The International Drag King Extravaganza Comes Home


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Butch Tap of Oakland

Photo: Kate Lacey

The International Drag King Extravaganza came home to Columbus, Ohio on October 16th to 19th for the 10th annual IDKE. The four days of gender-bending performances, seminars and slideshows all echoed the sentiment of how far the drag king community has come in a decade, from its early grass roots organizing by a group of Ohio State University women’s studies graduate students in 1999. In its 10th year, acts from as far away as New Zealand, Rome, Germany, France and Canada brought an artistic and political flare to the festivities.

The draw of the event was the IDKE.X Showcase, featuring 30 of the world’s best drag performances. Emceed by Drag King favorites Luster, Deb “Dirk” Pierce and Christopher Noelle, the performances erased all preconceived notions of what a drag show is. Forget simply lip-synching while playing dress up. These troupes tore down the house with their highly choreographed and exquisitely costumed performances.

Aphrodisiac of San Francisco and Columbus Ohio’s own Unecc featured real vocals and precision-sharp rap performances, while Butch Tap of Oakland—featuring well-known kings Jake Danger, Kentucky Fried Woman and Richter Scale—proved that tap dancing in newsboi chic is sexy and that dragkings can be legitimately talented entertainers.

IDKE Hosts - Christopher Noelle ties it on for Luster.

Photo: Kate Lacey

Even the troupes that employed the tried and true lip-sync techniques did so with pizzazz and creativity. Groups like the suave Motown stylings of The Jentlemen of Distinction from St. Louis and the Black Mondays from Cincinnati worked lights, costume and pure sex appeal that moved dragdom from campy to theatrical.

The acts ran the gambit from the comedic to racy. Fox Smoulder and his self-proclaimed bisock-sual puppet, Belle Bottom, brought home a riveting duet of “You’re the One that I Want” from Grease. Tube socks never looked so good. On the other end of the continuum, the revealing and unabashed burlesque of Beefcake Burlesque and the Columbus Collective modeled a key ideal of the drag movement—we are not to be trapped by mainstream cultural ideals of body image. Our gender and body are fluid and beautiful when given space to be explored. The talent did not stop there. Noted comic, Tamale (votes one of America’s funniest lesbian comics be Curve readers and featured in the November 2008 issue), lit up the night with fire twirling and the Gender Offenders of Santa Fe engaged in acrobatics and feats of strength worthy of Cirque du Soliel.

Despite the preconceptions held by many, there was nothing mindless about this drag entertainment. Some troupes provided deliberate artistic reflections on the politics of gender—the European troupes in particular seemed to have an agenda that went beyond pure spectacle. Kyrahm and Julius Kaiser of Rome began their program completely naked before the audience in their Gender Obsolescence program, an extreme gender art show that depicts the transition from female to male and the fluid nature of gender. According to a multimedia message at the start of their performance, the United States is the only country where these performers were asked to cover up certain parts of their bodies. Julius Kaiser noted that while the United States has driven the movement toward acceptance of drag performance as a legitimate art, it is ironic that this country is the first to censor the human body during drag shows.

Next year, IDKE.XI is scheduled for Tucson, Ariz., hosted by hometown troupe, Boys R Us, who brought this year’s show to an energetic and high-octane close this year. We can’t wait to see the conference and expo that this well-organized team pulls together for next year’s International Drag King Extravaganza.
 

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