“Theater Queen” DragCon Panelists Talk Making Underground Theater Cool Again

Plus, Drew Droege dishes on how his Chloe character took him from a sketch comedy performer to a Marc Jacobs model.

RuPaul’s Drag Race may have helped to bring drag out into the mainstream, but it’s experimental underground theater queens that really have the ability to shock you.

That was the focus at the “Theater Queens!” panel at this weekend’s DragCon, moderated by Billy Francesca, with panelists Drew Droege, Love Connie and DJ Paul V.

theater queen panel
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The performers began by praising LA’s infamous Cavern Club Theatre, and how it provides experimental actors and seasoned queens like Jackie Beat with the rare opportunity to do the unique types of shows they want to put up.

“Jackie Beat could probably play a much larger theater, sell more tickets, but there’s a reason why people want to be at the Cavern Club Theatre,” explained DJ Paul V. “It’s family.”

It’s that family vibe that provided the panel with the safety net and support to dress as women and put on the kinds of shows that are important to them, but are likely to be misunderstood by more mainstream crowds.

That passion to perform something meaningful is something they feel separates them from the younger generation of drag queens.

“So much of the younger queens, it’s about, ’How do I get hits on YouTube? How do I get on TV? What’s the result of doing this show?'”said Paul. “Where as I think a lot of us, it’s more about we have something to do. We found this place and audience that will support us. That’s why we do it.”

I hope some #coolriders are comin to my show this weekend! www.cavernclubtheater.com

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Love Connie said it took her awhile to understand how to channel her creativity in life, but one day it suddenly all clicked.

“I love playing female characters,” Connie shared. “I got to a certain age where I was like, ‘I know exactly what I want to do. I want to be Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, I want to be Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner, I want to be Laura Dern in everything.’ And I figured out a way to kind of do that by combining all the things I love – film, pop music and sexy blondes — and voila! I look like a Real Housewife of Orange County.”

Adjustment.

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Drew Droege, who can also be seen on Logo’s Cocktails and Classics, talked about how he became an “accidental drag queen” through his viral Chloe Sevigny videos, and how it’s taken him to places he never dreamed. Specifically, becoming a Marc Jacobs model.

“I’ve had this weird, late-in-life modeling career,” he said. “I’m standing with size-zero female models and they’re just there making shapes, and I’m there like, ‘Hi, I’m a complete basement clown.'”

But now that Drag Race has brought drag queens to a wider audience, will we see queens go on to be considered for roles in Broadway shows like Hairspray or Kinky Boots?

Droege thinks the fact that Ru’s show has made stars out of many of its contestants is a good sign that they could be considered for future mainstream leading roles.

“The whole argument is always, ‘We’re a big fan of yours, but you don’t draw enough audiences, you’re not a big enough name,'” he said. “And because we are creating more [celebrity drag queens], there will be more opportunities where everyone will go, ‘I will see Latrice Royale in Chicago,’ or whatever.”

“I’ll go see that,” he added. “Without any comment on drag queens as much as, ‘That’s a star. That’s a talent.'”

Adam Salandra is a writer, performer and host in Los Angeles. When he's not covering the latest in pop culture, you can find him playing with his French Bulldog puppy or hovering over the table of food at any social gathering.
@adamsalandra