ThinkFest’s Drag Queen Panel Stirs Drama [UPDATED]
On Tuesday, I posted about Philly Mag’s gayest ThinkFest panel, Philly’s Emerging Drag Queen Culture, which will see drag titans Brittany Lynn and Martha Graham Cracker coming together with Bearded Ladies founder John Jarboe to discuss the evolution of Philly’s drag scene. I found it hard to contain my excitement about this first-time pairing between Brittany and Martha, but some of the readers didn’t agree. The post generated a lot of comments from folks none too happy about the three panelists chosen to speak.
David Krowinski said the choice seems “antiquated,” standing up for two queens he believes were responsible for rejuvenating the local drag scene:
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 the intention of this panel is to talk about how the Philly drag queen is emerging nationally, Philly Mag should at least include some of the queens who have helped it emerge … not just those who have held the throne of the status quo in the past.
Jeremy Williams rallied behind some of the newer divas, arguing that they could add more perspective to what it’s like working in the current drag climate:
I definitely don’t see Brittany Lynn and Martha as emerging. … Let’s look at the ones who are churning it out and are really emerging: The Lady Poison, Cleo Phatra, 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.
Then things got personal, when Philly Drag Fan called out G Philly:
It’s kind of sad the G Philly 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 seen everyone perform, I love drag, but lets have a FULL picture of the drag scene, not just a few people. Shame on you, G Philly!
Ouch! To set the record straight, G Philly editor Michael Callahan responded, iterating that G Philly didn’t choose the panelists for the event, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t excited about the discussion Martha, Brittany and John will generate. His response:
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.
Whatever your stance on the issue, one thing is clear: Philly is passionate about its drag queens. We’re hoping that’s represented at the discussion on Monday night. If you have something to say, or just want to take in some great performances by Brittany, Martha and John, the event 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.
UPDATE [10/31, 4:49 p.m.]: In an earlier post, I quoted Mimi Imfurst, but she requested I take it out because the message was sent via a private Facebook message.