Our Identities Unfolded

Drag Queen Bares All

While Business students have been pushing their pencils getting ready for finals a floor below, the final result of a three-month-long creation and rehearsal period came to fruition on stage in a virgin performance spectacle.

Concordia’s Theatre and Development team presented WHO/NANI QUI, an “identity construction show,” to sold-out audiences on the 7th floor of the John Molson School of Business building Nov. 22 to 28. It was the first official production in the MB building.

Exploring issues of gender, race, sexuality and other aspects of queer culture, students (myself included) danced up a storm alongside guest artists from le Collectif Moyo, a Congolese theatre, music and dance troupe.

We’ve been workshopping this specific English, French and Lingala creation since September of this year. After the emotionally challenging subject matter, it seems now that there is a performing art community within the often-cold feel of Concordia’s SGW campus.

We share the hallway with the Contemporary Dance department, and use the whole 7th floor as a warm-up space, a box office, a cafe and a place to tell stories in the hallways. It has been an interesting experience as a performer in sharing this new space with the audience and schoolmates alike.

The prolific director and part-time Concordia instructor, Rachael Van Fossen, solidified this multi-purpose student-space.

What was WHO/NANI QUI like? It had a bit of everything. Half of the cast talked of faking heterosexual orgasms, reenacted rapes and gay-bashings, danced the tango and lived an African village through song.

The other half of the cast joined the audience, sporting and performing through handmade puppets. The puppets served as comedic relief and provided a poignant look into the role of an audience
With fire regulations limiting our capacity to 60 people, the room was basically half cast and half audience. The set design was simple, clean and warm, with audience members surrounding it on both sides. As you can imagine, this staging forced both performers and spectators to interact in new ways—to reflect on how we see each other and ourselves. With a cast and crew with such varying and rich identities, you can imagine how intimate and powerful the piece felt.

As for me, well, I’m a pretty well-known killer performer and drag queen, Connie Lingua. I’ve been tranny-ing it up for the past eight years back home in Alberta and now in Montreal. I can tell you that I definitely am not your average gender illusionist…or so I thought. Within the show, I was confronted with an experience that made me view my identity in a new way.

When we are confronted with our other selves, we realize that everyone considers themselves an other, but the important thing is to talk to each other and really talk about what matters: each other.

Whatever Connie Wants became the title of my vignette, as Connie and Antonio danced a Tango around issues of gender roles and taboos, with some varying emotional effects upon myself and the person playing me, her and I.

I’ve been performing onstage in drag and out of drag, and every night it is different and engaging. This has been the most rewarding and challenging theatre piece I have ever dealt with. Connie will never be the same.

During this stage of my life, I don’t really know what to do with my drag super-heroine. Balancing school, a theatre career and a drag queen’s professional social life is much more difficult and even more dramatic than you think. But I look at Connie onstage, I see how people follow her and crave her to be that embodiment of the female divine. How much we all crave to be that strong, vivacious vixen whose attitude can raise a man to his feet and also knock him to his knees.

I guess Connie Lingua will always be a part of me, and I’m ok with that now.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 16, published November 30, 2010.