As Drag Machine's Shirley Delta Blow, actor Stuart Sanks tells drag's vibrant history
Gosh, there are so many things -- having an actual set, video projections and costume design. It's not just, hey, there's five queens and we're throwing stuff together and we just show up. Actually having a little bit more time to rehearse, having choreography, is really cool.
I guess what I like about it too is, I don't know, it's kind of taking this as an art form -- this kind of drag entertainment that you would see at a bar or a night club -- and elevating it. Saying, hey, there's an art form here that we're going to use to tell a story. We're going to use it to educate people, a little bit; (Drag Machine) is about the history of drag and the gay rights movement.
I think it is going to be fun. I've been doing a lot of research and October happens to be LGBT History Month, so there is lots of stuff out there. (The show) looks at Stonewall and early activists and people you have maybe never heard of before, yet were crucial in laying the groundwork for the ability to even have a show like this.
It is a great way to touch on history -- drag can be perceived as campy or silly, but behind it is a huge part of culture that goes in so many different directions.
One of the things that I wanted to ground the show in was this: When we see drag queens, they are kind of the clowns or court jesters of the gay community. We're way over the top, we're big and bawdy. Some of us are crass and crude. That kind of runs the spectrum of the gay community -- there are people who are loud and crass and some who are quiet and shy.
But I think another thing about drag is that the people who started, if you will, the gay rights movement at Stonewall -- if we look at it from that point, with the uprising -- were some street kids who had everything, or you could say nothing to lose and drag queens who fought back against the police.
Then it had this critical mass, had some momentum and kind of snowballed. I look at every kind of turn when the gay community has needed someone to step up, and drag queens -- they aren't the only ones -- but drag queens have done it. When AIDS began there were drag queens out there raising money and raising awareness. There were the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence out in San Francisco who now have chapters all over the place are all about AIDS education. They go into bars and talk to the people.
It's almost like the court jester is the only person who can tell the king the truth. Because everyone else will be serious about it, but the court jester will make a joke and the king will learn a lesson -- because he's paying attention through the humor.
Drag Machine opens Friday, November 2 and repeats on November 9 and November 16 at Off-Center at the Jones; doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $12-14 and can be purchased at the door, via the Jones website or by calling 303-893-6090.