Dragalution – a drag revolution

(L to R) Marco Davis, Spencer Gotter, Cameron Wagner, David Drafall, Jessamyn Grace
(L to R) Marco Davis, Spencer Gotter, Cameron Wagner, David Drafall, Jessamyn Grace

Breaking down barriers . . . daring, deeelicious and just a little dirty.

January 26 • February 2
10pm (doors open 9:30)
Tickets at door only
$8, $5 in drag
Columbian Theater, Astoria

Apply foundation, and lots of it. Powder is next. Now apply wax to the brow, because soon to take its place is a new, higher brow, wielding one hell of an attitude, honey. Yes Girl, no . . . not two shades of eye shadow, at least three or four to be sure. Those five-inch heels will make you high as a “queen,” and your crowning glory, locks of gorgeous, big hair. “Ooooooh, let it go!!!”

Every theater role calls the performer to a transformation. DRAGALUTION creator/director Marco Davis implores, “Revolution!” As the “performance family” is getting trained in the finer details of stage drag; how to sashay down the isle, wave your index finger, and trip the light fantastic in a pair of stilettos, his fourth (in three years) consecutive extravaganza at the Columbian Theater coming soon, is not a conceptual homage to traditional drag performance, it is drag performance.

If you attended any of these shows, the last in June of 2011, The ERUPTION, you were part of a Bacchanalian-esque celebration performance production. Davis takes non-dancers, gives them choreography and balletic storyline, dance as symbol and imagery, and magic happens. “Magic” may not be the precise term here . . . but somewhere along the line the audience becomes a part of the theatrical “fourth wall.” Like when Mozart — portrayed in the film “Amadeus” after he performs “The Magic Flute” for the stuffy aristocrats — heads downtown, where his homeys have a whole other version going on, and their having a lot more fun.

As charismatic off-stage as on, long time, beloved local dance instructor/choreographer and tantalizing cook at the Columbian Café, Davis inspires people to “come-out.” It is his mantra. His past shows have included original sketches by numerous creative performing artists in the region; such as irresistible rapper Teresa Barnes of Fever Damn fame and her slightly bent “Annie” in the 2010 production “The Event,” and musical counterpart Andria Mazzarella (“The Eruption,” 2011) in a comedy version of “Like a Virgin” for which she pulls a gigantic seemingly impossible plastic bouquet out of her bosom . . . now that’s magic. And tattoo artist Chris Lee, (The Eruption) in his incredible choreographed quasi-break dance number that brought down the house.

As “THE EVENT” encompassed techno, jazz and pop covers, and various story themes, DRAGALUTION is a fully concepted show. Davis (as Drag Mother she is “Daylight C—- “ yes, that beautiful thing you do when you have an orgasm) has given family drag names of naughty innuendo to all performers. He’s written original songs, collaborating with local musician and sound recording artist Tyler Little. Find a sneak preview of the opening number, an exhilarating and pounding techno-declaration “I am,” on YouTube. In addition, substituted lyrics from familiar Broadway and pop numbers for example, express the trials and tribulations in a drag queen’s life. Song and dance numbers include trios and duets, and singer/dancers will lip sync to their own-recorded voices. Be it ironic gender theater or not; the show’s song and dance numbers encompass a wide range of expression from comic, to sexy, dirty, sweet, and inspiring.

As a performing member of the DRAGALUTION family (including numerous dancers back for a third show), conversations with inquisitives have erupted on the issue of women doing drag. Such as “So, the women are doing drag kings? Wait a minute, women in drag as women. What . . . how does that work?”

Entrée accentuated feminista!

“If everyone could get an ounce of strength that Drag Queens have, to go out against adversity, to go out there and be glorious – if we did that in our everyday life — just stepping out there be a little more colorful, and be more honest about who we are as individuals – I think that we can find a lot more happiness,” says Davis on the topic.

While certainly the drag king aspect isn’t ruled out in future endeavors, Davis was keen on developing this particular craft of hyper-feminine expression in our culture, and giving performers the opportunity to take it on as a process – for females to even counter-investigate a male persona to get in touch with their inner diva.

“For me, it’s been an opportunity to dig deep within my self and draw out sides that are more unseen. To look at what qualities I embody and am comfortable with in my daily life and become something more, bringing to life a more full self, a side with less fear and more strength,” says cast member Cameron Wagner (aka Jenna Tell’Ya). Wagner has experimented with drag persona outside the show, pushing the envelope of self-identity. “I’m learning that to shine and to let myself come out and be authentic, doesn’t mean that my ego grows. It’s quite the opposite. I feel more grateful and humble than ever for this time to be creative, to be playful and to see myself blossom. I’m loving every minute of it and am thankful to Daylight and all my sister Queens for their hard work and friendship in this unique unconventional journey.”

And while drag is a strong component of gay culture, male performers in the show, gay or not have risen to the opportunity to walk in different shoes. “A journey of a lifetime begins with a single step, they say. What they didn’t tell me is that that step wouldn’t include a set of sensible heels. These heels couldn’t be less sensible, honey! That’s what makes them great,” says Nicholas Wheeler (aka Anya Allnight).

Drag has been getting a lot of play in the Lower Columbia these days. The Astor Street Opry Co., has performed their Topsy Turvey version of “Shanghaied in Astoria” for several years running, providing an almost subversive yet hilarious form of entertainment. And the Astoria Downtown Assoc. actually recently won an award from the Oregon Main St. Association for “dragging” business men to the stage in their whacky fundraising event The Jane Barnes Revue, and raising a good amount of money to see what Chamber Director Skip Hauke looked like all “dolled-up.”

Are these productions breaking down barriers? Personally, I would say they are touching on the possibility, while the intention is pure entertainment, and there they do succeed. But what puts the revolution in Dragalution, is its realness. Dragalution is about owning it. Performer Miranda Rinks (aka Komina Sideja), has discovered, “I’m excited to be out of my comfort zone and in a spot light. I was a super tomboy throughout my early twenties and as I pranced through the theater in heels following and mirroring Mama Daylight (Marco) it seemed beautiful, fitting and wondrous that this lovable man was teaching me to be womanly. What a creative opportunity to become more myself, by being someone else entirely.”

Performer Spencer Gotter ( aka Inya Sotight ) speaks forthrightly, “Although this is my first show with Daylight, I’ve been dressing up as a girl since I was four and called myself Lindsey Baker. Even then I realized how comfortable women’s clothing was. I took 23 years off from dressing in drag but decided that Daylight’s show was the perfect time to have my unveiling as a drag queen,” and furthers, “I’m always looking for things in life that push the envelope of my comfort zone. I figured dressing up in drag would be one of those things. I’m sure that some people will be out of their comfort zone and maybe even offended. Nothing about this show has pushed my comfort zone. It is either a sign that I truly don’t care who you are or what you do that makes you a good human being, or that I have no shame in who I am or what I do in this life. Probably both. Daylight has proved yet again that love exists everywhere and that it is up to each of us to push the boundary and to be accepting.”

There isn’t anything that isn’t courageous about this show. Heading down to the Columbian Theater at 9:30pm during the weekday – as the theater clears after the nightly movie showing – takes a certain amount of it. Learning numerous dance numbers knowing you’re not a trained dancer, and just going for it, takes some courage. The dance moves are gloriously fun, doable, but they’ll work a girl. Especially when you’re the oldest Queen, the cast age ranging from 20’s to 50’s. But the joy of colliding with 10 other committed performers late at night, and doing it together creates a whole new version of vitality and love of being.

Jessamyn Grace (aka Amanda Blowhard) a professional belly dancer who probably comes with the most current background in dance speaks to her experience, “My life has often been dappled with non-conventional opportunities ranging from the animated to the introverted, and every time I’ve said ‘yes’ to each one I’ve been rewarded with personal growth. My experience with Dragalution is no exception. With each challenge I find I am supported by remarkable teachers – Marco, the cast, my character- all have shown me the importance of learning, trusting and laughing (and I mean really laughing). For me this show is very much about risk and love, the reciprocal relationship between the two, and being strong enough to embrace both without fear or hesitation.”

As the poster reads, “Explicit • 21 + Only. “We have been conditioned over time to think that these words are terrible and evil, full of hell fire and damnation, they are words – we need to stop making them so violent,” remarks Davis. And, they’re simply going to make you laugh, open up your boundaries, and possibly reprioritize what you should really take serious in your life.

The poster also says, you’ll pay $5 if you’re in drag. “People have been asking me what to do for drag, in regards to dressing up to come to the show, and I say, look inside yourself and take that part of you that you are afraid to share about yourself and dress it up and make it sparkle,” says Davis.

“What I find so incredible is the strength it takes to step outside of your comfort zone and present a larger than life alternate version of who you are, what your inner drag queen is. I feel that if we were all able to tap into that aspect of our lives a little more frequently and honestly and let our friends see other aspects of who we are, that we would live in a much richer, kinder and colorful world. We have to cast aside our fears of being judged by our peers and families and allow our souls breath and light. We can’t keep it hidden away. Share your inner queen and lets laugh together a little more. We are worth it!”

Thank you Mother Daylight for your wisdom and so generously creating a stage for us, Sister Queens and to our audience, so much love. Now lets get ready for a DRAGALUTION!

– Sofanda Dykes