Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Illinois Humanities Council event focuses on drag
by Gretchen Rachel Blickensderfer
2014-09-10

This article shared 4511 times since Wed Sep 10, 2014
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


The Illinois Humanities Council's 2014 "Now What?" series has played host to spirited discussions in venues across the city with headliners and experts weighing in on array of topics that are shaping U.S. business, culture and politics from the rise and proliferation of social media to equality and the role of democracy in public education.

On Sept. 3, the fourth and penultimate conversation filled The Empty Bottle bar in Ukrainian Village to capacity. Focused upon drag performance and its impact upon perceptions of gender alongside the artistic disciplines of theatre and music, Illinois Humanities Council ( IHC ) Executive Director Angel Ysaguirre posed and fielded questions from an enthusiastic audience to two drag artists—Justin Honard and Daniel Alexander Jones. Both appeared as themselves rather than as their characters.

Honard—who began his performance days in theater—recalled always gravitating to girls' clothes "because they are fun and prettier" and so felt the call to become a drag queen during a 22nd-birthday visit to the San Francisco event "Trannyshack"—which is currently in the process of being renamed. He described his character of Alaska Thunderfuck 5000 ( a name based on a potent, lemon-scented strain of marijuana ) as an alien from the planet Glamtron who crash-landed on earth.

These days, she "whores" around the planet social climbing in the gay community, making music videos and not quite winning season five of RuPaul's Drag Race while swallowing up the required amount of Twitter followers to repair her ship. An unfortunate incident with a single ice-cube led to Thunderfuck recently donating 120 one-dollar bills to the ALS association. "I don't know where that came from" Honard admitted in describing how he got the idea for the character. "It was channeled. I was reading about Daniel's work as Jomama and how [she] takes the passenger seat and takes over."

That takeover began for Jones at the age of 25, when he was living in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. He discovered Patrick's Cabaret—an experimental performance space in the city that specifically encourages work from artists of color, as well as those who are LGBTQ or have disabilities. According to Jones, the cabaret's founder Patrick Scully "opened his doors to anybody who wanted to try something." Thus, Jones created a performance piece that was inspired by his impassioned love of the legendary television series "Soul Train."

His character of Jomama Jones "came out of the ether," he said. "She was very concerned with herself and the story that emerged was that she was receiving a lifetime achievement award from Don Cornelius." Jomama declined the award refusing to allow Cornelius to put her in a "career graveyard."

Jones did not perform as Jomama for the next two years.

After a miserable break-up and with his career as a playwright and performance artist at a standstill, depression had set in when Jones said he heard Jomama's voice in his head. "She was like 'it's my turn, give me the reins'," Jones recalled. "She saved my life."

Jomama is described as a former teen R&B music star who fell from grace when the record company asked her to straighten her hair. That incident plus disagreement with the policies of Ronald Reagan caused her self-imposed exile to Switzerland where she spent her days shoe shopping with Tina Turner and raising goats. She eventually returned to the United Stated to record the album "Radiate." In 2011—alongside backup singers The Sweet Peaches—her live concert opened at the Soho Repertory Theatre in New York. The New York Times hailed it as "hard not to surrender to this sequin-encrusted earth mother's soulful embrace."

Ysaguirre attempted to determine the relationship between the drag character and performer. "Justin is pretty measured, zen and calm," Honard replied. "I think the Alaska thing is a release valve. We all have that inside of us—unbridled chaos and madness. You can really turn on the levels and let it go."

In doing so, Honard wants his character to inspire both laughter and happiness from her audience. "I want people to feel like it's OK to be weird, to not be afraid of that and to celebrate it and to feel less alone in the world," he said.

Jomama refers to Daniel simply as "her poor cousin." On the other hand, Daniel has said that Jomama comes from a distinguished lineage of artists from the '70s and '80s such as Diana Ross and Minnie Riperton that today is a vanishing breed. "They represented a certain kind of blackness that I don't see much now," he said. "It was eroded and you don't see the diversity of representation of Black women that you ironically did then. Black music at that time didn't just function as entertainment, it was nourishment for a community to reflect upon itself. How can we reclaim the fact that beauty comes in a lot of shapes, sizes and textures?"

A member of the audience asked how both characters related to the trans* and post gender-movement. After mulling that over for a moment, Horton replied that Thunderfuck identifies herself as an alien woman with a penis. "She doesn't fit into a gender normal classification," he said. "Does that make her a trans* person? She's, like, gender-variant."

"I feel like my trans* friends have totally blown my mind open," Jones said, "and challenged me to go to a level of digging up the roots of my own assumptions of gender."

Honard said he believes RuPaul's Drag Race has widened public perceptions of drag. "A lot more people know what drag is," he stated. "It's a performance thing you're doing on the stage. I think it makes people feel more able to express themselves however they want to."

During the recent contentious debate regarding offensive terminology used in RuPaul's program, Thunderfuck expressed herself with a video that appeared to show noted trans* commentator Parker Molloy being assassinated. Horton eventually apologized and removed it. Off stage, he acknowledged to Windy City Times that the video was a reactionary decision. "It was stupid, harmful and it was wrong on my part," he said.

Horton added that there is a common ground between drag artists and the trans* community that could spur ongoing conversation. "A lot of the trans* people I'm friends with are also performers," he said. "Gender is performance. We have a lot more in common than we think and if anybody wants to talk about that with me I'm here to listen and I'm here to talk because I don't want us to be fighting. I think that we should all work together to make the world a better place."

When Ysaguirre raised the opinion of some that drag reinforces female stereotypes an audience member commented that women aren't given the "in your face" platform a lot of drag queens enjoy.

Jones replied that he was raised by lesbian feminist artists who would not accept the banal theatrical roles usually being written for female actors. "These women who raised me up in theatre said 'I want to tell my story'," Jones recalled. "Nobody gave me this platform. I made this platform. I made it with blood sweat and tears. So make your platform. Nobody needs to give you damned permission. Take the stage, because it's yours."

The discussion was followed by drag and drag inspired performances curated by the underground art group Salonathon with music by Baathhouse and Big Dipper.

For more information about the Illinois Humanities Council, visit www.prairie.org/.


This article shared 4511 times since Wed Sep 10, 2014
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

'Firebird' opens Reeling Chicago LGBTQ+ Internat'l Film Fest tonight 2021-09-23
--From a press release - CHICAGO, Illinois — Tonight, the 39th annual Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival invites audiences to enjoy an in-person pre-party and theater screening of 'Firebird' for Opening Night at the Music Box Theater. Director P ...


Gay News

THEATER Steppenwolf's 'Bug' running Nov. 11-Dec. 12 2021-09-22
- Steppenwolf Theatre Company will welcome audiences back for in-person performances for the first time in 20 months with its acclaimed revival of Bug by ensemble member Tracy Letts, in the Downstairs Theater on Nov. 11-Dec. 12. ...


Gay News

THEATER 'Hot Pink, or Ready to Blow' available for download 2021-09-21
- It's Pompeii meets Heathers as New American Folk Theatre continues its "season of audio theatre" with a new studio recording of its 2018 hit comedy Hot Pink, or Ready to Blow. The production was written by ...


Gay News

Congo Square Theatre Co. announces new Artistic Director Ericka Ratcliff 2021-09-20
- Congo Square Theatre Company, an African American theater company, announced that longtime company member Ericka Ratcliff will serve as its new artistic director, effective immediately. Ratcliff becomes only the fourth ...


Gay News

THEATER Steppenwolf presenting three Tracy Letts virtual works Sept. 29-Oct. 24 2021-09-18
- Leading up to ensemble member Tracy Letts' production Bug returning this November to Steppenwolf's Downstairs Theater, the company is bringing audiences a sampler of the playwright's voice to their homes with a trio of new virtual ...


Gay News

Frank Ferrante to return as 'Groucho' for one night 2021-09-15
- Actor/director Frank Ferrante returns to his internationally heralded stage performance for one night only in "An Evening With Groucho" on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at the Spiegeltent ZaZou, on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel Chicago ...


Gay News

THEATER Out actor Dan Butler to be in 'When Harry Met Rehab' 2021-09-15
- Don Clark, a Chicago-based film/theater producer as well as co-owner of the Chicago Magic Lounge, will present the world premiere of When Harry Met Rehab—a comedy that takes sobriety seriously and is based loosely on the ...


Gay News

Students urged to apply for Musical Theatre Awards 2021-09-14
- Broadway in Chicago is inviting high schools across Illinois to participate in the 11th Annual Illinois High School Musical Theatre Awards. These awards celebrate excellence in high school theater throughout the state. Beginning Thursday, Sept. 16, ...


Gay News

First Floor Theater announces 2021-22 season 2021-09-13
--From a press release - CHICAGO, IL (Sept. 13, 2021) — First Floor Theater is excited to announce their ninth live-production season, featuring one world premiere and one Chicago premiere, along with a second round of The Blueprint Commission, it' new ...


Gay News

AstonRep Theatre Company announces 2021-22 season: 2021-09-13
--From a press release - CHICAGO (Sept. 13, 2021) — AstonRep Theatre Company is pleased to welcome back live audiences this fall, kicking off with a revival of Yasmina Reza's frenetic dark comedy God of Carnage, translated by Christopher Hampton and ...


Gay News

THEATER 'Dear Mom, I'm Gay!' on Oct. 1-2 2021-09-11
- Dear Mom, I'm Gay!—a workshop of a new musical by David Dilsizian—is running at The Jarvis Square Theater, 1439 W. Jarvis Ave. It will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1; and 2 and ...


Gay News

Saint Sebastian Players to perform four shows during 40th season 2021-09-10
--From a press release - The Saint Sebastian Players (SSP) announce the company is resuming live, in-person production with an expanded 40th Anniversary Season. The four-play lineup celebrates genres that have been popular with SSP ...


Gay News

Victory Gardens Theater announces plans for 2021-22 season 2021-09-10
--From a press release - Chicago, IL— Victory Gardens Theater announces their 2021/2022 Season, which will be presented in-person at the Biograph Theater in Lincoln Park. The season will feature three mainstage productions: Queen of the Night by travis tate, the ...


Gay News

Broken Nose Theatre presenting Black LGBTQ drama 'Kingdom' Oct. 4-24 2021-09-10
- Broken Nose Theatre is launching its tenth season with an audio adaptation of its hit 2018 play Kingdom, written by resident playwright Michael Allen Harris and directed by Manny Buckley. Kingdom features ensemble members RjW Mays ...


Gay News

DANCE Ensemble Espanol to open Auditorium Theatre season Oct. 16 2021-09-10
- Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater, in residence at Northeastern Illinois University, will return to the Auditorium Theatre on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 7:30 p.m. The company will mark the finale performance of its 45th-anniversary "Zafiro Flamenco ...


 



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.