Two Kittens & A Kid: A Gay Man Raising His Inner Diva - Christopher Wilson, his daughter, divas and two Ryans
by Drew Rowsome
"When my daughter first moved in, we gave her two kittens," says Christopher Wilson. "Three years later she ran away, my husband left me for a woman, and I was left with the pussies." Two pussies and the genesis of a musical: Two Kittens & A Kid: A Gay Man Raising His Inner Diva.
Wilson had never planned to parent but, as the show explains, "The child chose me." They became "two white dads, one black daughter" and a lot of learning, loving and comedy ensued. "I grew up as a single child, no sisters. My experience with teenage girls was nil. Especially of biological functions." Cue a song about the mysteries of menstruation. "My daughter was a funny, bright, intelligent girl so there are lots of anecdotes. Part of the writing was to honour my journey with her. The stories, the fun, what I learned."
As well as acquiring parenting skills "there were specific things about race and culture. Like hair care. I knew nothing about black hair. And it's a whole thing. African-American women make up something like 35 - 40 percent of the population but account for 90 percent of the hair care market. There's all these things that caucasians don't have to do." But there were more serious issues, like the inspiration for the song "The 'N' Word."
"My daughter dropped the 'N' word. As a term of endearment." Wilson and his husband worked through the pitfalls of "not limiting her cultural and historical heritage" but translating the experience into theatre/cabaret was dicey. "As a white man writing about life with a black girl, I didn't want to be accused of culturally appropriating my daughter's heritage. It's a delicate line." The solution was to enlist Ryan G Hinds. "It was important to have a person of colour. He's a smart writer and artist. And a black man." Together they reworked the book and "the writing went through a huge metamorphosis."
The subtitle - Wilson notes that the word "diva" is always a good marketing tool - gained prominence as they explored the concept. "There are lots of stereotypes within the gay community and one of them is the obsession with black divas. I realized that the word 'diva' for me was being synonymous with black. The strong women who subconsciously I thought had overcome adversity. Who are my inner divas. And obviously my daughter." It became about the two of them finding their inner strength, their inner divas. "I had to find a way to be okay with how things are," says Wilson.
Wilson ended up with "a 50 minute book show with a very chronological narrative. All original: book, music and lyrics. Seven scenes, eight musical bits and a lot of underscoring. I was terrified. I've been performing for 20 years and I'd never done a one-man show. I'd never been so vulnerable. I needed a director to ensure the text and song were combined in an organic manner." He turned to Ryan Kelly for whom he had written the hit musical Living with Henry. "He's my dearest and closest friend, a great actor and so fucking smart. And he's flexing his directorial muscles. He was nurturing and guided development." It takes a village to raise a one-man show.
Two Kittens & A Kid débuted at the prestigious Edinburgh Festival where it earned polarized reviews. "Every person of colour that saw the show was complimentary, but the English middle-class writers were uncomfortable with a white man talking about black issues. Some of them were quite derogatory. It's as if the class system has crossed over into race." Wilson shrugs it off and is looking forward to bringing the show to a Buddies audience. And it is an eager audience - the first show sold out and a matinee has been added. "It's not a Broadway-bound cabaret," says Wilson. "It's my story and how much it means to me."