It Happened Last Night: Philly Drag Queens Got Out of Drag

On Wednesday night, the First Person Arts Festival presented Dear Sir or Madam at the Christ Church Neighborhood House. The evening featured drag queen Martha Graham Cracker* interviewing the male alter egos of drag queens Brittany Lynn and Icon Ebony-Fierce and the twenty-something female alter ego of septuagenarian drag king Stanley Epps. Below, some photos and revelations from the event.

Icon Ebony-Fierce

Things we learned:
• He won’t giving up his real name.
• Only been doing drag performance since February.
• Dislikes whole milk. “It’s disgusting,” he told Martha.
• Heroes include Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Queen Latifah and Assata Shakur.
• Favorite swear word: cunt.
• Describes his drag persona as a mix of Oprah and Patti with a hint of Barbra.
• What “drag” means to him: “Being proud of the person you were meant to be.”
• What he expects to hear when he gets to Heaven: “You have done your best in an imperfect world and have spread positive energy throughout it.”

Ian Morrison

Things we learned:
• Drag character is Brittany Lynn.
• Grew up in Northeast Philly.
• Has a vibrating tongue ring attachment that he bought years ago at the Pennsauken Mart. “If I take it out, I whistle,” he explained. So he just leaves it in.
• Favorite swear word: jitbag.
• Can get into full makeup in 15 minutes, 20 with lashes.
• What “drag” means to him: “The illusion you have to give to get your message out there. No one would hire me when I tried to be a gay comedian, but when I put on a wig, there you go.”
• What he expects to hear when he gets to Heaven: “Can you stand here for a minute? I have to go on break.”

Jennifer Kidwell

Things we learned:
• Drag character is Stanley Epps, who is in his 70s.
• Was a student of Dito van Reigersberg’s (who plays Martha) at the Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training.
• Has a twin brother but does not have twin telepathy.
• Heroes include Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and Coco Fusco.
• Favorite swear word: heifer skeeza.
• What her character allows her to express: “A gentleness that might be dangerous for a woman to express.”
• What “drag” means to her: “It’s the wrong word. The sound of it isn’t right. What we do is uplifting and fun. Why associate it with a term that is so heavy and down?”
• What she expects to hear when she gets to Heaven: “We’ll chuckle, which will turn into a chortle, which will turn into a deep belly laugh. And we laugh so hard that all of our bodily fluids are released. And then we’ll hold each other and walk in together.

Then, Kidwell managed to convince Martha to take off the wig and let her male alter ego be interviewed:

Dito van Reigersberg

Things we learned:
• The character of Martha Graham Cracker was inspired by his grandmother. “She had long red fingernails, and smoked and drank martinis all the time,” he told Kidwell.
• First time dressing in drag: when he put on his mother’s gold lame “Cleopatra” dress.
• Dislikes: the phrase “mister man”, shopping, closed minds.
• Likes: apple pie and shrimp cocktail.
• Spirit animal: a horse. “Although a lot of people think a big dog.”
• What “drag” means to him: “Picasso said it best. ‘Art is the lie that tells the truth.'”
• What he expects to hear when he gets to Heaven: “If I could have done it, I would have swerved the path of that badminton birdie.” He then explained that when he was a kid, he was watching two people play badminton when he was struck in the eye with the birdie. “I almost went blind,” he said. The injury is still visible today.

After the interviews, the performers came back in character for a song. Icon Ebony-Fierce did Beyonce’s “End of Time,” Brittany Lynn performed “Rocket Man,” Stanley sang Leonard Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,” and Martha did a tango version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?”

* Full disclosure: I am the pianist for Martha Graham Cracker.