In February 2020 Alex Grelle was hitting his stride. He just put up his dream show at the Chopin Theatre, the David Bowie homage Floor Show, and was starting to think of other theater spaces to tackle, maybe even possibly, dare he say, starting his own company. But then, well, March 2020 happened and that momentum hit a wall fast.
“That energy, all that frustration I funneled into my first television special, which was my first quarantine birthday last year,” Grelle says. “After I did that I had even more energy to do a new one and wanted to do a much bigger production with more directors not just shot in the confines of my home.”
Grelley Duvall: In My Home, In My Prime streamed on May 29, 2020, through Hideout Online. An iteration of his long-running live series, The Grelley Duvall Show, the special had Grelle and guests singing, dancing, and highlighting incredible performances by women by recreating scenes from the VHS tapes he grew up watching—the special was later for sale as a VHS itself. Now one year later he’s taking what he learned from filming and producing that first special from home and making it even bigger with grelley., streaming once again through Hideout Online on Saturday, May 29 at 8 PM.
When I caught up with Grelle on Zoom to talk about the show, he logged on with a filter giving him a thick neon pink mustache and eyebrows. Though it turned out to be a tech glitch on his end, it almost barely registered with me because one of Grelle’s many gifts is seamlessly slipping in and out of any look, any character, any wig. And there are many wigs and costumes, thanks to Chris Tuttle and Keith Ryan—even a fake nose.
“I’m not really interested in doing Wizard of Oz or Death Becomes Her, those are pretty obvious ones. I want to put on a fake nose and do Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf,” Grelle says. “Something about Nicole Kidman in The Hours and having a fake nose on and winning the most prestigious award of all time is so funny to me that I just have to bring attention to it because it’s just ridiculous.”
The Hours scene is an example of something better suited for film than the stage. Grelle and crew went out to a farm in rural Wisconsin to shoot a music video parody about lesbian love—actors from the Hot Kitchen Collective wrote and performed alongside Grelle. For this project he was able to reach out to many more folks than would normally be able to join him on stage for the live show, including some dream collaborators like Nnamdï, who wrote and performed the special’s theme song, and Ike Holter, who wrote the show’s monologues.
Grelle is still thinking of ways to incorporate some kind of live performance into the special in the future, like a drive-in screening with a live opening number. It’s the immediate reaction from the audience and the energy that brings that he’s missed most over the last year. But there is something to be said for creating yet another special that can (and Grelle says will) live forever on a VHS, like the collection of tapes that not only inspired the show but brought him much-needed comfort.
“A lot of what I do is important to me because of nostalgia and like the happiness that it brings me,” Grelle says. “That’s what I needed in quarantine.” v