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"...if you're going to ask me what the most important thing is, what I couldn't live without, I couldn't live without [Chrisanne]..."
-- A. Billings (excerpt from Gregg Shapiro's interview)

“Youth is wasted on the young.”
- W.C.Fields

Born in Inglewood California, since the age of 5, Alexandra has been involved with the theatre. Her Father, Robert Billings, was a music teacher at Harbor College in Los Angeles, and was the musical director for the L.A. Civic Light Opera House for almost 20 years. During this time, Alexandra’s summers were filled with big, splashy musicals and loud, raucous cast parties. By the age of 10, she was not only convinced theatre was in her blood, she knew how to make a dry martini for anyone on the block. Her mother, a teacher for all of her adult life, eventually re-married and with her brother in tow, took the kids and her husband to Chicago Illinois where the winter is 10 months long and nobody surfs. Her summers though from the age of 10, consisted of flying back and forth to California to be with her father and the various luminaries and occasional musical theatre queens that made up her youth.

Her novice years included shows with Carol Burnette (Once Upon A Mattress), Yul Brynner (The King and I), Sandy Duncan (Peter Pan), and appearances in everything from “The Fantasticks” to “Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of The Crowd”. Working backstage as well as on stage gave Alexandra the notion of what theatre really was: Hard work, Dedication, and lots of eyeliner.

“I’d rather be Black then Gay, because when you’re Black you don’t have to tell your mother.”
–Charles Pearce

Alexandra discovered the Drag Scene in the early 80’s. She started her career out as Shanté at the now defunct Club Victoria in Chicago. She also worked at: Club 219 (Milwaukee Wisconsin), La Cage (Chicago), The Inn, located in beautiful downtown Pal Waukee…where the cows don’t ever come home, and eventually landed a job at the famed Baton Show Lounge. She was a Baton Girl for almost 5 years. During these years, Shanté went on to win Miss Wisconsin, Miss New York, Miss Chicago, Miss Illinois, and was the first Chicago performer in the history of the pageant to win the coveted Miss Florida contest. She entered the legendary Miss Continental pageant four times, and lost them all. She became known as the Eternal First Runner Up. Since that time, Mr. Jim Flint (owner and proprietor of the pageant) has asked her to be a judge for Miss Continental since 2002. She has been honored to do so when her schedule permits.

“Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade.
With it, it becomes creation.”
-Bette Davis

Ms. Billings’ first professional play in Chicago was in 1987. She starred in Charles Busch’s “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom”, which premiered at the Royal George Theatre, and won her an After Dark Award for Best Actress in a comedy. Afterward, she made a string of comedies including “Hamlet- The Musical” (which would run forever, over and over, and over, and became known as the Musical That Wouldn’t Die), and “Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack” at Torso Theatre, which she starred in for almost 5 years. Then, in 1993 she offered a play to director Chrisanne Blankenship called “Gertrude Stein and a Companion. David Zak, Artistic Director of the Bailiwick Theatre, then asked her be a part of a new musical called “Son Of Fire” written by Christopher Moore, playing Chieko Shima. She then performed in “Death Defying Acts” (After Dark Award for Best Ensemble) and, prompted by a suggestion of Mr. Zak’s, and with the help of brilliant director Mary Beidler Gearen, her one woman autobiographical piece “Before I Disappear” was produced, and eventually toured to Boston, to The Producer’s Club Off-Broadway and eventually to The Avery Schrieber Theater in North Hollywood California in 2006.

She went on to star as Joy in “Shadowlands” (again, directed by Ms. Blankenship), Marion in “I Came To New York To Write” at the Organic, The Mother Abbess in “The Adventures of Herculina”, at Next and Frederico Lorca’s “The Public” for Streetsigns at The Chopin. She also appeared in “Tour De Farce” at both Wisdom Bridge and The Apollo, and one of her favorite roles; a live stage version of “101 Dalmatians”, as villainess Cruella DeVille.

In late 1996, she landed a pivotal role in Charles Mee’s “Time to Burn” at the Steppenwolf Theatre. She was also cast in “Space” and “Berlin Circle”. All three shows were directed by acclaimed Broadway director Tina Landau. In 1997, along with her fellow cast of “Time To Burn”, she received a Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Ensemble. All 3 shows went on to appear in Time magazine’s Top 10 Shows of the Year. She then landed the role of Mrs. Lynde in Ingmar Bergman’s version of “A Dolls’ House” called “Nora” which co starred Kate Collins and ran at The Court Theatre. In 1999 she was cast in Larry Kramer’s pivotal AIDS piece, “Just Say No” playing Nancy Regan to Gregg Louganis’ “Jr”. Larry and Alexandra shared a great love and admiration for each other, and an even greater love and admiration for medium rare cheeseburgers.

That year she shared the cover of The Advocate with Mr. Louganis, she had a feature in POZ magazine, and she was chosen as one of the Chicago Tribune’s
Top 10 People of the Year.

In 2000, Ms. Billings starred in a live stage version of “Xena” called “Xena! Live!” at the About Face Theatre in Chicago. She then lived out a childhood fantasy, and was cast as Rose in “Gypsy” directed by her old pal David Zak, and performed at the Bailiwick Theatre. In 2001 she played misunderstood and fabulously dressed Margot Channing in “Applause” for Healthworks Theatre at The Apollo, and received another After Dark Award for Best Actress. She then portrayed Perry in Jamie Pachino’s world premiere: “Waving Goodbye” for Naked Eye and produced at the Steppenwolf Studio. Directly after, she was asked to tag along with Michael Thomas and Jeff Richmond in a remount of “Hamlet-The Musical” (see: The Musical That Wouldn’t Die) to play at the Ars Nova Theatre for a 3 month Off Broadway run. She then returned to Chicago, to portray Ruth in “Pirates of Penzance” for Light Opera Works, directed by Tony Award winning actor Lara Teeter.

Before moving to LA, Alexandra was thrilled to have the unofficial “Summer of Alex” at Shakespeare Theater in Chicago where she starred in “The Princess and The Pea” playing evil Queen Evermean, while at the same time portraying another Nun in Shakespeare’s “Comedy of Errors.” Having made the move to La La Land, she found the producers nice enough to ask her back for the next summer as “The Amazing Maizie’ in “Seussical The Musical”.

In 2006, she finished a brief run of “Stilettos, Circus, and Soul” at The Northlight Theater alongside The Midnight Circus, Grammy winning recording artist Mars Williams, piano virtuoso Russ Long, and insanely gifted nut burger Mitchell Fain.

You know what? You got spunk. I HATE spunk!”
–Lou Grant

In late fall of 2003 Alexandra filmed her first Television Movie for ABC- TV: “Romy and Michelle-A New Beginning.” She then made Television history by being the first Transgendered Female to play a Transgendered Female character on Television.

Soon after, she was cast as the nasty Transsexual with a heart of gold on the now defunct “Karen Sisco.” which has since been rerun on TBS. Every five or ten minutes, actually. In 2004 she filmed an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” which won a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Episode. She’s also appeared on “E.R.”, and filmed the pilot “Nurses” for ABC playing opposite one of her childhood idols, Lynn Redgrave.

In 2007 she completed her first film “Socket” directed by her old Chicago pal Sean Abley and completed a pilot for F/X directed by gorgeous Ryan Murphy and co starring Joseph Fiennes and Blythe Danner called “Pretty/Handsome”.

“If you want a bourgeois existence, you shouldn't be an actor. You're in the wrong profession.”
–Uta Hagen

Having lived in Los Angeles since 2004, Ms. Billings has still found time for stage work between close ups. Luckily, getting older doesn’t reflect as harshly from 50 feet away. She has portrayed Princess Puffer in a production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” at Sacred Fools Theater, Fagin in a new rock version of Oliver Twist simply called “Twist” at The Avery Schreiber, and in 2007 she portrayed Whore Clown in a live version of a Felini classic called “Il Bidone” at The Bootleg in Hollywood.

In 2008, Alexandra found herself once again in the “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom” driver’s seat with a special two evening performance at The Bootleg. Everything comes full circle.

 “Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of somebody else.”
- Judy Garland

Alexandra’s nightclub act has traveled from Chicago to New York, to Santa Fe New Mexico, to Palm Springs. Sometimes all in one evening. In her hometown she has sung at the Park West, The Cultural Center, Pops For Champagne, The Gentry (on Rush, State, and Halsted Streets), Piano Man, The Royal George Cabaret, Toulouse on the Park, Davenports, Andy’s, and at The Empire Room for the Chicago leg of Donald Smith’s Cabaret Convention.

She’s shared the stage with Amanda McBroom, David Friedman, Stephen Schwartz, Hollis Resnik, Sue Conaway, Nan Mason, the vivacious Honey West, John Herrera, Julie Wilson, Audrey Morris, and the groovy, hip, and swingin’ Karen Mason. In 2000, she won the After Dark Award for Outstanding Cabaret Artist of the Year. In New York she could be seen at Eighty Eights, Don’t Tell Mama’s, and at Arci’s Place for Cabaret on the Record. In 2002, she received the New York MAC Hanson Award, for New Cabaret Artist. She was thrilled to be over 40, and be called “new”.

Her first CD; Being Alive, was produced by Lampkin Music, and recorded at Southport Records in Chicago. It was on the top ten on for a record 10 weeks, and was up for Grammy consideration for that year.

In 2003, she recorded her second CD live at The Theatre Building Chicago. This was prompted by her producer, and friend of 120 years, the unstoppable Ralph Lampkin. The CD is titled “The Story Goes On” and is again produced by Lampkin Music, with musical direction by Russ Long. The CD is now available.

“A rose, is a rose, is a rose, is a rose….”
- Gertrude Stein

Alexandra is a Viewpoints Associate at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, as well as an Artistic Associate at the Bailiwick Theatre and About Face company member. Most summers, since 1999, she has been fortunate enough to teach Viewpoints alongside Tina Landau and Kim Rubenstien at the Steppenwolf School. She has also taught Viewpoints at Louis University, The University of Chicago, Illinois University, for the Illinois Theatre Convention, as well as at Act One, and various Master classes and workshops around the Chicago area.

In 2008 she finished a Viewpoints workshop for The University of California. Since 2003 Alexandra has taught Viewpoints in Los Angeles with The Steppenwolf West, along with Tom Irwin, Shannon Cochran, Jeff Perry, Laurie Metcalf, and Emmy Award winning casting director Linda Lowry.

“If you have 6,000 possibilities, 3 of them are going to work. I guarantee it.”

-Alexandra Billings

As an interesting side note, it is thought that almost every role played by her on stage, has been the only time they’ve ever been recreated by a Transgendered actress in the history of theatre.