Dennis Porter brings immersive improv to KC with Ruby’s High School Reunion

Audience members interact with Ruby at a performance of Ruby's High School Reunion

Audience members are brought into the scene with Ruby. // Courtesy of Dennis Porter.

Dennis Porter’s improvised audience-participation drag show, Ruby’s High School Reunion, is coming to The Westport Bowery Feb. 23 and 24. This is the second production after the show’s premiere in Lawrence this past October.

The show is staged as if it were a real high school reunion and everyone in attendance went to high school together, regardless of the age difference between performers and audience members. The entire show’s company and the audience embody the fantasy together for an evening of improvised fun.

“There is definitely no fourth wall there,” Porter says of Ruby’s High School Reunion. “During the show, we interact by getting to know and catching up with people we went to high school with, so people in the audience become characters.”

Though this is only the second staging of Ruby’s High School Reunion, Porter is no stranger to live performances. According to Porter, he was paid to do improv with Comedy City for over 15 years, has been a clown for over 30 years, has performed as a magician, and was Radio Disney’s emcee/deejay for their live events in Kansas City for several years. He also produced and performed in his drag/clown show, Cirque du Gay, at KC Fringe Festival.

These days, Porter owns and operates Happy Faces Entertainment as a way to showcase his variety of live entertainment skills. Happy Faces Entertainment hosts interactive and immersive events, including programs for kids such as “Super Friends to the Rescue” and “Under the Big Top,” and programs for teenagers and adults, including “Say What,” “Mad Skillz,” and live murder mystery shows through KC Mystery Players. Happy Faces Entertainment programs are often brought into schools, workplaces, and other communities as team-building exercises.

Porter’s drag persona, Ruby Hellena Basket, was born from one of the murder mystery shows around 15 years ago, for which the company was short on female cast members. As a result, Dennis was put in drag for the first time. Porter fell in love with the character and developed Ruby from there.

Ruby Hellena Basket raises a glass.

Ruby Hellena Basket raises a glass to her high school reunion. // Courtesy of Dennis Porter.

“Ruby is the ‘sweet queen,’” Porter says. “We never put anybody down at all, which some humorists like to do.”

Porter privileges the audience’s involvement in all of his performances. Though his job is to make people laugh, he does not take responsibility lightly.

“My passion and goal in life are to make people smile and laugh,” Porter says. “I get to let people forget about the world for maybe a few seconds in a parade, maybe five minutes in a drag show, maybe an hour and a half during a theater performance, however long. They just get to forget about it, have some fun, laugh, and smile, and that’s what I’m here to do. And depending on the audience, it depends on how I do that.”

Ruby’s High School Reunion will run at The Westport Bowery on Thursday, Feb. 23, and Friday, Feb. 24, from 7-9 p.m. Tickets can be reserved online.

Categories: Theater