Opening next year, Dorian’s Closet will explore the life and legend of Dorian Corey, the female impersonator immortalized in Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning.
While Paris presented Corey as a grand dame of the New York ball scene—with legendary one-liners and a lesson in “shade”—she’s perhaps just as (in)famous for the mummified body discovered in her closet after she died.
Investigators determined the badly decomposed corpse was that of Robert Worley, who was last seen in 1968.
Clues found with the body (vintage beer can lids) suggested that he had been dead for at least 15 years, but no one who had socialized or lived with Dorian during that time ever recalled her mentioning Worley, let alone confessing to killing him.
Some of Corey’s fellow drag queens speculated that Corey had shot Worley during a failed robbery. However, a reporter for New York Magazine was able to dig up some clues as to their relationship: Worley’s brother Fred claimed that Bobby had called him while drunk, and rambled extensively to someone named “Dorian,” having apparently fought with her.
Lois Taylor also told the reporter that Dorian had written a short story about a transgender woman who killed her lover in revenge after he pressured her to have a sex change. However, without any kind of firsthand testimony from either Corey or Worley, it seems that the mystery of how he died—and how he ended up in her closet—will never be solved.
With book and lyrics by Richard Mailman and music by Ryan Haase, Dorian’s Closet premieres April 26, 2017 at Rep Stage in Columbia, Maryland.
Director Joseph Ritsch says he was intrigued by the mystery surrounding Worley and Corey. “There is a whole bunch of theories trying to explain it. [Mailman] is exploring his fantasies about what really happened and why.”
Ritsch insists Dorian’s Closet “is not a musical version of the documentary,” but her Paris is Burning quips are ready-made for show-stopping musical numbers.
“From Dorian’s early days touring the drag circuits of the 1970s, through her rise in the underground club scene in New York City in the 1980s and beyond, Dorian’s Closet takes us on a musical journey that explores just how far we will go to make our dreams a reality,” reads show’s description.
For ticket information, visit the Rep Stage website.