Thirty years ago, a lovely young woman achieved the highlight of her life. She was crowned Miss Richfield in her local beauty pageant, and, well, she's never moved on. The day after that seminal event, the community bought her a bus ticket to go someplace else. But wherever she goes, the people she visits seem to come up with the money to buy her another bus ticket to go away.
Or so the story goes.
Meet Russ King. He created the character of Miss Richfield in 1996, when he went to a Miss America party with a friend of his. Together, they went as Miss Little Rock and Miss Richfield. At the event, someone told King that he should perform.
It had been years since he had acted onstage. As a high-school student in Richfield (he graduated in 1981), King had performed leads in plays, but in college he had majored in journalism. After graduation he worked as a journalist for six years, and then moved on to public relations for five.
Photo Courtesy Illusion Theater
Two years after his first Miss Richfield appearance at that party in '96, King started performing his character part time. First at Bryant-Lake Bowl, then at the Gay 90's for a few months, and eventually at other venues.
This will be the 12th year that he has performed his holiday-themed Miss Richfield show at Illusion Theater. He also has had a regular gig each summer in Provincetown, MA since 2003. Performances have this year have taken him to Washington DC, Vermont, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, and on a cruise out of Fort Lauderdale.
"I'm pretty lucky," King says. "I work a lot as a performer; it's a huge blessing." Though he feels fortunate to have so much work throughout the year, he says it's great to have a gig at home in Minneapolis, near his mom, brothers, nieces, and nephews.
When he was first starting out, King had a piano player and an announcer in the show, but since he started traveling he has done the show alone, which is how he performs at the Illusion for his current production, Miss Richfield 1981: Thirty Years on the Throne. The first 45 minutes consists of new material he's developed for the Provincetown show, with the last part including holiday-themed favorites including a sing-along.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of Miss Richfield's crowning, King plans to
Photo courtesy Illusion Theater
The character has evolved a lot over the years, King says. He often performs for a devoted audience, which forces him to get busy and write new material. "It's a delicate balance to write new stuff and keep old stuff," he says, and to keep the character consistent.
"Miss Richfield is super positive," he says. She doesn't swear, which makes the show kid-friendly, though it's by no means a kids' show. His audiences range from young to old, both straight and from the LGBT community.
The former beauty queen includes some political messages, too, amidst all the fun. During spelling bee, for instance, she's teaches tolerance through the absurd. "She might come across as racist," King says, "but really the joke is on white people."
IF YOU GO:
Miss Richfield 1981: Thirty Years on the Throne Illusion Theater 528 Hennepin Ave., 8th floor, Minneapolis 8 p.m. Thu-Sun through December 18 Click here for more info