. The women come up to us afterwards and hug us and express how wonderful we've made them feel. The role of Earth Mother is extremely easy for me because I can relate so well. We both are nurturing loving and encouraging. PQ: "Menopause The Musical" addresses a subject not usually talked about in popular culture, and does so with humor. When you talk to people about the show, what are some of the responses you get? Cole: I've had women come up to me after the show and tell me that they haven't laughed in years. They say they felt alone and didn't realize that they weren't alone until now. My grandmother could barely say the word Menopause and here we are singing and celebrating the change. The responses are astounding. PQ: You're a successful musical theater actress and a member of the LGBTQ community. While LGBTQ folks are well-represented within the ranks of people who create musical theater, they aren't generally central in the stories themselves. Does that discrepancy ever bother you? Is it something you see changing? Cole: I think it IS changing. We are seeing it so much more now; e.g. A Catered Affair, Rent, Kinky Boots, Avenue Q, Hedwig, The Producers, and many, many more. I think contemporary, new musical works have had a lot more freedom with gay characters and gay issues. PQ: I was inspired by your story about the humanitarian group Change4Kids on your blog ingridcole.com. Can you talk about how you became involved with that group and what it's meant to you? Cole: I got involved with change for children through my church here in Georgia. I've been to Zambia twice now and helped to build a school the last time I was there. I have a soft spot for the unwanted and the abandoned especially children. Five cents a day will feed a child for almost a week.Â That's unbelievable. My heart is with those children in Africa. PQ: You'll be in Portland for a few weeks with the show. Have you spent time here before? Is there anything you're looking forward to seeing or doing while you're in town? Cole: I was in Portland with Menopause The Musical a few years ago and I can't wait to go back to Voodoo Donuts. My fiancÃ©e is coming up to visit for a few days and we're hoping that we can find out the best piano bar in town. Â "Menopause The Musical" runs March 25 through April 13 at the Winningstad Theater; tickets range from $49 to $60 and are available via Portland'5 Center for the Arts.