Austin International Drag Festival Recap!

Hey kings, queens, and in-betweens. I was super frickin’ honored to be a part of the Austin International Drag Festival this past weekend in Austin, TX. We’re talking four days of workshops, panels, shows, and some sickening-ass drag. Curious about how things went down? Read on.

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It was such a pleasure to finally meet performers that I’ve been stalking on Instagram for ages: the inspiring gender-blender Goldie Peacock, out of Brooklyn, NY; badass boi wonders Switch ‘n Play, Brooklyn’s premier drag king troupe; sharp-witted bio queen bad bitch Wendy Ho; and the unique live-singing visionary Ryan Stecken, among many, many others.

Easily the best part of any festival like this is getting the chance to see different performers’ unique takes on drag. There were tons of different styles: slick, masculine drag kings and exotic, feminine queens next to funky art genderfuck on the same stage as dark, goth sleaze-drag. I even met another king who regularly performs in heels (shout out Colin Acumen!) and got to exchange ‘Ni Haos’ with Taiwanese stud muffin Wang Newton.

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Wang Newton and Colin Acumen

The thing about this festival is that it’s huge. There are hundreds of performers from all over the world. It’s great because there’s something for everybody, although multiple simultaneous shows meant that it was hard to catch all of the performances I wanted to see. That said, I still had a fabulous time presenting three acts in two different showcases: my Money-inspired angle grinder act, my Soldier Boy act, and my French Fop.

Oh, and let’s talk about this for a second: at performances in the US, people tip!

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DOLLAR DOLLAR BILLS Y’ALL

So while I saw tons and tons of amazing drag at the fest, here are five artists and acts that really stood out to me (in no particular order):

  • Erika Clash’s Mommy Dearest tribute

Anime/Gaymer queen Erika Clash of Bronx, NY slayed me with her freaky geek-chic style. On Friday, I got the chance to watch her get a ghostly ass-whooping to a mash-up of Ariana Grande’s “Break Free” with clips from Mommy Dearest. I loved how provocative and cheeky the act was in addition to her insane styling. Definitely going to keep an eye on her work in the future!

  • Sammy Silver’s Sexy Robot

Let it be known: drag king Sammy Silver can dance. Not only dance, but bring the whole damn house down with his moves. This king was friendly, down-to-earth, and a little soft-spoken which is why my jaw hit the floor when I saw him perform about ten different dance styles in a row as part of an act where he was a programmable dance robot. Well done, Sammy.

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  • Crimson Kitty’s ASPCA Parody

Let’s take it back a few years ago. You’re sitting in your living room, watching TV, enjoying a nice night in… when on comes Sarah McLachlan and a host of sad-eyed puppies ready to ruin your entire damn day. Remember that? Crimson Kitty does. This amazing female drag queen from NY stepped on stage to perform a live adoption ad for herself in a leopard-print catsuit. Hilarious and brilliant, Crimson Kitty proved that great drag is great regardless of gender.

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  • Maximum Capacity and Flare’s Gay Sailor Duet

So my love for Canadian kings Flare and Maximum Capacity has almost certainly reached stalker levels. I can’t help it– they are a sexy pair of kings! They charmed me out of a few dollar bills with a duet between two randy sailors set to *NSYNC’s “Tearin’ Up My Heart.” I loved this act because not only for its adorable synchronized dance moves but because of how subtly political it is. In the US, LGBT servicemen and -women were only recently granted the explicit right to serve as openly queer despite a history of extremely competent, highly-decorated service. This act was charming, precious, and hot all at once, with great chemistry between the two performers. (Check out a Game of Thrones-themed version of the same act below.)

  • Colin Acumen’s Hot Caulk

Self-styled “Princess King” Colin Acumen of Milwaukee, WI, USA killed me with his tongue-in-cheek display of free-flowing caulk. Caulk all over. Covered in caulk. (“I’m just surprised nobody has done this before,” he told me while we were talking shop.) Colin, you stumbled on a gold mine. This act featured a construction worker getting down and dirty, culminating an explosive finale featuring… tons of caulk. So good!

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Colin’s caulk (with a little help from Max Capacity)

In closing, I’m already thinking about the acts I’m going to bring to next year’s AIDF. Y’all just wait. You don’t even know.

Until next time.

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Drag kings of the world UNITE! (Photo Credit Wang Newton)

Check out more photos from AIDF on Instagram and Facebook.

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French Fop Burlesque

Just wrapped Qi-POW!’s latest burlesque & cabaret show, “Qi-POW! After Dark.” While I wait to get my hands on some performance photos, enjoy this video of my brand-new French Fop draglesque.  ❤

Song is Cee-Lo’s “Fool For You.”

Ladyfest 2016 and Pride’s Got Talent 2016

Ennis has been a busy boy, y’all! The quiet of winter is finally dying down and the city is coming to life again. Thank goodness– the busier my schedule, the more productive I am in general.

I was thrilled to debut a new act with my fellow performer Mint at Ladyfest 2016, a woman-centric festival that offers art, workshops, panels, and performances. Mint and I previewed our brand-new “Barbie Girl” act. It’s always great to perform in front of a supportive crowd, especially a crowd that isn’t your normal drag crowd. They ate it up!

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We took that same number to the big stage at ShanghaiPRIDE’s Pride’s Got Talent, the 2nd annual LGBTQA competition produced by yours truly. I never imagined myself as a producer– I don’t think of myself as particularly assertive and I’m certainly not organized. It happened, though, for the second year in a row, this year with over 370 people in attendance. (AHHH!)

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The audience choice winner was my good friend Honey West (pictured above, center) who absolutely turned out a crowd of otherwise tired and drunk attendees. It’s so inspiring to watch somebody who really knows how to command a stage. She’s a natural. She’s so good, in fact, that I basically stalked her into forming a small company with me, Mint, and Miss Jade: the House of TBD.

TBD can be many things: To Be Determined, The Best Drag, TaoBao Drag (Taobao is Chinese ebay where everyone buys their costumes), Ting Bu Dong (how one says “I have no idea what you just said” in Mandarin). I have never had a drag family before so it’s been great to be able to talk shop with other performers, bounce ideas around, and push each other to be better. We’re making our debut next weekend and I am SO excited!

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Other than that, we’ve got another Qi-POW! show coming down the pike. More info on that soon. 🙂

“So this blogger can suck it, really.”

Hi everyone! It was interesting to see the variety of reactions to my previous post. While some people agreed with treating the theater as a sacred space, /r/drag accused me of being an inflexible Luddite:

this sounds like the type of article a baby boomer would write blaming the younger generation for everything wrong in this world. –/u/moonyruna

what a boring article, we live in the age of technology and we like to record shit we’re doing with our phones, actually get over it – it’s not ruining the experience for anyone unless you’re one of those baby boomer technophobe types lmao –/u/avacassandra

Every morning after a drag show there are posts from all the queens that performed asking if anyone recorded the show so they can see it/share it, and nobody did. There are like, zero videos you can find of my local queens and it’s really unfortunate actually, there’s no way to look into their work beyond instagram (which just isn’t enough unless all you care about is painting skills).

So this blogger can suck it, really. –/u/BrokeWhoregan

On the flip side, audience members and fellow performers from Facebook:

How many of these people ever re-watch their shitty recording? And how many miss what’s happening on stage because they’re too distracted with their phones? It would be like if a french chef cooked you a fine meal, and you were so busy taking pictures of it that your food went cold. –Zhaochen

Precisely! Enjoy the show! That’s what you paid for. Live, up close and personal. A privilege and view that others couldn’t understand from your crappy video -Bea

100% on your side on this one. We’ve watched this evolve over the eight years we’ve been doing shows, and it blows my mind to see so many people eager to just whip out their phones as soon as the show starts. I’ve been tempted so many times to walk up to people and ask, “So, what are you going to do with all that video you shot?” –Keith

Interestingly, this topic was also addressed in one of our local alternative publications, City Weekend. From the article by DJ and promoter Chris Russell:

So, is this a problem? Over the years, some bands and venues have put up signs asking audience members not to film the gig on their phone, the reason being that this affects the experience of other gig goers – it’s not as good to watch the band play through someone’s phone screen.

The other issue is about focusing on the music and living in the moment – not all of our cherished memories need be captured.

Thanks for your feedback and discussion, guys and dolls. In the end, the decision to take photos and video at a live event is your choice, but as a performer I ask you to be considerate of the folks around you and not block their view during performances. For pictures and video taken inside of a club, the issue is not as big– but for ticketed shows, shows you spend a reasonable chunk of change to attend, maybe the phones are better left in your pocket. And that’s just my $0.02.

In other news, that’s ya’ boy on the SmartShanghai home page. Click the image to see the rest of the gallery for the show we just wrapped, Love Boat:

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Until next time!

E

Drag King Profile: Rusty Von Chrome

Rusty’s look caught my eye when I was searching for examples of police officer drag on YouTube. His drag is delightfully dirty and refreshingly funny. Rusty was kind enough to agree to be the first king profiled here on ennisfw.com.

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Name: Rusty Von Chrome

Age: 42, shhhh!

Hometown: Manchester, England

Relationship Status: Relationship? What’s one of those?

How did you get started doing drag? It started as a one off for a Halloween burlesque show I was performing in and it stuck. The character just kept getting booked to the extent that it took over from my female burlesque persona entirely and now I perform burlesque only as Rusty.

How would you describe your aesthetic? I like very obvious male character/roles. I try and keep things simple.carry_on_abroad_movie_poster

What are your inspirations? I never really had many strong female role models growing up. I spent more time with my dad and grandad so most of my role models are male. The Carry On films and the comedians of the 80’s had a huge effect on me, Rik Mayall especially.

Do you have any signature acts? My signature act is Henry the Eighth now. It used to be my cop routine but Henry has well and truly taken over.

RVC1What are some of the unique challenges of being a drag king? Doing drag in burlesque originally it was quite hard to get booked. People didn’t get it. Now it’s becoming more popular and it’s great seeing more and more drag kings and queens performing burlesque and showing people what we can do.

What do you want to say or accomplish with your drag? To be honest, I just want to carry on having a good time and having people enjoy what I do.

Do you have any goals for yourself as a performer? I have a bucket list of shows I want to do before I retire and I’m getting quite a few of those ticked off this year. I’m really lucky!

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Find and ‘Like’ Rusty on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kingofthecodpiece.

A Simple Request.

Photo by Gabby Gabriel

Okay, so today’s post is a bit more opinionated than the stuff I usually post on here. I understand that the opinion expressed below might not be a popular one and may even be contrary to the feelings of my friends and contemporaries. However, it’s gotten to the point where I feel like I need to say something for the sake of everyone involved in the performing arts community. Simply put:

Please stop recording live shows on your phones.

A few weeks ago, I was a fortunate enough to attend an original dance production called Tassel & Tease at the Pearl. I kicked back with some of the girls from Qi-POW!, excited to be an audience member for once, as the lights shifted and the music kicked in. As if on cue, the glow of screens rose before me, table by table, as the people around me settled in to enjoy the performance… through their phone cameras.

How is watching an entire show through your phone screen an enjoyable experience? It’s bad audience behavior; it’s been lambasted many times by many people in many, many, many different places. However, it seems to be a growing problem– one that parallels the dependence on smart phones for stimulation worldwide. (China’s #3 in the world, in case you were wondering.)

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So what’s the big deal?, you ask. I’m just having fun! I want to remember it later! I want to show my friends! I want to be supportive!

 

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Here are five reasons why you should stop recording live shows on your phone.

Reason 1: It violates an artist’s ownership of their intellectual property.

Most performers I know work very hard to make sure their acts are polished, conceptual, and unique.  When mobile phone footage of their work starts floating around social media, it makes it easy for other performers to steal their choreography and ideas. Here’s the thing: I love being inspired by other artists and enjoy having my work out there for others to see. However, you shouldn’t assume this is the case. It can be especially damaging for designers and choreographers who then see their work being ripped off without being given any royalties or credit.

Reason 2: It’s disrespectful to the artists.

coverly-cell-phone-addiction1One of the joys of performing live is the wordless exchange that happens between performers and audience. I love finding someone to give a little extra attention to as I execute a cheeky piece of choreograp
hy. I’m giving them my art and they’re giving me their real-time acknowledgment of my hard work. If your face is buried in your phone, it’s the theater equivalent of texting at the dinner table. It doesn’t matter if you’re recording me– the energy I get from a screen isn’t the same as the energy I get from eye contact.

Not to mention– if your friends wanted to see the show, they should have bought a ticket! Your patronage helps me produce more cool experiences for you to enjoy. Showing people what I do for free doesn’t.

Reason 3: It spoils the experience for your fellow patrons.

What’s better– a clear view of the stage or a view polluted by screens every few feet? Our eyes have a hard time ignoring bright and/or moving images in our periphery. Holding up a phone or tablet is really distracting for the other people who paid good money to see the show.

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Not cool, bro.

Reason 4: There’s probably a person with a much nicer camera doing it already.

All of our Qi-POW! shows are shot by an awesome full-time pro photographer. Those photos are then released on Facebook and WeChat for the public to share. We have also paid for professional videography services which we then intend to share with the public as well. If you really wanna show your friends, just wait a day or two and then share the good shots and video clips– the ones where you can actually make out people’s faces and clearly hear the audio. How many people actually go back and watch those videos, anyway?!

Reason 5: Live in the moment.

Live shows exist to bring images and sound to life. They provide a rare moment of witnessing other humans do really cool stuff right in front of your eyes. There’s a reason why taking photos and video is banned by law at all Broadway shows. Seeing the beads of sweat roll down the skin of a person who’s bearing their soul right in front of you gives you almost indescribable feelings of awe. That’s the point– it’s a temporary and beautiful moment of shared humanity. For the love of art, for the love of inspiration, for the love of being alive– put down your phone and experience this moment with me.

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Until next time…!

-E

Disclaimer: Here’s the thing, I’m not opposed to all recording of shows on principle. Sometimes, you get inspired! You want to recognize a person’s work! You want to brag on your friends! Just stop recording entire shows, alright? Snap your pic, take your video, then put your phone away and enjoy the show. Thanks.

ShanghaiLGBT Annual Drag Party and Qi-POW! Burlesque & Cabaret Presents Naughty Xmas

What a great winter it’s been! Even though the weather in Shanghai can be pretty gnarly this time of year, the calendar of events hasn’t slowed. That’s great because there’s nothing that combats the winter blues quite like the energy from a live show.

November marked the annual ShanghaiLGBT Drag Party.

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Guess what, y’all– YA BOY WON FIRST PLAAAAACE!

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I debuted an act to Queen’s “I Want to Break Free,” inspired by the Shanghai metro.

I love the ShanghaiLGBT Drag Party because each year, the talent competition gets more and more intense. Unfortunately, I was only one of two kings participating in the talent portion this time. I would love to do a Drag King university where we take some aspiring kings and help them build an act but I think it would still take a bit of time to build some momentum.

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City Weekend invited me to write a guest column on drag kinging to support the party.

In December, Qi-POW! presented its third (!!!) Pearl show, Naughty Xmas.

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Our shows at the Pearl are getting bigger, better, and busier. This time we welcome a few new guests artists to work with QP!, including the world’s most beautiful drag emcee, Miss Jade, a dynamite pole dancer named Kseniya and a handsome, talented, and impossibly fit singer named Rhian.

Naughty Xmas @ The Pearl

For this show, I presented a brand-new “Toy Soldier” act. In this act, a neo-Soul rendition of “Little Drummer Boy” transitions into Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights.” Choreography has always been my Achilles heel– years of acting training that forced me to be “in the moment” has made generating movement without feeling really, really hard. I managed to choreograph this act from start to finish, though, and I’m really happy with the way that it turned out.

As drag kings, sometimes it feels like there isn’t room for glamour in what we do. In the quest to be masculine, it feels like you can’t be flamboyant in your styling. That’s really frustrating when you consider that a good performance should be flamboyant! These days, I feel myself moving towards a more genderfuck style of drag. That gray area is what I feel affords the most freedom. There’s no reason I can’t pack and wear sparkly costumes at the same time. It’s performance art, for crying out loud. It doesn’t have to fit into a box.

Plans are in the works now for our next show, Qi-POW! presents LOVE BOAT. Will post more information on my next act soon– I’ve got something good planned for you guys. 🙂

Until next time!

 

Qi-POW! Burlesque presents Guilty Pleasures

Ahhh! So many exciting things happening!

The lovely and talented Anna Fur Laxis and I finally locked down our rogue band of entertainers into a formal production company.

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Isn’t she a thing of beauty?

The wonderful Flower Bel even hooked us up with the badass logo seen above. It’s about time we had a logo, too, since you’re looking at the producers of a SOLD OUT show.

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Guilty Pleasures was my first producing credit with Qi-POW! Burlesque & Cabaret and my second producing credit in the city. Set in a women’s prison, Guilty Pleasures presents the story of the criminals, cops, and bystanders that pass through its barbed-wire gates. For the show, I presented two acts– a rare female strip as an revenge-seeking abused wife and the aforementioned naughty cop act to a custom hip-hop mashup by Fiverr’s audiomatt.

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Guilty Pleasures

In addition to my two solo acts, Anna and I did a naughty cop/prisoner S&M act that involved me leading her through the crowd on a leash. The audience had a great time interacting up close and personal with the two of us.

Sales and reviews for Guilty Pleasures were so good that we did an encore of the show in October. It’s really exciting to see our little company continue to grow.

Our next show is titled “Naughty Xmas” and will be presented the first weekend in December featuring our rotating cast of regulars. I’m in the early stages of conceiving my act for this one– I’m thinking a Toy Soldier-themed hip-hop number. Thoughts?

Until next time!