May O’Nays interacts with a young audience member in Won’t You Be My May-Bor? Photo: ATL

Won’t You Be My May-Bor?

By Andrew Newton Schaftlein & Eric Sharp
Directed by Emily Tarquin
Presented by Drag Daddy Productions

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Fred Rogers is an icon of children’s television and May O’Nays is an icon of local theatre, so there is an underlying logic to having May step into Roger’s shoes. At least that is part of the idea behind Won’t You Be My May-Bor? 

Emphasizing the small-scale environment, the premise is that we are all, May O’Nays and the audience, in an escape room modeled on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Not unexpectedly, there is audience participation of a modest but comprehensive scale, meaning no one is left out but almost none are embarrassed. Name tags, signs with color shapes, and some costume action take place and are integral to the story,

Andrew Newton Schaftlein and Eric Sharp have created and shaped a series of May O’Nays theatrical experiences in which the character becomes a lens on past popular culture and its relationship to the present. They are not conventional plays but interactive formats that break down the barriers between stage and audience. This being a riff on Fred Rogers’ particular brand of children’s entertainment, it plays to the child in all of us, and several young ones in the audience squealed with delight and eagerly engaged with May O’Nays. 

In keeping with the Mister Rogers aesthetic, solving the escape room challenges involves emotional honesty and community building. There is nothing offensive here unless you object to the very idea of drag performance and if protestors had shown up, the audience was so joyfully engaged that I daresay they would have immediately risen in defense of the show and its star.  

In my experience, children respond enthusiastically to drag identity much in the fashion of a clown but arguably less frightening. I have never heard anyone track the lineage of drag by connecting it to the history of clowning yet similarities to something like Commedia dell’arte are not so far-fetched. The exaggerated appearance that May O’Nays builds, a pink pinafore party dress and an oversized wig of blond curls spilling out from either side of a pink crash helmet, is arguably clownish but the performance has great dignity, and May’s personality beautifully draws children’s trust. 

Drag Daddy Productions’ mission is to show us drag apart from the cliche nightclub burlesque that might still be most people’s first image when you hear the word. In May O’ Nays it has found an ideal representative in that expansion of understanding. An accomplished actor in Louisville theatre for several years, she is uniquely equipped to explore such multi-faceted concepts as a deconstruction of Anita Bryant’s role in pop culture (Anita Do-Over), or Fred Rogers’, and when cast in different roles (Chicken Coop Theatre’s Ruthless: The Musical) delivers additional levels of context.

With Won’t You Be My May-Bor? both Actors Theatre and Drag Daddy Production benefit from this unique performer’s presence. Schaftlein and Sharp are on to something here, and I, for one, am anxious to see what comes next.

Won’t You Be My May-Bor?

May 31- June 8, 2024

Drag Daddy Productions & Actors Theater of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Keith Waits
 is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA on WXOX 97.1 FM /, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music, and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for