Gender Role Damage Control consisted of two short, 30-minute previews of future works from artists Sam I’Am and Ian Hill. The “half-theatre, half-drag, all-queer” performances were a tantalizing taste of pieces to come. I’Am’s solo musical theatre piece, entitled They/Them, showed I’Am’s life through them, their mother, and their daughter. It’s a lively and personal work that deals with what it means to be non-binary. Hill’s piece, entitled A Study In Glamour, was a drag piece that humorously tackled the power struggle between genders through a series of characters: Eve in the garden of Eden, Melania Trump, and their own drag persona Irene Dubois. Tiptoeing closely to black comedy at times, it was a study in glamor and a fantastic and provocative performance.
I’Am’s solo performance was the perfect medium for their story. They/Them was at times touching, sad, silly, and honest. Their portrayal of themself was playful, and really emphasized the how objective our societal understanding of gender roles is, and successfully challenged heteronormative cis gender roles. I really enjoyed their acting and their portrayal of the different facets of the characters. I was confused about the timeline of the musical, but that’s what these previews are for, to give the artists a chance to work out the kinks and really perfect a final project. I loved witnessing and empathizing with a person’s evolution and understanding of themself. The final piece can only provide an even more intimate and funny understanding of I’Am’s journey.
Hill’s piece, A Study In Glamour, took on the huge task of comically analyzing the power struggle between genders, and did a damn good job of it. Beginning in the Garden of Eden, we see what really went down between Eve and Adam. It was campy, well written, and original. Two hand puppets and a quick costume change later we got to see the struggle between Melania Trump and He Who Must Not Be Named (aka her husband.) The turmoil my fellow audiences members experienced as Melania sang to Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend and Roxy, interspersed with sound bites of some of her husband’s most harrowing quotes, was truly hilarious and cringe-worthy. A Study In Glamour should come with a trigger warning due to the number of times we had to endure hearing he who must not be named spewing some his most foul and memorable hate speech. Hill ended the piece in their own drag persona, Irene Dubois, and performed a delightful closing number that included a soundbite from a very well-known interview of Eartha Kitt. Makeup, costumes, and overall performance were on point! Hill is taking drag to a place where I haven’t seen it go before, and I can’t wait to see how they continue to create.
So what have we learned from all this? That I am a mediocre journalist and Sam I’Am and Ian Hill are two queer artists to look out for. It’s obvious these two are dedicated to making original, exceptionally crafted art. There is a renaissance of Trans Queer and/or POC artists right now and we a blessed to witness their ingenuity. Also, if you want to see some more pretty good quality performance art on the cheap, I highly recommend checking out what’s going on at 18th and Union because their calendar is poppin’.