Philly Drag Worlds Collide at ThinkFest 2013

brittany lynn thinkfest

Brittany Lynn. Photo courtesy of Tara Lessard.

Philadelphia magazine’s now-annual ThinkFest kicks off next Monday with a weeklong lineup of “the brightest minds and most innovative ideas happening in Philadelphia.” Set up kind of like a TEDx talk, activities include everything from discussions on tech and the arts to panels about food and government, but the event we’re most excited about is Philly’s Emerging Drag Queen Culture, giving us the first-time experience of seeing local drag icons Brittany Lynn (aka Ian Morrison), Martha Graham Cracker (aka Dito van Reigersberg) and Bearded Ladies co-founder John Jarboe together on one stage.

Moderated by (full disclosure) G Philly Editor-in-Chief Michael Callahan, this will be the first time the more mainstream, Gayborhood diva Brittany Lynn has worked with cabaret queens Martha Graham Cracker and John Jarboe (who has impersonated ladies like Scarlett O’Hara and Edith Piaf in Bearded Ladies shows.) So it will be particularly interesting to see these two distinct worlds come together, and to learn about the things that inspired each of them to take their particular route. Maybe they’ll even learn a thing or two from each other?

The ladies will show up in full drag, and will regale the audience with a song. Later, they will join Michael on stage for a discussion about how their art has changed since they began doing drag, and how Philadelphia has inspired their work. Michael says he’s particularly interested in the evolution of drag and the fact that “it’s not just guys dressing up as women and lip-syncing anymore. Now, in many cases, the queens sing themselves, are doing full-scale performance art.”

Maybe we’ll even be lucky enough to see them all do a song together. (Please, please, please?!)

Philly’s Emerging Drag Queen Culture will take place at the new FringeArts building on Mon., Nov. 4, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here. ThinkFest runs Nov. 4-Nov. 8 at different locations around the city. Click here for more information. 

READ ALSO: ThinkFest drag queen panel stirs drama



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  • David Krowinksi

    This seems antiquated to me. I am a big fan of the philly drag queens, but where is The Goddess Isis? Mimi Imfurst? The two of them have been a huge part of reviving what otherwise was a rather stale drag scene. If this intention of this panel is to talk about how the Philly Drag Queen is emerging nationally, Philly magazine should atleast include some of the queens who have helped it emerge…. not just those that held the throne of the status quo i the past.

  • Philly Drag Fan

    It’s kind of sad the GPhilly felt that they had to exclude such local drag icons as Sandy Beach and Salotta Tee who have been doing drag in this city longer than anyone else as well as newcomers like The Goddess Isis, MiMi Imfurst, Porcelain and many others. It was a team effort that stimulated the Drag scene in this city, not just a select few! I’ve see everyone perform, I love drag, but lets have a FULL picture of the drag scene, not just a few people. Shame on you GPhilly!

  • Jeremy Williams

    So where are the other queens? I love Brittney Lynn and Martha Graham Cracker, but where are the queens that are turning it week in and week out doing amazing shows.

    I definitely don’t see Brittney Lynn and Martha as emerging. These amazing performers have been long time queens in the drag community.

    Let’s keep in mind the true meaning of emerging (Newly formed or just coming into prominence). These two ladies are certainly not newly formed, they are fully evolved realized amazing talents.

    If we want emerging let’s even look past the newer performers of Mimi Imfurst, The Goddess Isis, Navaya Shay, Satine, etc. Let’s look at the ones that are churning it out and are really emerging: The Lady Poison, Cleophatra, Maria TopCat, Zsa Zsa St. James, Iris Spectre and ALL the other fierce queens being brought up through the ranks and emerging through great productions like Drag Wars

  • Michael Callahan

    As the editor of G Philly, I feel I need to clarify some misinformation here.

    We at G Philly, though part of the umbrella company that produces ThinkFest, were not involved in the conception of this panel or its ultimate composition. That said, I do think the panel raises a timely and interesting question, which is where the future of drag culture is going in Philadelphia, and whether it is being strengthened or weakened by its cross-pollination and intermixing, as it were, with other gender-bending performance art here in the city. This is precisely the aim of ThinkFest: To promote and provoke stimulating conversations and discussions about things. This panel is not trying to be, nor has it ever been framed as, the ultimate, end-all analysis of drag in Philly. Unfortunately, it seems that there will always be a small minority of people who are determined to inject their own point of view at the exclusivity of anyone else’s, and who will quickly trash anything that does not survive some sort of covert litmus test for who is allowed to discuss something and how it should be discussed.

    I have tremendous respect and admiration for the drag community here in Philly, which has done so much to revive the Gayborhood and provide stunning and saucy entertainment to all of us. it is my hope this this forum will provide not the final word on the drag scene in the city, but rather an opening dialogue to explore how drag and performance art are intermingling, changing, and adapting as they attract and expose new audiences to this timeless art. I hope anyone who feels they have something to add to this conversation will join us on Monday night the 4th to have their voice heard. Because the more we all come together to share, discuss, and yes, even argue, the more we grow as a community.