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A Star on a Schwinn

by Steve Desroches

Commercial Street is like a live wire. It reverberates with an energy all its own. At the height of the summer season it’s like walking through a pinball machine with music and laughter, lights and spectacles of all kinds competing for your attention. It can overwhelm as much as it delights. It’s quite the accomplishment to stand out on Commercial Street, but it’s an entirely different feat to become an icon. And rising above the din and distractions is a flowing shock of colors with a towering hat zipping through the summer crowds on a pink Schwinn. It’s Scarbie, who for 13 seasons now has been delighting audiences with her show Lip-Schtick: One Boy’s Journey to Fabulous and Back.

Created and portrayed by David Mitchell, the character of Scarbie has become more than just one of the beloved entertainers in Provincetown. He’s developed a devoted fan base that really identifies with the messages of love, acceptance, and community inherent in the show. How the show became such a hit is unique, even for a town like Provincetown, which over its history has seen all kinds of live performances. But Scarbie really became a phenomenon via a nontraditional route others have tried and failed.

Mitchell never set out to create a drag persona that appeared female, but rather a “sophisticated clown,” as he’s a man that simply likes to play dress up. For several years he’d appeared at Showgirls, the beloved Provincetown tradition that gives stage time to any and all acts, and then a few one-night-only shows here and there. But it was when Scarbie moved to the black box theater downstairs at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House that things really took off, surprising even the most casual observer of the Provincetown performance scene. After all, the venue has no box office or bar, there was no established business to help promote the show, and getting people into a house of worship for a night out on the town—this town—seemed daunting. And this is all in the era of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But Scarbie is a bona fide success, defying all skeptics, as she packs the house night after night with her show that touches the hearts and minds of her audience as much as it entertains.

“It’s so rewarding,” says Mitchell. “Any stage actor will tell you there is just nothing like that connection with people. Having people come out of a show feeling the connection that comes from creating a mutual environment for 90 minutes that will never exist again. It’s exhilarating.”

Scarbie presents seven characters throughout the show as well as herself as vehicle to share Mitchell’s uplifting story of self-acceptance and growing up gay with a supportive family. But there is an undeniable universality to the story that elevates the show to almost a ministry of compassion and joy. In some way or another we’ve all felt on the outside or alone. Once we acknowledge that we can create space for each other. Scarbie reveals a vulnerability on stage through storytelling, music, and comedy in a way the deeply resonates with her audiences, so much so that many return, not just several times a summer, but even over a single, week-long vacation.

While Craig and Cindy Nassar love all the types of shows Provincetown has to offer, and they see them all whenever they visit, Scarbie is the one they make certain to see whenever their visiting Cape Cod from their home in Tucson, Arizona. With a home in Sandwich, the Nassars decided to take a chance and go see the show after chatting with Scarbie as she barked on her bicycle one day on Commercial Street, as they were so enchanted by Scarbie’s warmth and personality. Ten years later, they have seen the show every year since and make it a point to take any friends or family that visit them out to Provincetown to see Scarbie, as Craig says he loves to watch the reaction of newbies to the show.

“We always have such a fun time when we go,” says Nassar. “I love the story. Besides it being really funny, it’s heartfelt. Its just so real.”

Lip-Schtick is the one show in Provincetown that they know they can take everyone in the family, from age 12 to 80, to see, and everyone will have a good time. And not just because of the show’s material, but the other audience members, too, as Scarbie creates a fun and special space right from the beginning. Actually, it begins on the street, as not only does Scarbie connect with the crowd, but so does Mitchell’s husband Richard White, who sells tickets, making it a family affair.

No name exists for Scarbie’s fans, like Dead Heads or Parrot Heads who love the Grateful Dead and Jimmy Buffet, but the devotion is the same as Scarbie taps into the best of the Provincetown spirit, where not only is everyone is welcome, but everyone means it and works to make that community commitment felt.

Wellfleetian Jean Alitz Sagara had heard of Scarbie’s show both having seen her on Commercial Street and from a friend who works at the UU Meeting House. But it was several years ago, shortly after her dog died and she was dealing with the grief, that she received a note from Mitchell and White with tickets for a whale watch and for Scarbie’s show to help try and comfort her. That random act of kindness, exhibited to a complete stranger from two other strangers, and then finding it on display in a comedic and earnest stage show made Segara a fan for life. She sees the show at least twice a summer.

“It was just out of the blue,” says Segara. “It was just an act of kindness, one that I needed. It’s that kindness that I’ve seen ever since. The show is funny, but it’s clear that he cares about everybody. He just embraces people. He takes away a lot of the barriers on subjects, ones that we may not talk about or know about, and makes it fun. That’s what I love about that person. He shows genuine sincerity.”

Scarbie presents Lip-Schtick: One Boy’s Journey to Fabulous and Back at the UU Meeting House, 236 Commercial St. Thursday through Sunday at 8:30 p.m. Tickets ($20) are available at the door, from Scarbie on pink bicycle, and online at For more information call 508.487.2829.

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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