Last Sunday, Once Upon A Drag, a costume and performance party for kids of all genders and ages, was held at NYU Skirball. The event featured drag queens Brita Filter, Jasmine Rice, Holly Boxsprings, Ritzy Bitz, Jada Valenciaga, Jan Sport, Rosé and Lagoona Bloo. The show, directed by NYU alum Vincent Cooper, had drag queens reinterpret fairytales in order to teach and reiterate lessons that are relevant for children in today’s day and age.
The performance on Sunday was a reinterpretation of Cinderella. The show, peppered with great humor, featured Cinderella as a boy who wanted to be a princess. Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters, however, would not let her go to the ball because she was not a girl. After being assisted by her fairy drag-mother, Cinderella was finally able to go to the ball. When the prince’s mother came to know that Cinderella was a boy who wanted to be a princess, she chose to make him the honorary princess of the kingdom instead of simply alienating him.
Not only did the show manage to raise questions about the way gender is depicted in children’s fairytales and in the wider realm of children’s literature, it also raised questions about parenting and the lessons we pass on to children. At one point in the show, one of the drag queens asked all “guys, gals and non-binary pals” to raise their hands and clap along to the music. Besides being quite interactive, the show was full of great dance routines to recent music hits.
The children and their parents cheered throughout the show. Each of the drag queens had her own distinct personality and character. Even within the timeframe of 45 to 60 minutes, each of the drag queens managed to carve a niche for themselves individually. Despite having a story like Cinderella at it core — one that has been readapted and remodeled several times, the show managed to stay afresh and had its own energy and glitter running throughout.
It is important to rework children’s literature and reinvent lessons and stories so that they suit contemporary contexts. The show ended with the cliched lesson of how one is unique and should be who one truly is — which is easier said than done. But the show did make children think about gender, through a familiar story, with music, dance and fun, and focused on the importance of gender-neutral parenting as well. In this regard, it could not have been a better show.
Email Devanshi Khetarpal at [email protected].