College Culture Final

It was just another night in Klinger-Neal theatre when I sat down with Taylor Clemens to ask him about the ghosts of the theatre. Rehearsal for the current production had just concluded and there were four people left in the theatre.

Two of us were in the lobby listening to Clemens recount his tales of ghosts both at Morningside and elsewhere. About ten minutes in to the interview though, we were interrupted. The fourth was in the main part of the theatre on the phone with her mom.

“Well, I am not going back in there tonight!” Amy Jackson exclaimed as she bolted out of the house. “I just saw two people sitting in the seats!”

Taylor laughed and asked her who it was. “No,” Amy said, “there were two people sitting on the seats behind the set and just starring at the curtain.”

Instantly the three of us who had been in the lobby darted in to the theatre looking for these people she spoke of. We asked questions and received answers both on my phone, as I was still recording from the interview, and in taps that we heard in the theatre. Clemens and I also saw shadow people walking around behind the set.

The night concluded as I viewed a female face looking down on us from the booth. “Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.” I exclaimed as I ran out the door. The others followed me. Taylor quickly closed and locked the booth door in order to contain anything that may be up there.

Ghosts and superstitions are a big part of the theatre community. Many theatres have their own ghost stories and their ways to keep the ghosts happy.

One of the most accepted ways to keep theatre ghosts at bay is through the use of a ghost light. The ghost light is one light, usually some form of lamp, left in the middle of the stage over night so the ghosts can perform their own shows.

Though every theatre takes part in this tradition, not many believe in the reasoning behind the light. However, Morningside theatre majors know how important it is because many of them have had supernatural experiences in Klinger-Neal Theatre.

Klinger is said to have three ghosts that reside there. Two in the basement and one on the stage. Clemens, who spends almost all of his time in the theatre has certain ways in place to keep those ghosts happy.

“They like things done a certain way. Whenever I go to the basement I say ‘Hello, theater!’ I tell them what I am going to do and I say goodbye when I leave. I also say good morning when I get to the theatre and when I leave I tell them goodnight and I always make sure to say that I will be back in the morning.”

There are many stories that are passed on from older theatre majors to freshmen such as the story of Dallas’ chair. It is said that if you move the chair in the back corner of the basement you will be tripped as you try to go back upstairs.

Many students and faculty, though have their own stories of weird and unusual things that have happened to them in the theatre.

Some days the aura in the theatre is so malicious that Professor Taylor Clemens has to instigate a rule that no one is allowed in the basement alone because “theatre ghosts be scary.”

One story he tells his students happened during the run of Next to Normal. “I went down to the basement to collect some props that the community theatre wanted to borrow and the whole time it just felt wrong. It was that feeling of someone being behind you. It got to a point that on the way up the stairs I stopped, turned around, and yelled at it to back the fuck off. After that I made the rule that no one was allowed in the basement alone until Next to Normalwas over.”

He has also had a number of unexplainable experiences in other theatres outside of Morningside. “I was working on a show at Fisher Theatre at Iowa State with Casey [Clemens]. She was the stage manager and I was working backstage so I was waiting for her to close up the booth and I watched her turn off the lights and walk downstairs and as she got down to where I was the lights just flipped back on. I pointed it out to her and she said ‘time to fucking leave.’ We were the only two people left in the theatre that night.”

Amy Jackson, a senior Theatre and English double major, has recently had unexplained experiences while conducting rehearsals for Octopus.

“There were only three people in the theatre that night and the atmosphere just felt…wrong. Like, it was dead silent even when the actors were performing. So then, at our second to last run of the scene I heard voices from the direction of the stairs [to the basement] that sounded like little girls. I wanted to put it off as people outside but we have never been able to hear people outside any other time I have been at a rehearsal in the theatre. It freaked me out. So I let rehearsal out a little early that night and I left.”

Last year, junior Grant Turner experienced some paranormal activity when he was in the theatre after hours. He was an acting partner for scenes presented at KCACTF and was doing a last minute rehearsal after dark in the theatre. His scene partner, who is a big believer in the paranormal, was transfixed on a piece of paper that was moving on it’s own on the “port-a-desk.” The two went over to investigate.

“We checked for a draft or anything that could be moving the paper but nothing was happening. So we decided to investigate other things in the theatre.”

They then turned off the lights and do some amateur ghost hunting performing EVP sessions and taking pictures of the theatre. While they were investigating there were a number of footsteps coming from the shop area, the upstairs grid area, and coming up from the basement. His acting partner was able to catch a picture of a misty human figure walking up the basement stairs.

Even with these reported experiences, some people are skeptical of the need for the ghost light. When he found out the reasoning behind the ghost light Jared Martin couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s what it’s for? I figured there was a REAL reason!”

Only about 37% of American’s believe in ghosts or hauntings. Turner didn’t believe in the stories until his own experience. “I normally consider myself a skeptic on the supernatural, but I was a believer that night!” Jackson said it takes a lot to make her even think that something is off but that rehearsal did it.

Clemens says that he absolutely believes in ghosts. He has had paranormal experiences since he was four years old. “I remember one time when I was at my babysitter’s house and I was upstairs and I heard a voice calling my name and I was like ‘NOPE’ and this was me at, like, four years old. I was always really creeped out by that house.”

Whether or not a person believes in ghosts, there are a number of things that happen in Klinger-Neal that are not immediately explainable. Because of this, theatre majors for years will continue to plug in the ghost light.

Red, White, and Rampant Capitalism (My America Photo Assignment)

It may only be November 6th but it’s never too early for holiday cups…apparently.

A soccer mom’s paradise.

Even the most liberal of voters can’t help eating more “chikin” on Election Day.

College Culture Story

There are many traditions in the theatre that non-theatre people don’t understand. One of these is the use of a ghost light.

The purpose of the light is to give the spirits that haunt your theatre a space to perform when the theatre is empty. It is said to prevent the ghosts from cursing your theatre or your productions.

Though every theatre takes part in this tradition, not many believe in the reasoning behind the light. However, Morningside theatre majors know how important it is because many of them have had supernatural experiences in Klinger-Neal Theatre.

Klinger-Neal is said to have a number of ghosts that reside there. There are three that are the major players in the stories that majors are told when they enter the department. One ghost haunts the basement, one the stage, and another the booth.

Many buildings on Morningside’s campus are said to be haunted. More theatre students report having paranormal experiences because of how much time they spend in the theatre. Students involved in theatre can be in the theatre for multiple hours in the day and can stay there as late as one or two in the morning.

There are many stories that are passed on from older theatre majors to freshmen such as the story of Dallas’ chair. This story goes that if you move the chair in the back corner of the basement you will be tripped as you try to go back upstairs.

Many students and faculty, though have their own stories of weird and unusual things that have happened to them in the theatre.

Some days the aura in the theatre is so malicious that Professor Taylor Clemens has to instigate a rule that no one is allowed in the basement alone because “theatre ghosts be scary.” One story he told his students when he put that rule in place was that he felt such an oppressive force surrounding him in the basement that he had to yell at it to back off.

Amy Jackson, a senior Theatre and English double major, has recently had unexplained experiences while having rehearsal for the upcoming play.

“There were only three people in the theatre that night and the atmosphere just felt…wrong. Like, it was dead silent even when the actors were performing. So then, at our second to last run of the scene I heard voices from the direction of the stairs [to the basement] that sounded like little girls. I wanted to put it off as people outside but we have never been able to hear people outside any other time I have been at a rehearsal in the theatre. It freaked me out. So I let rehearsal out a little early that night and I left.”

This experience is thought to be linked to the moving of a monkey puppet from the basement. One student decided to play a joke on Professor Taylor Clemens and put the puppet next to the back door of the theatre. The next day Professor Clemens found the doll sitting in a chair in his locked office. Then, the next day, the same puppet was found in a chair in the locked costume shop.

The puppet moved a couple more times throughout the day (though these later movements were done by students) before disappearing. The puppet has not been seen since.

Last year junior Grant Turner experienced some paranormal activity when he was in the theatre after hours.

He was an acting partner for scenes presented at KCACTF and he was doing a last minute rehearsal after dark in the theatre. His scene partner, who is a big believe in the paranormal, was transfixed on a piece of paper that was moving on it’s own on the port-a-desk. The two went over to investigate.

“We checked for a draft or anything that could be moving the paper but nothing was happening. So we decided to investigate other things in the theatre.”

They then turned off the lights and do some amateur ghost hunting performing EVP sessions and taking pictures of the theatre. While they were investigating there were a number of footsteps coming from the shop area, the upstairs grid area, and coming up from the basement. His acting partner was able to catch a picture of a misty human figure walking up the basement stairs.

Even with these reported experiences, some people are skeptical of the need for the ghost light. When he found out the reasoning behind the light Jared Martin couldn’t help but laugh. “That’s what it’s for? I figured there was a REAL reason!”

Turner didn’t believe in the stories until his own experience. “I normally consider myself a skeptic on the supernatural, but I was a believer that night!” Jackson said it takes a lot to make her even think that something is off but that rehearsal did it.

Whether they believe in it or not, all of the students take the time to plug in the ghost light when they leave the theatre for the day.

My Morningside

Shop Hours

I chose this picture because the Morningside Mug that a professor in the theatre was using was placed so perfectly next to our shop hours board, a schedule that kind of runs the life of a theatre major at Morningside. I also appreciated in the lower corner the quotes of “everything is pointless” and “I’m sorry, Taylor” because those are relatable.

 

Honorable Mention Picture

Our theatre fish, Dr. Neal Klinger. He has a featured role in the upcoming production in the theatre and has become an important part of the theatre family.

Text Review 1

The book I read was Bare: On Women, Dancing, Sex, and Power by Elisabeth Eaves. I wish I could say I enjoyed this book. I really wanted to enjoy it. But I think I wanted a different book than what was written.

The concept of the book was so exciting to me. I always find the world of exotic dancers and the idea of women using their sexuality to their advantage fascinating. I am about as close to that world as I would ever get since I perform as a burlesque dancer as part of my drag career.

The writing in this book, though, was just boring. I didn’t end up finishing the book. I don’t even know if I got half way through. To me, it seemed like she talked in circles and over-explained everything. I think a lot of the stories she told and conversations she added in to the book were interesting. I just found myself put off enough by the writing style that I didn’t want to keep reading the book. I was just bored the whole time.

I think this could be a really interesting concept for a book. Working in a field as misunderstood and demonized as that of an exotic dancer could really bring up some interesting points. I just don’t know that she explored the points in a way that changed any preconceptions about the position. She actually seemed to kind of hate the work and think it was bad. Though that is a valid way to feel and I don’t criticize her opinion, the title of the book seemed like it was going to change some minds and really she was just like “people are right, it’s gross.”

It was also kind of hard to care about the author and her story when a lot of the introduction to the book was “in high school I was pretty and it was so hard to be pretty.” Those kinds of stories are never going to catch my interest and since that was a majority of the first chapter it didn’t bode well for the rest of the book.

Overall I wouldn’t recommend that someone read this book. It’s not what you would expect from the title or the cover. Also it doesn’t explore all of stripping as it suggests, it only talks about one specific peep show, which is a completely different type of work from a strip club.

Miss Sioux City Newcomer 2018 – Story #2 Final Draft

Entering the competition was an extremely last minute decision. I was prepared to make a fool of myself but I felt like this was something I had to do. I had to defend my style of performance. I had to represent for the Bio Queens.

I perform as a Bio Queen at El Patron night club in Sioux City. I have been doing shows at this bar as a back-up dancer for about three years now. In April of this year I made the jump to performing solo cementing my position as “Sioux City’s Premiere Bio Queen.” Because I am a new queen and am trying to get my name out in the community more, I decided to enter the club’s amateur drag pageant, Miss Sioux City Newcomer.

I arrived at the El Patron at 7:30 PM. The show runner had asked us to be there by 8 but the bar owner said to be there at 7. I decided to split the difference. Even though the doors opened at 7 the only person there who wasn’t a performer was the owner. He gave me a nod as I brushed past the tables toward the “backstage” area.

I have performed in this bar a million times in the past three years, but for the contest the set up was different. There was a table with a lamp and a white table cloth positioned in front of the stage where the judges would sit.

When I reached the dressing room I noticed that the dressing rooms were divided in to contestant and non-contestant performers. I took a space in the contestants’ dressing room. I decided I would take a space next to a standing mirror, without any counter space because I mostly got ready at home.

Only three of the six other performers had arrived. They were all in varying states of ready, each working with intense concentration on their contour or their eyebrows. I only had met one of them before. One of them didn’t speak English. It was going to be a long, silent night.

I had a couple finishing touches to add to my makeup “lewk” for the night. I took out my makeup bag and balanced it on the top shelf of a clothing rack. I grabbed my eyebrow pencil and darkened my eyebrows to match my hair. I drew on an eyeliner wing sharp enough to cut a bitch. Finally, I added a dark maroon lip. I checked the clock. It was only 8:00. We weren’t starting until 9.

I took my headphones out and started going over my number. I had decided to perform “Judas” by Lady Gaga. It was a high energy number with a relatively simple costume that could show off my distinct brand of slutty diva realness.

Because I decided to enter this pageant so late I only had a week to put my number together. Some of these girls had been preparing for this pageant for months. One girl even told me she designed and custom ordered her outfits from Puerto Rico. I was wearing a three dollar bralette from Walmart that I stoned, a cape I bought at Target, and a pair of leggings I had stained while painting in the scene shop that day. I started feeling very out of my league.

My Lady Gaga look for my performance of “Judas”

As time went on the room filled with the rest of the contestants. I was feeling so overwhelmed and nervous that I didn’t move from my corner of the room. The other queens started to take notice. One girl who had not performed in drag until that night, Robbie Evans, turned to me. “How long have you been performing?” “Solo? Since April. But I have been doing shows here for about three years.” “Yeah! She’s was a backup dancer!” answered Betty Jett, the only queen competing that night who I had worked with before.

I started drag the summer after my freshman year in college. I was in a musical with a lot of people I had worked with before, so I was more comfortable than I normally am in a theatre setting. I was dancing backstage with two of my new friends, Gabe and Mimi, and I caught the attention of Kathy Banta. She was putting together a drag show and was in need of another dancer. I jumped at the opportunity to perform. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Since then I have done about three shows a year until April when I was formally invited to join the drag house founded by Gabe, Mimi, and Kathy called the “House of Qui”. Since starting my solo career I have performed in at least one show a month.

Two other members of the House of Qui: Mama (Kathy) and Gigi Bon Qui Qui (Gabe)

There are a couple of drag houses in the Sioux City area. We have my house, the “House of Qui”, the “Shakers,” and the “Stahrs.” These are the three most prominent that I have worked with.

A drag house is group of performers that treat each other like family. My drag mother, Kathy, helps our family by supplying costumes, helping make mixes, helping pick numbers, booking us for her shows, and keeping us professional.  Kathy has said before that our house isn’t one that “set’s out to add members or build an empire.” We were just a core group of theatre people that happened to be doing all of these shows and worked together extremely well.

This sense of family also continues outside of a drag setting too. My family has supported me in my theatrical endeavors as well. The last two shows I was in they came to watch and brought me flowers. We also have family dinners on occasion where we hang out and talk about anything and everything. Just recently we went on a zombie hunt as a family outing and live streamed the whole thing to Facebook.

House of Qui at the Zombie Hunt

Our wrangler for the night, Gabby Valentino, came in to our dressing room at 8:45. By this point all of us were frantically putting on our finishing touches because we were assured we were going to start on time. She then gave us the word that we were pushing our start time back to 9:45. We all relaxed, but just barely.

The dressing room at this point was insanely crowded. It’s only about the size of a large closet. There is a counter with large mirrors on one side. On the opposite wall, a clothing rack with a shelf above it and a stand mirror beneath it. On the wall beside the door there are two small cared tables with mirrors behind them.

There were seven drag queens with all of their costumes and makeup. Four of the girls had dressers who were also in the room. One girl had a pair of backup dancers who were also in the room. It was claustrophobic.

“I love your bra!” another queen, Vanessa Divine, said. I didn’t realize this compliment was for me at first. I then realized I was the only half naked person in the room. Of course, that was my costume. “I guess it’s not a bra, what do you call that?” “Thank you!” I said, “It’s a bralette. I designed it myself!”

Her dresser, a trans woman who made sure you knew she was a trans woman, turned around sharply. “Are you competing tonight?” She asked this in a pointed tone, so much so that it made the room go quiet so I knew I wasn’t imagining it.

“Yes I am.” I answered in a weak voice. I was already nervous as it was and now I was getting questioned about something I was already insecure about. My validity as a contestant in this pageant. “Are you not, like, actually a woman?”

The concept of a Bio Queen is one that not a lot of people understand because it is not as “mainstream” as traditional drag.

Drag has grown in popularity recently with the success of the reality TV competition RuPaul’s Drag Race. However, because of that show there is a clear idea society has of what makes a drag queen.  Drag Race,however, only represents one type of drag. In recent years it has even garnered criticism within the world of drag for only rewarding one facet of traditional drag and not showing more sides of the stereotypical female impersonation. Drag can be interpreted in many different ways and there are many types of performers.

A Bio Queen is a female who performs as a female impersonator. There are a number of different names that could describe the same type of performer but in Sioux City we use Bio Queen.

“Well, they let me enter,” I said to the woman. “Okay.” She offered me her hand to shake. “Stephanie Osiris, nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you I am Joey.” I said back. “Joey what?” “Joey Volquartsen. Well Josephine De La Qui onstage.”

This response caught her off guard. “Alright, I can get in to it,” she said. “Miss De La Qui, if I have time I’m gonna watch what you do.”

I had won over my first person of the night. Hopefully the judges would be as easily swayed by the fact that I can hold my own against the sassy queens.

As this conversation was finishing up our MC for the night, Adania St. James, came in to inform us we were ready to begin. I put on my red bandana and my cape and waited for my turn to perform in the talent round.

I was contestant number five so when the fourth girl took the stage I was informed that I could stand at the side of the stage. I went to the wings and started to get in the zone.

The stage at El Patron is a raised platform near the back of the bar, the back half of which is concealed by a few hanging curtains. When the lights are on the curtains you can see through to watch the performer before you. I watched the number this queen was performing and I realized how much talent there is in the Sioux City drag community. And I was one of them. It was then I realized that I was not out of my league. The coordinators of this show could have kept me out on a technicality if they didn’t think I could hold my own. I was ready to take the stage.

As I came to this conclusion I suddenly felt a set of acrylic nails run up my arm. This startled me more than I would like to admit. I must have jumped out of my skin as Adania started laughing, really hard, and put her arms up as she walked past me to go on the stage to announce me. “Esteemed panel of judges, we present contestant number five: Josephine De La Qui!” My music started and I took the stage.

Josephine and Joey are not the same person. I barely recognize myself when I see videos of my performance. Josephine is a character I play, just as I play any of my theatre characters and I can bring her out and turn her off in a matter of seconds. In the areas where Joey is insecure Josephine could care less.

To me drag is an extension of the persona I put on for theatre. Josephine is a racy diva who doesn’t give a $#*! if you like her or not. She, much like me, wears all black but instead of yoga pants and long shirts she wears crop tops, mesh, and corsets. Josephine wears spiked heel boots or no shoes at all in order to do jump splits without them getting in the way. She picks songs that are raunchy and bitter and sexy. Joey mostly hides all of those sides of her personality (to varying degrees of success).

I came offstage. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Josephine De La Qui!” The crowd went wild for me. It’s one of the best feelings. “Oh no no,” Adania continued, “you can show more appreciation than that. She turned it out. Give it up for Josephine De La Qui!”

The crowd erupted again. I heard some of my drag family cheering for me from the back of the bar. Most of my performance was a blur, except for the point where I did a jump split and Adania came over the mic and said “oh damn she went there!” and the crowd erupted in a wave of cheers.

Drag audiences go nuts for stunts. I always get a good number of tips because I can buck and twirl and split and cartwheel in my numbers and make it look incredibly easy. Once I was given a five-dollar tip because I high kicked myself in the face. Once I did a split and two girls sitting at a front table immediately reached for their wallets.

Evening gown was the round I knew I was going to lose. I don’t own an evening gown. I am a college theatre major on a budget. I also didn’t have time to attempt making anything. I settled on a prom dress that I wore in my senior pictures in high school. It was a short dress but it looked good so I decided to take the risk.

My “Evening Gown”

What I knew I could nail was the onstage question. I know how to present myself in front of a crowd. My name was announced again and I walked out to model my gown. The crowd loved me because I knew I had to sell the garment so I was twirling and posing with an amount of attitude and confidence unlike any I have ever exhibited before outside of a theatre setting.

I went up to the judge’s table and picked my question and returned to Gabby for the question to be asked. “What made you decide to be a drag performer?” I took note of the fact that they didn’t use the term drag queen, but I moved on. Somehow I must have willed this question in to being because I had the perfect pageant answer.

“I started in this community as a back up dancer and during that time I found this community to be one of the most supporting, accepting communities I have ever been a part of. I have never once been told I can’t wear a costume or do a certain number because of how I look or what I am.” The crowd erupted in to applause and Adania, sitting on the stage listening, gave me insane amount of finger waves. “Because of this I knew I wanted to be a part of this community in a bigger way, so I decided to become a drag performer.”

When I finished, the modeling music started again and I started to leave the stage. As I hit the exit I gave one final pose. “You better get it bitch!” Adania exclaimed as I left the stage. This is a compliment of the highest form from other queens.

Once the question portion was done the contestants were quarantined in our dressing room as the judges tallied up the scores. This was when I was able to get to know some of the other contestants.

Twenty minutes later, we were asked back to the stage. Before we left the room Adania came in one final time. “I will tell you girls, you all shut it DOWN out there. I am so F#*&ing proud of you all.” We were told that unlike in previous years, no one would be eliminated off the stage because “we all deserved to be up there.”

We lined up on stage and the crown was walked down the line. Back and forth Adania walked, stone faced, as the crowd yelled support for the queen they wanted to see crowned. After what seemed like an eternity, Beverly Moone was crowned Miss Sioux City Newcomer 2018-19. I was extremely excited for my new friend!

I knew that I wasn’t going to win. When we discussed my involvement my drag mom told me I was at long odds for two reasons. First was because I was a Bio Queen. Because I am an actual woman I have to perform twice as hard to prove myself. Second was because I was her drag daughter, but honestly I am so proud to be a Qui I wouldn’t want to be in any other family.

After the show I packed my stuff up and hung out with the members of my drag family who came to the show. I was in a car with my sister when Adania came up to the car window. “Josephine,” she said. I couldn’t tell if she was just being very serious or if she didn’t recognize me since that I changed in to my Morningside sweatshirt. “Fantastic job. Really, good job tonight.”

Red Box Review – In & Out

The rights of the LGBTQ+ community are something that are always something that comes up in the news. So you would assume that some of the best representation for a gay man would be in a modern film. You would be wrong.

In & Out is a 1997 Paul Rudnick comedy starring Kevin Kline that follows the life of an English Literature teacher in Indiana who is outed days before his wedding when a former student wins an Oscar. Chaos ensues as the town gets thrust into the spotlight due to the claims.

This movie is absolutely a product of it’s time. I found myself laughing hysterically at points of the movie and then immediately feeling bad about laughing. It leans in to gay stereotypes that should send any good LGBTQ+ activist or ally in to a frenzy. But for some reason, it didn’t.

I believe the important factor making this movie funny and not offensive is the tone. The actors in this movie knew what movie they were in. Jokes that could be taken wrong if not handled with the deft hand of these actors landed perfectly.

A standout performance was that of Kevin Kline. Kline, a straight-male, was extremely believable in the role of the closeted, stuffy English teacher. Though the writing suggest he really lean in to the stereotypes of gay men with lines such as “watch your hands” and his character engaging in a fistfight over an insult hurled at Barbra Streisand, he played it with enough restraint that you were curious whether or not he would turn out to really be gay up until you find out for sure.

Not to be out shined are Joan Cusack, Debbie Reynolds, and Tom Selleck. Cusack handles the role of the distraught fiancee with the perfect mix of lovable and shrill. Debbie Reynolds excels in the role of an accepting yet wedding obcessed mother. Selleck handles the smarmy TV reporter so well that you are pulled in by the sexual tension between him and Kline.

The side characters and extras in this movie are also extremely entertaining. Any person that speaks in this movie is insanely entertaining. This includes background actors with just one line. I LOST IT when a reporter exclaimed “Do you know Ellen?” and another followed with “Should gays be allowed to handle fresh fruit?”

The script for this movie seemed extremely well thought out. Not one line in it was a throw away. Even the fake movie within the movie was comedy gold. My favorite bit of that dialogue was “I love you!” “You mean, like a brother. You mean, as a cousin. You mean, as a pen pal.” I died. Also the court marshal scene with the artifacts that pointed to the soldier being gay was funny as hell.

Though the movie is a product of it’s time, it holds up. In recent years there was another comedy that tackled similar topics of outing ruining a life in the movie Hurricane Bianca. Though Hurricane Bianca was written by and starred actual LGBTQ+ people and followed a lot of the plot of In & Out, it came off as more offensive and the jokes didn’t land.

I believe that the reasoning is that the actors in this movie were better equipped to take on the topics.

There were quite a few elements that, working with a number of LGBTQ+ people in both theatre and other aspects of my life, were extremely accurate but also verging on stereotypical.

The music, for instance, is very much what you would think of when you think of a gay man. One of the first songs to play was Ethel Merman’s version of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” During the Oscars the underscoring was “With One Look” from Sunset Boulevard. Barbra Streisand is a running joke in the movie. It’s very much a stereotype that was accepted in movies pre-2010.

There is currently a bigger push toward making characters more fully fledged and complex and also to be played by people who are actually a part of the community they are portraying. Because of this I believe that a modern audience may take offense to this movie if they don’t take in to account the time in which the film was made.

This movie is perfect for people who love little references that are hard to catch. As a theatre nerd and die-hard Barbra Streisand fan, I noticed things in the underscoring or happening in the background that some people wouldn’t get. I believe that gay men with a sense of humor will also love this movie.

If you are looking for a 100% stereotype free depiction of an LGBTQ+ story this is not the movie for you. It approaches the subject with a comedic tone. It absolutely isn’t meant to be completely realistic to what would happen. I can guarantee if this happened in my small town, there wouldn’t be a happy ending.

If nothing I have said already makes you want to watch this movie let me leave you with this one last attempt. Kevin Kline does a very convincing dance to a remix of “I Will Survive.” There is a lot of thrusting. That itself would be worth the price of the DVD for me.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Story #2 First Draft

Entering the competition was an extremely last minute decision. I was completely prepared to make a fool of myself but I felt like this was something I had to do. I had to defend my style of performance. I had to represent for the Bio Queens.

I perform as a Bio Queen at El Patron night club in Sioux City. I have been doing shows at this bar as a back up dancer for about three years now, but in April of this year I made the jump to performing solo becoming Sioux City’s Premiere Bio Queen. Because I am a new queen and am trying to get my name out in the community more, I decided to enter the clubs amateur drag pageant, Miss Sioux City Newcomer.

I arrived at the bar at 7:30 PM. The show runner had asked us to be there by 8 but the bar owner said to be there at 7. I decided to split the difference. Even though the doors opened at 7 the only person there who wasn’t a performer was the owner. He gave me a nod as I brushed past the tables toward the “backstage” area.

I have performed in this bar a million times in the past three years, but tonight the set up was different. There was a table with a lamp and a white table cloth positioned in front of the stage where the judges would sit.

When I reached the dressing room I noticed that the dressing rooms were divided in to contestants and non-contestant performers. I took a space in the contestants dressing room. I decided I would take a space next to a standing mirror, without any counter space because I mostly got ready at home.

There were only three of the six other performers there already. They were all at varying states of ready, each working with intense concentration on their contour or their eyebrows. I only had met one of them before. One of them didn’t speak any English. It was going to be a long, silent night.

I had a couple finishing touches to add to my makeup “lewk” for the night. I took out my makeup bag and balanced it on the top shelf of a clothing rack. I grabbed my eyebrow pencil and darkened my eyebrows to match my hair. I drew on an eyeliner wing sharp enough to cut a bitch. Finally, I added a dark maroon lip. I checked the clock. It was only 8:00. We weren’t starting until 9.

I took my headphones out and started going over my number. I had decided to perform “Judas” by Lady Gaga. It was a high energy number with a relatively simple costume that could show off my distinct brand of slutty diva realness.

Because I decided to enter this pageant so late I only had a week to put my number together. Some of these girls had been preparing for this pageant for months. One girl even told me she designed and custom ordered her outfits from Puerto Rico. I was wearing a three dollar bralette from Walmart that I stoned, a cape I bought at Target, and a pair of leggings I had stained while painting in the scene shop that day. I started feeling very out of my league.

My Lady Gaga look for my performance of “Judas”

As time went on the room filled with the rest of the contestants. I was feeling so overwhelmed and nervous that I didn’t move from my corner of the room. The other queens started to take notice. One girl who had not performed in drag until that night, Robbie Evans, turned to me. “How long have you been performing?” “Solo? Since April. But I have been doing shows here for about three years.” “Yeah! She’s was a backup dancer!” answered Betty Jett, the only queen competing that night who I had worked with before.

I started drag the summer after my freshman year in college. I was in a musical with a lot of people I had worked with before so I was more comfortable than I normally am in a theatre setting. I was dancing backstage with two of my new friends, Gabe and Mimi, and I caught the attention of Kathy Banta. She was putting together a drag show and was in need of another dancer. I jumped at the opportunity to perform. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Since then I have done about three shows a year until April when I was formally invited to join the drag house founded by Gabe, Mimi, and Kathy called the “House of Qui”. Since starting my solo career I have performed in at least one show a month.

Two other members of the House of Qui: Mama (Kathy) and Gigi Bon Qui Qui (Gabe)

There are a couple of drag houses in the Sioux City area. We have my house, the “House of Qui”, the “Shakers,” and the “Stahrs.” These are the three most prominent that I have worked with.

A drag house is group of performers that treat each other like family. My drag mother, Kathy, helps our family by supplying costumes, helping make mixes, helping pick numbers, booking us for her shows, and keeping us professional.

This sense of family also continues outside of a drag setting too. My family has supported me in my theatrical endeavors as well. The last two shows I was in they came to watch and brought me flowers. We also have family dinners on occasion where we hang out and talk about anything and everything.

Our wrangler for the night, Gabby Valentino, came in to our dressing room at 8:45. By this point all of us were frantically putting on our finishing touches because we were assured we were going to start on time. She then gave us the word that we were pushing our start time back to 9:45. We all relaxed, but just barely.

The dressing room at this point was insanely crowded. It’s only about the size of a large closet. There is a counter with large mirrors on one side. On the opposite wall, a clothing rack with a shelf above it and a stand mirror beneath it. On the wall beside the door there are two small cared tables with mirrors behind them.

There were seven drag queens with all of their costumes and makeup. Four of the girls had dressers who were also in the room. One girl had a pair of backup dancers who were also in the room. It was very claustrophobic.

“I love your bra!” another queen, Vanessa Divine, said. I didn’t realize this compliment was for me at first. I then realized I was the only half naked person in the room. Of course, that was my costume. “I guess it’s not a bra, what do you call that?” “Thank you!” I said, “It’s a bralette. I designed it myself!”

Her dresser, a trans woman who made sure you knew she was a trans woman, turned around sharply. “Are you competing tonight?” She asked this in a very pointed tone, so much so that it made the room go quiet so I knew I wasn’t imagining it.

“Yes I am.” I answered in a weak voice. I was already nervous as it was and now I was getting questioned about something I was already insecure about. My validity as a contestant in this pageant. “Are you not, like, actually a woman?”

The concept of a Bio Queen is one that not a lot of people understand because it is not as “mainstream” as traditional drag.

Drag has grown in popularity recently with the success of the reality TV competition RuPaul’s Drag Race. However, because of that show there is a clear idea society has of what makes a drag queen.  Drag Race,however, only represents one type of drag. In recent years it has even garnered criticism within the world of drag for only rewarding one facet of traditional drag and not showing more sides of the stereotypical female impersonation. Drag can be interpreted in many different ways and there are many types of performers.

A Bio Queen is a female who performs as a female impersonator. There are a number of different names that could describe the same type of performer but in Sioux City we use Bio Queen.

“Well, they let me enter,” I said to the woman. “Okay.” She offered me her hand to shake. “Stephanie Osiris, nice to meet you.” “Nice to meet you I am Joey.” I said back. “Joey what.” “Joey Volquartsen. Well Josephine De La Qui onstage.” This response caught her off guard. “Alright, I can get in to it.” She said. “Miss De La Qui, if I have time I’m gonna watch what you do.”

I had won over my first person of the night. Hopefully the judges would be as easily swayed by the fact that I can hold my own against the sassy queens.

As this conversation was finishing up our MC for the night, Adania St. James, came in to inform us we were ready to begin. I put on my red bandana and my cape and waited for my turn to perform in the talent round.

I was contestant number five so when the fourth girl took the stage I was informed that I could stand at the side of the stage. I went to the wings and started to get in the zone.

The stage at El Patron is a raised platform near the back of the bar the back half of which is concealed by a few hanging curtains. When the lights are on the curtains you can see through to watch the performer before you. I watched the number this queen was performing and I realized how much talent there is in the Sioux City drag community. And I was one of them. It was then I realized that I was not out of my league. The coordinators of this show could have kept me out on a technicality if they didn’t think I could hold my own. I was ready to take the stage.

As I came to this conclusion I suddenly felt a set of acrylic nails run up my arm. This startled me more than I would like to admit and I must have jumped out of my skin as Adania started laughing really hard and put her arms up as she walked past me to go on the stage to announce me. “Esteemed panel of judges, we present contestant number five: Josephine De La Qui!” My music started and I took the stage.

Josephine and Joey are not the same person. I barely recognize myself when I see videos of my performance. Josephine is just a character I play just as I play any of my theatre characters and I can bring her out and turn her off in a matter of seconds. In the areas where Joey is insecure Josephine could care less.

To me drag is an extension of the persona I put on for theatre. Josephine is a racy diva who doesn’t give a $#*! if you like her or not. She, much like me, wears all black but instead of yoga pants and long shirts she wears crop tops, mesh, and corsets. Josephine wears spiked heel boots or no shoes at all in order to do jump splits without them getting in the way. She picks songs that are raunchy and bitter and sexy. Joey mostly hides all of those sides of her personality (to varying degrees of success).

I came offstage. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Josephine De La Qui!” The crowd went wild for me. It’s one of the best feelings. “Oh no no,” Adania continued, “you can show more appreciation than that. She turned it out. Give it up for Josephine De La Qui!” The crowd erupted again. I heard some of my drag family cheering for me from the back of the bar. Most of my performance was a blur, except for the point where I did a jump split and Adania came over the mic and said “oh damn she went there!” and the crowd erupted in a wave of cheers.

Drag audiences go nuts for stunts. I always get a good number of tips because I can buck and twirl and split and cartwheel in my numbers and make it look incredibly easy. Once I was given a five-dollar tip because I high kicked myself in the face. Once I did a split and two girls sitting at a front table immediately reached for their wallets.

Evening gown was the round I knew I was going to lose. I don’t own an evening gown. I am a college theatre major on a budget. I also didn’t have time to attempt making anything. I settled on a prom dress that I wore in my senior pictures in high school. It was a short dress but it looked go so I decided to take the risk.

My “Evening Gown”

What I knew I could nail was the onstage question. I know how to present myself in front of a crowd. My name was announced again and I walked out to model my gown. The crowd loved me because I knew I had to sell the garment so I was twirling and posing with an amount of attitude and confidence unlike any I have ever exhibited before outside of a theatre setting.

I went up to the judges table and picked my question and returned to Gabby for the question to be asked. “What made you decide to be a drag performer?” I took note of the fact that they didn’t use the term drag queen, but I moved on. Somehow I must have willed this question in to being because I had the perfect pageant answer.

“I started in this community as a back up dancer and during that time I found this community to be one of the most supporting, accepting communities I have ever been a part of. I have never once been told I can’t wear a costume or do a certain number because of how I look or what I am.” The crowd erupted in to applause and Adania, sitting on the stage listening, gave me insane amount of finger waves. “Because of this I knew I wanted to be a part of this community in a bigger way, so I decided to become a drag performer.”

When I finished, the modeling music started again and I started to leave the stage. As I hit the exit I gave one final pose. “You better get it bitch!” Adania exclaimed as I left the stage. This is a compliment of the highest form from other queens.

Once the question portion was done the contestants were quarantined in our dressing room as the judges tallied up the scores. This was when I was able to get to know some of the other contestants.

Twenty minutes later, we were asked back to the stage. Before we left the room Adania came in one final time. “I will tell you girls, you all shut it DOWN out there. I am so F#*&ing proud of you all.” We were told that unlike in previous years, no one would be eliminated off the stage because “we all deserved to be up there.”

We lined up on stage and the crown was walked down the line. Beverly Moone was crowned Miss Sioux City Newcomer 2018-19. I was extremely excited for my new friend!

I knew that I wasn’t going to win. When we discussed my involvement my drag mom told me I was at long odds for two reasons. First was because I was a Bio Queen. Because I am an actual woman I have to perform twice as hard to prove myself. Second was because I was her drag daughter, but honestly I am so proud to be a Qui I wouldn’t want to be in any other family.

After the show I packed my stuff up and hung out with the members of my drag family who came to the show. I was in a car with my sister when Adania came up to the car window. “Josephine,” she said. I couldn’t tell if she was just being very serious or if she didn’t recognize me since that I changed in to my Morningside sweatshirt. “Fantastic job. Really, good job tonight.”

Anecdote

Confidence and ambition are key in the theatre. And not just when you are on stage. You have to show confidence and ambition in every aspect of theatre, especially in an educational environment where everyone has to pitch in to make the shows happen.

Our theatre department has gotten significantly smaller in the last year. We lost the professor who taught costume design and the one student whose main focus was costume design graduated. At the beginning of the year we didn’t know who would be costuming our musical.

My roommate, Amy and I, had been cast in the show and were doing a ton of research. One night we stumbled upon a 53-page dissertation about the costuming in this particular show. Of course we read the whole thing.

After reading it we realized that our discussion over the course of the night included our own ideas for how the show should be costumed. We decided to send an email to the director asking if we could costume the show. His response was “After thinking about this proposal I think that this could be very interesting, so congratulations you are know the costume designers for the show.”

So my position went from acting in the show to acting and doing dramaturgy to acting in the show, doing dramaturgy, and co-costume designing.

Soon after, I was asked to do some choreography for the show since I have experience in that field. I was now in the show, co-costume designing, doing the dramaturgy and choreographing the show.

Finally, during the second week of rehearsals, I was asked to work on the props design. My final list of duties for the show became playing the lead, co-costume designing, doing the dramaturgy, choreographing, and co-properties designing.

While we have been working on the show I keep throwing out ideas for other aspects of the show as well. My favorite was when I had an idea our director really liked for our pre-show music and he yelled across the room “what are you going to be the sound designer now too?”

Because I want to go in to theatre professionally, the theatre faculty find it important that I am getting this experience in multiple aspects of theatre. They also know that having this many jobs will not detract from any of the other jobs I am doing. They appreciated the confidence I had to take on the jobs and the ambition I have shown in getting them done.

Mental Health in the Media – Feature Story #1 Final

A group of actors sit in a circle in the middle of the stage. They are here to do the table discussion for an upcoming production. The director, Professor Taylor Clemens, leads the discussion with the usual questions. How does your character interact with this character? How long have you known each other? Was this your first serious relationship?

But this table discussion has some very specific questions that these actors must answer. How are we going to address mental illness with respect? How can we make this character’s story seem real?

A truthful representation of mental illness is something that Professor Clemens is striving for in Morningside’s upcoming production of Next to Normal, a musical that focuses on the life of a woman living with bipolar disorder. However, he knows that a totally realistic representation is unlikely. “The artist in me is like, ‘I want to represent it perfectly,’ but at the same time it will never be perfect. It will only be perfect to that one person who is creating it.”

The entertainment industry has historically been fascinated with the topic of mental health. This began in the 1930s with portrayals of Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly multiple personality disorder) in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This has continued to the present day with the current onslaught of mental health-centric TV shows and movies released almost monthly. Even as this plethora of media is distributed to the masses this does not mean that the representation is no longer problematic.

The representation of mental health disorders on TV, in movies, and on stage is a much debated thing on any arts and entertainment website you visit.

Lists are made of the best and the worst representation. Sometimes even actors are blamed for a lack of realism in their portrayal, and the stigma of mental health is always brought up. In a time where the news and politicians like to blame mental disorders for any tragedy that they can’t blame on terrorists, how important is our representation of mental health and how can we make strides towards lessening a deep seated stigma?

When asked if any current media was representing mental health well, Psychology Professor Dr. Shannon DeClute had a simple, one-word answer: “No.”

She is not alone in this belief. Many mental health professionals feel that although representation of mental disorders has progressed greatly in recent years, there are still more shows than not that get it wrong. Professionals believe that the ways mental disorders are presented further societal stigmas about how the mentally ill behave.

“So many movies that involve violence and aggression often lazily use the cause of mental illness. For example, something like DID, Dissociative Identity Disorder, there’s so many movies out there where the mass murderer has multiple personalities.” Dr. DeClute brought up movies, such as 2016’s Split, where the villain is a “crazy” person.

This “mentally disturbed killer” trope is used often in horror and suspense movies such as PsychoFatal Attraction, The Shining, and American Psycho. This genre is usually pointed to as the most likely to further the American belief that people with mental disorders are dangerous and aggressive. Meister says that “most people who have mental health problems are not violent.”

Along with the horror genre, Meister says that comedy could also be contributing to the stigma. “Whenever you bring some of that comedy and stuff in it really exacerbates the stereotypes. When that happens I think that it’s… not helpful.”

“Mental health is presented in a more extreme form or maybe a more dramatized form in media.” Morningside’s on-campus personal counselor Bobbi Meister believes that even though movies and TV shows about mental health are good, they are not real life. “It’s still a drama. Some of the characteristics that are presented aren’t always done in a natural way.”

She says that they are parts of certain shows that do a good job. She believes that Parenthood does a good job of representing autism and Iron Man 3 shows what she believes to be a realistic panic attack.

Representation of any group of people is important. Society is currently pushing back against a lack of representation that has been in the media for many years. In April 2017, Netflix introduced the #FirstTimeISawMe campaign that highlighted the importance of diversity in the stories we tell on TV and in movies. Netflix also has endless options of mental health-centered movies and TV shows, including their original shows The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, where the title character shows signs of PTSD; Lady Dynamite, a semi-autobiographical show about Maria Bamford’s life with Bipolar II Disorder; and 13 Reasons Why, which centers on a high school girl with depression.

Dr. DeClute says that it is important to have characters that accurately represent mental health issues and that the issue should not be avoided. She believes that the mental illness should not be a character’s whole identity. “That’s representative of who we actually are. Estimates of 50-75% of the U.S. population will meet the criteria for mental disorders at some point in time. That’s who we are and our characters should reflect that, but they should reflect it in a non-dramatic, accurate way.”

As a theatre artist, Professor Clemens believes that the hardest part about representing any mental illness in entertainment is that everyone’s experience with a given disorder will be different. “You can take a poll of ten people that suffer from depression and each of them is going to react a different way. There’s some people that are going to watch things like 13 Reasons Why and say, ‘Oh my God, that is exactly what my experience is like,’ and then there’s other people that will watch it and say, ‘All of that is fake and false. That’s completely unreal to me.’ It’s extremely hard to represent in any emotional or physical way.”

What can be done to fix the representation of mental health? Dr. DeClute gave this suggestion “Stop being lazy and stop using mental health as an excuse for violence and aggression.” She says that the majority of individuals with mental health issues are going to be victims of violence.

Meister believes that writers should shift the way that they approach writing characters with mental disorders. “I think that it definitely would be good to not just show one element of it. What they are presenting a lot of times in the entertainment industry is a pervasive illness that they deal with their entire lives, it’s not usually something that is a reaction to a situation and you work through it. I don’t think they do a good job of showing how they can be ‘normal.’ They should show their down days and good days and what that really looks like.”

Though Meister thinks that there are examples of good representations, she hopes that the takeaway from these scenes is not that this is the only way this mental disorder presents itself.

Because the purpose of media such as television and movies is entertainment, Dr. DeClute says more dramatized choices are the choices that these programs should be making. “They are trying to do it for entertainment. They want ratings for their show, they want people to watch them, and they are showing bits and pieces of issues and treatment and resolution. That’s good for entertainment and that’s the choices they are making.” However, viewers have to remember that these pieces of media are just entertainment.

Professor Clemens believes that the key to an accurate, respectful take on a show is to focus on research. “First, I hire a really good dramaturge to research the disorder. Luckily our dramaturge also plays the lead character, the one working through bipolar, so that helps. A lot of personal experience goes into it too. You also have to be really open and honest with actors and trying to have that conversation, which is a hard conversation to have.”

 

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