A Conversation with Ira Lee Collings

| September 21, 2017

A Conversation with Ira Lee Collings

September 20, 2017

Ira Lee Collings, who dubs himself the “Gay Geezer,” started out singing as a kid back in school in Kingsbury, Indiana. His first role was a Christmas tree in the Christmas pageant. However, the next year he was Santa Claus! He studied at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago before moving to the Big Apple. He won a talent show at a gay bar, just like Barbra! Dinner theater followed and then ten years singing at Don’t Tell Mama. At 82, he is proud to represent “Gay Geezer Power.” He returns to NYC’s Don’t Tell Mama with his latest show, Life Is a Song, So Why Not Sing It (Plus Weed Songs).

Cabaret Scenes: You were honored with the 2017 Hanson Award from the Manhattan Association of Cabarets & Clubs (MAC). How did that feel and what does it mean to you?

Ira Lee Collings: When Lennie Watts called me and told me I was the winner of the 2017 Hanson Award, I was flabbergasted! What an honor! It means so much to me. And to get to sing at the awards show was the icing on the cake!

CS: You’ve performed in cabaret for some time now. What is it about this art form you find most satisfying?

Ira: I love the contact with the audience. Some stand-up comics say, “I’m up there alone!” I say, “You’re in a room with other people, not alone.” Years ago, Dawn Hampton told me that singing is like a wheel, you give off to the audience, they pick it up and send it back like a wheel. It took me many years to understand this, but it is true.

CS: And what do you find least satisfying about cabaret?

Ira: Memorizing lyrics!

A boy and his bunny!

CS: Your new show is called Life Is a Song, So Why Not Sing It (Plus Weed Songs). Please explain how you came up with the title, what it means, and what the show is about.

Ira: The title just came to me when I decided to use the format of the old TV show from the 1950s — Your Hit Parade. I’ve chosen ten top songs that caught my ear over the years and influenced me musically. It’s hard to say anything that doesn’t remind you of a song. Weed songs came about because so many funny songs sound like the songwriters were high!

CS: What do you hope your audiences take away from this show?

Ira: I hope the audiences learn something about me and something about themselves. I hope that, at the end of our time together, the audience has had an enjoyable time sharing with me and appreciating their own life experience.

CS: On personal note, you’ve been with Owen for a very long time. What is the secret to your successful relationship?

Ira: Owen and I have been sharing for 32 years. What is our secret? Respecting our differences. We are domestic partners. We feel that is enough.

CS: Any words of wisdom to those just starting out in cabaret?

Ira: Words of wisdom? Boy, don’t I wish I had some! I think we all learn the hard way just by doing it. Get out and sing at open mics. The Salon is a wonderful open mic. The talent is first rate most Sundays. MAC has an open mic once a month with different musicians each time. Put your money into an act. Classes and lessons are great, but get your act together and get out there and do it! And when you do an open mic, know your key, your lyrics, and the rhythm. I hate it when someone says, “I’ve never sung this song before.” So sit down, go home, and learn the song, then go back and sing at the open mic. Most of the open mics have amazing musicians on the piano. Respect them by being prepared. And if you aren’t a MAC member, join right away! The fee is very reasonable and it will be a great aid for you!  Good luck and Love What You Do!!

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Category: Cabaret Features, New York City, New York City Cabaret Features, Regional

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