A New Normal in “Fringe Fest is Such a Drag”
by Arson Nicki
“Drag is traditionally performed late at night in bars to a majority-queer audience that is usually full of loud and intoxicated people. So why bring this genre of performance to a (probably) sober crowd that will most likely watch silently and politely in the TPS Blackbox, where one of our shows will take place at 4:30 in the afternoon?
The short answer: it’s all a mutually beneficial relationship.
I would be willing to bet that the typical audience member at the Seattle Fringe Festival has never seen a drag artist in person before. If they have, it was most likely the kind of drag that involves jewels, sequins, big hair, and lip syncs to Cher songs. There is nothing wrong with that kind of drag, but that is not the only kind that exists out there. Alternative styles of drag performance have been on the rise in the queer clubs of Seattle, and I’m excited to show and expose this artistic movement to a brand new audience.
It’s also going to be fun to see these performers work outside of their natural habitats. Longtime drag fans are familiar with conventions such as tipping, immediately cheering when you find something exciting, etc. In typical theatre environments, audience members do not carry wadded-up dollar bills to hand to performers they like, and are usually expected to remain as quiet as possible during performances. The positive or negative feedback is typically immediate at any other drag show, so I’m excited to see how our performers handle that challenge.
Finally, I’m excited to present drag as a legitimate and valid performance practice. This goal is currently the linchpin of all my work in drag. Our work is constantly looked down upon by purveyors of “higher” art forms as inferior. As a queer theatre maker who has heard every possible version of “that’s too gay” from supposedly progressive co-creators, this doesn’t surprise me. What a lot of people don’t realize is that drag can do anything any other performance form does. Drag is political action. Drag opens and changes minds. Drag showcases bodies of all types that move beautifully. Drag can show you something you’ve never seen before. Drag has the ability to break your heart and put it back together again. Drag can make you scream with laughter.
Don’t believe me? Come to our show and I’ll show you what I mean.”