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The Night the Lights Went Out in Tokyo

by Steve Desroches

It’s the 1960s and Tokyo is in full-on groovy go-go boots swing. The mild mannered Mrs. Midorikawa is living a double life as Black Lizard, a glamorous international jewel thief. She’s kidnapped the daughter of a wealthy jeweler demanding he hand over the Star of Egypt, a priceless diamond, as ransom. In swoops Kogoro Yaegashi, a detective with a previously perfect record in solving crimes and locking evil villains away. But can he withstand the irresistible charms and fabulous fashion sense of the Black Lizard? Or will Black Lizard seduce him and keep both him and the heiress as her own personal sex slaves as she polishes the diamond in her dungenous lair on her own secret island?!

It’s fair to say this all sounds like a mash-up of Austin Powers and James Bond movies put through a psychedelic blender where, instead of Godzilla, it’s the glitzy Black Lizard that takes over Tokyo. It’s the narrative to Japanese playwright Yukio Mishima’s 1962 camp classic The Black Lizard, which is being presented as a staged reading at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, which this year explores the friendship, and subsequent mutual influence, between Mishima and Williams. And to pull off this ferocious tale of a fork-tongued crime boss, the Festival is bringing actor James Yaegashi to play the detective with drag queen Yuhua Hamasaki as the notorious Black Lizard.

“It’s sort of like me as a drag queen, as I have my persona in drag and I have my persona out of drag,” says Hamasaki from her home in New York City. “It’s just like Black Lizard. She has two personas, too.”

Inviting Hamasaki to play the lead is very much in keeping with a tradition set by the 1968 Japanese film adaptation directed by Kinji Fukasaku in which drag queen Akihiro Miwa played the title character, propelling the movie to international cult classic status. For over a decade Hamasaki has been an in-demand performer in New York, wracked up drag pageant titles like Miss Fire Island, and appeared on Saturday Night Live with Katy Perry in a drag-ensconced performance of “Swish Swish,” which introduced the dance craze “flossing” to the country.

Hamasaki was already on a trajectory toward drag stardom when she received the proverbial golden ticket from the drag-queen Willy Wonka: an invitation to join the cast of season 10 of the international television phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race. We might be living in a digital age where the ability to promote oneself is unprecedented with social media, YouTube, and the like, but to date little beats television screen time, especially for drag queens, who were previously limited to quick cameos as murder victims or humiliating turns on daytime talk shows. Thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race things have changed completely and the opportunities continue to expand for drag performers. Thus when Hamasaki received the call from the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival to take on the role of Black Lizard, she squealed with delight at all the good things coming her way.

“It’s been amazing,” says Hamasaki. “I’ve been doing drag for quite a while, but it’s a completely different ballgame now. I get to go all kinds of places I’ve never been, like Provincetown. It’s been empowering and also a reminder to not take life too seriously and enjoy it all.”

Born in Guangzhou, China, Hamasaki immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of seven, settling in New York. She kept her birth name, but added Hamasaki as her nom du drag in honor of Ayumi Hamasaki, a Japanese pop star known as the “Empress of J-pop.” Hamasaki incorporates a variety of influences from Asian cultures into her drag aesthetic. And as she prepares for her turn as Black Lizard, Hamasaki is taking bad ass boss tips from watching Malaysian superstar Michelle Yeoh, particularly known for her roles in Memoirs of a Geisha; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; and Crazy Rich Asians, as well as watching classic Japanese and Chinese films with ferocious “divas and villainesses.” In these stories, and in turn the cultures they come from, women, even when being evil, are also expected to be motherly and nurturing, says Hamasaki. That can come in quite handy when trying to disarm an opponent, she adds.

Shedding and shredding stereotypes is something endemic to drag, even if at times it uses them as a comedic device by dressing them up in glittering hyperbole. The night before the staged reading of The Black Lizard at Town Hall, Hamasaki will present her solo drag cabaret show at the Crown and Anchor, giving Provincetown audiences a chance to see why New York magazine listed her as one of the top “100 Most Powerful Drag Queens in America” and packs houses all over the world from Montreal to London and Vienna to Tokyo. The show is a fast-paced drag telling of her story as an immigrant pursuing her own American Dream.

“It’s about growing up queer in a masculine dominated culture and finding my place in the LGBTQ community,” says Hamasaki. “It’s about people learning to love what’s good about themselves. It’s a fun way to say F. U. to all the bullshit in life. If I can find a way to have fun and laugh at it all, so can you!”

Yahua Hamasaki appears in The Black Lizard on Sunday, September 29 at 10:30 a.m. at Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial St. Hamasaki presents Yuhua Comes To Town! on Friday, September 27 at 10:30 p.m. at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St.  Tickets ($45/ $22.50 students for The Black Lizard and $25 for Yuhua Comes To Town!) are available at the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival box office at 368-B Commercial St. and online at For more information call 866.789.TENN.

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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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