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The Dolls’ demise: Venerable drag troupe calling it quits after 20 years

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This weekend marks the end of The Dolls, Albuquerque’s favorite drag troupe for the past 20 years.

Rikki Carroll (Samantha) and Kenneth Ansloan (Endora) star in “Bewitched, Bothered and Belittled.” (SOURCE: Russell Maynor)

Lead actor, director and writer Kenneth Ansloan has decided to call it quits after helming the troupe alone for the past 10 years. “Bewitched: Bothered and Belittled,” playing at the Experimental Theatre X at the University of New Mexico, through today is its final show.

“It’s just too much for one person,” Ansloan said. “Dealing with all the theatrical personalities – I just can’t deal with it anymore.”

A different version of the troupe may evolve from the demise of the Dolls sometime later this year, he said. But for now, those years of satire, stilettos and satin are over.

Known for their wicked sense of humor, The Dolls germinated in 1997 with Ansloan (drag name Tequila Mockingbyrd) and his late partner, Matthew Bubb (drag name Geneva Convention).

“We wrote all the plays and produced them,” Ansloan said. “After he passed away, I threw myself into it.”

Their Albuquerque Social Club debut came with “Love and Let Love.”

“We called ourselves the Dolls for ‘The Valley of the Dolls,’ our favorite trash movie,” Ansloan said. ” ‘Love and Let Love’ was the name of the first Patty Duke movie.

“It was a huge hit,” Ansloan said. “We had to extend it for three weeks.”

Next they moved to the KiMo Theatre.

“Everybody was like, ‘You’re crazy,’ ” Ansloan said. “A gay bar is one thing, but you’re not going to make mainstream theater.

“We ended up selling out. That was the first of the Joan Crawford-Marilyn Monroe Christmas shows.”

The troupe milked that theme for seven years, producing a Crawford-Monroe version of “A Christmas Carol,” a “Waikiki Christmas,” and “A Martian Christmas.”

“Each year it was something catastrophic for their TV show,” Ansloan said.

They also staged Dolls versions of “The Bad Seed,” “Auntie Mame,” “All About Christmas Eve,” and “Lullaby of Broadway.” Along the way, they produced “Dolls in Toyland,” “The Valley of the Queens,” “Gunfight at the Diva Corral,” “Disco Dracula,” “Malice in Wonderland” and “Murders in the Drag Morgue.” In 2007, they staged “Revolting Drag Queens – The Story of Stonewall.”

At first, the audience was half-gay and half-straight. Today it’s 90 percent straight, Ansloan said.

“As it got bigger, there were conflicts,” he continued. “We went from being the center of the gay community to … I don’t do club shows anymore. I want to just do theater shows. Because of that, we lost a lot of the gay audience.”

For a time, Ansloan was producing monthly variety shows. For two years, he helmed a local TV production called “Dollicious” that aired on Channel 27.

He’s ready for a change.

He wants to write a play that can be performed sans music royalties so he can sell it commercially.

“Not all our shows will be drag-oriented,” Ansloan said. “I think we will reconvene after a long rest (because) it’s very much who defines me. It’s been joyful.

“I’m excited. And I know this weekend I’m going to be emotional.”

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