Experiments with Claus troFauxbia

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been challenged to create a drag king persona. Last night I spent some time playing with my image and seeing what sort of character started to emerge from that process.

I bound my chest with ace bandages, which was painful and uncomfortable and found that I had to wear baggy clothes to cover what remained of my bosom, as I am rather a buxom lass. I had a collection of men’s clothes to choose from (all my husbands), but the only pants I could get around my hips were track pants (aka sweat pants). When I tried a collared business shirt, tie, vest and jacket, I looked like a kid on his first day of high school who would probably earn the name “briefcase wanker” (for fans of The Inbetweeners). In my mind I wanted to look like Jedward…. that wasn’t going to happen.

Jedward at Eurovision 2011

Jedward at Eurovision 2011

I have long hair right now, and I don’t intend to cut it, so my options for male-looking hair are limited to pushing my real hair forward and wearing a hat or donning a wig. I have one cheap men’s wig, which I have difficultly fitting over my hair. I tried both…

 

 

First I pushed my hair forward and found one of my husband’s hats which covered the back of my neck so my hairline was not visible. I wore grey track pants, a black T-Shirt and a patterned shirt over the top. The button up top layer was to cover my breasts a little more, because they were still quite obvious. I used dark brown eye shadow to fill in and lengthen my eyebrows and darkened under my eyes slightly.

ClaustroFauxbiaAfter I was dressed, I tried to role play a character and see what felt right for the look. What emerged was a teenage boy, of about 15 or 16, who was home from school and bothering his mother (my husband) for dinner. He is very interested in the possibility of owning a jet ski in the near future and thinks his mother is over protective and obsessed with finding out if he is doing “all the drugs”. He lives in my home town and goes to the local private boys’ school. He might have a girl friend at the adjacent girls’ school, but he’s not sure and he hasn’t decided if he wants to change his facebook status yet. His family have a very old cat that has been around since before he was born, and he is afraid that it will die soon. He hates drama club, but his mum makes him do it. He wants a jet ski.

This version of Claus came relatively easy to me. He felt much like a version of me if I had grown up a male, mixed with the personalities of some of my students from when I was teaching high school. I found that I had to relax my face, keep my eyes half closed, and try not to smile to maintain the feeling of embodying this male persona. Every time I widened my eyes or cracked a smile, I felt like it would be an obvious tell.

Next, I tried the suit and that was a huge failure. It was very awkward and everything was either too small or too big. I returned to the track pants and put on a navy blue sweater. I tried my brown wig and felt like I needed facial hair to look older. My husband dutifully shaved his head (he was due for a trim anyway), so that I could have some hair to stick to my face. I chopped up the pieces of hair, but got a little impatient as you can probably tell from the photo. I was just going to give myself some side burns and maybe a thin beard, however I got carried away trying to imitate my Dad’s beard and ended up with a pointy goatee and full mustache. If nothing else, the beard was incredibly itchy and felt disgusting. Men with beards must feel like they have a hairy mouth all the time.

The facial hair did make me look a little older, maybe late teens or early 20s, however I could only maintain that if, again, I kept my face relaxed and didn’t smile. In the photos where I’m smiling, I look far to twinkly to pass for male. I darkened my eyebrows to match the facial hair and gave myself darker rings under the eyes. The wig was so ill-fitting that I wore a baseball cap to secure it down. Overall I didn’t feel comfortable in this image, and the added time it takes to remove the facial hair felt like a hassle. My husband remarked that my complexion was too clear for someone of that age; it seems like a 15 year old with easy access to proactive solution is probably a better persona for me.

Claus troFauxbia is taking shape, but I absolutely prefer being Agorafauxbia!

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Is drag even real?

What is drag? What does it mean? How is that meaning changing? And when the meaning of drag changes, does it even exist anymore? I don’t have answers to these questions, but these ideas have been swimming around in my head this week. I’ve been co-teaching a class about drag and occasionally we have talked about the idea that drag might extend it’s meaning beyond the performance of gender to other categories which are cultural and performative. I don’t want to say I’m giving answers here, but just exploring some of those swirling questions a little – particularly, if a woman is performing a type of woman which contradicts her everyday identity, is that drag or is it acting? And why is drag different from acting?

I’m completely in two minds about this, and there are convincing arguments on both sides. Is drag only drag if there is some cross dressing element to it (and do I include the double cross-dressed performances of faux queens in that category)?

Well first, I absolutely do consider faux queen performances to be a type of double cross-dressing, in the sense that female bodied folks are imposing a type of female aesthetic on themselves which is more commonly associated with male drag queens. In many ways, I find getting into female drag to be a far more masculine experience than I would feel in my everyday life as a woman. There is something about it which feels like you are performing a boy who is performing a lady. In that sense faux queens are women dressing as men dressing and women – and if cross dressing is important to drag, then faux queen performance certainly is drag (a kind of double drag). Phew!

The other question is are women who perform as women (say in a play or TV show) in drag? For example we might think of Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley in Abfab as Eddie and Patsy to be in drag. But are they doing drag, or are they acting? They are certainly doing gender, doing class and doing hyperbolic caricature – all important aspects of drag performance – but because there is no cross-dressed element,is it drag? If a man played Patsy would it be different, simply because there is a cross-dressed element? I’m just not sure…

It comes down to cross dressing (and double cross dressing), and that seems to be the all important aspect of drag. I wonder why we are so concerned with that?

 

 

 

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A now for something Claus troFauxbic

Last week I started teaching a class at UMD about the history of drag on stage, screen & life. I’m co-teaching with a much more experienced instructor and we are having a blast!

In the class, I am the resident Faux Queen, which is fun, but I’ve been challenged (I suppose) to try out re-making myself as a drag king. We watched Diane Torr’s Man for a Day - a documentary about her drag king workshops – and in a few weeks time we will all be trying it out in a performance workshop.

When I watched Man for a Day  my first reaction was “I don’t think I can do this! I’m going to be so bad at this!” And I am still really nervous that I will be the worst drag king in human history. But I am also very excited to try and see if I can shake off some of my ways, and try to practice what it might be like if I was a duuuuude-brah! (Am I saying that right? No idea…)

I certainly understand gender as a set of performative codes or scripts – and I do think of my drag queen performances as Agorafauxbia as a more masculine version of myself,  more so than I would normally perform everyday. I tend to think of queen identity as a delightful combination of the best bits of femininity and masculinity all swirled together in a sparkly hot mess. I suppose what faux queens are often doing is performing the fantasy version of women that drag queens have imagined and developed. So more or less drag queen aesthetics and gestures are a man’s version of woman. But how will I be a drag king? I’m so flouncy! How will I do a woman’s version of a man? (and I have trouble seeing how that is different from a man’s version of a man).

As always, I’ll give it a crack! To start, a genius name: Claus troFauxbia — I wonder how he is related to Agora? Brother, Father, Son, distant danish cousin, or ex-husband maybe? Does he play violin maybe?  What does he sound like? What does he look like? Where is he from? Maybe he is the boy hiding under all of Agora’s sparkle and paint? Hmmm…

More to come on the development of Claus!

AF

 

 

 

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After Agorafaux-pas

Well 2014 is done and dusted and so is the December run of Agorafaux-pas at The University of Maryland.

The two sold out performances were the culmination of an iterative process over three years involving literature review, blogging, autoethnography, field work, interviews, other short performances, drafting, feedback, redrafting and finally rehearsing, editing and performing. For me it marks a significant milestone in my research journey towards PhD, as well as my personal and professional goals as an artist.

I’m very proud of what was achieved through Agorafaux-pas and in the days following our performances I was overwhelmed by the kind words offered by those who attended as audience. I hope you all were able to take something positive and thought provoking away from our show.

I’d like to acknowledge my wonderful cast and crew who worked so hard during what was a very busy time for us all. As with any creative process, we endured very stressful moments, but ultimately we were able to produce something which I believe was special and necessary among the changing terrain of drag performance.

I look forward to sharing the professionally filmed footage of the show in full here on Agorafauxbia.com in the very near future.

A special thanks to UMD Women’s Studies for your generous in-kind contributions to the production of Agorafaux-pas, Curtin University for financially supporting the show through the Research Performance Index Grant Program and HDR Consumables funding, my supervisors at Curtin University and host-supervisor at UMD, and Bea Dazzler who opened the door to San Francisco’s faux queen community to me in 2013.

Happy new year!

Stephen Blodgett, #Ivantit, Cass Masualty, The Spangled Emperor & Agorafauxbia.

Stephen Blodgett, #Ivantit, Cass Masualty, The Spangled Emperor & Agorafauxbia.

Agorafauxbia

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AUDIENCE INSTRUCTIONS & DIRECTIONS FOR AGORAFAUX-PAS

There are two sold out performance of Agorafaux-pas this weekend!

Audience, please take a look at this information packet so that you know where to park, what to bring etc….

AUDIENCE DIRECTIONS CLICK HERE.

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Reflection during a break from rehearsals

I’m sitting on a faded and slightly stained, orange chaise lounge, in a small coffee shop in Portland Maine. As if to remind me that I’m in New England, the lounge looks like an open clam. Someone near me has been smoking the same cigarettes as my grandmother. I can’t mistake that lingering, unpleasant scent of my grandparent’s house. I may look a little out of place in this sleepy but quaint fishing town in my sequined sweater and red lipstick. It’s fall, and quite brisk outside. The leaves have already turned and their remains are scattered all over the streets. I’m having a break from play rehearsals.

The process for staging Agorafaux-pas is coming along well. Better than expected actually. We are making minor changes to the script as we deal with the many logistics of staging. Otherwise, the script remains relatively intact and the first act is fully blocked. We are excitedly advertising tickets and all feeling a little overwhelmed with the pressure of memorising lines and pulling everything together for an audience.

I’m often pulled up short when a cast member remarks to me how “good” the play is, and how excited they are to be a part of it. I’m not new to self-doubt, as you know, but I’m finding it very difficult to think of my creative work as being any good. And I don’t mean not entertaining. It’s entertaining as fuck! It’s hilarious and the music is loads of fun! We are rolling on the floor laughing at ourselves during rehearsals. Yes it’s very entertaining, but is it actually good? Is it art? In my mind it’s all a bit silly. I’ve silly-fied important, intelligent sounding thought and theory. Every time I’ve tried to write in something serious, reflexive, or sombre, it just comes out a bit wanky and I feel I need to make a joke. Take the first paragraph of this blog entry. It’s complete wank. I usually write that dreary, arty, “I’m so deeply feeling things” wanky stuff first, then quickly start to hate it and rewrite it as a flippant joke. Such as, “I write to you today, my internet humans, from inside a clam shaped sofa. Let’s call her Clammy Faye, after the fabulous queen who took my hard earned tips after my faux queen pageant performance. Sorry for the scone crumbs and coffee I dropped in you Clammy.”

Is my attempt to de-wankify my work good practice, or not? Nobody likes a wanker, I know this, and my cast like the play. I mean they really like it. Which is great! But I worry that, in all my jokes and silly voices, I’ve lost the message I’m trying express. Sometimes I feel like the exegesis is the “smart” work and the play is the dumbed down version. Is this true? Maybe…

But maybe the play is the camped version of the exegesis. Perhaps it’s making fun out of something I take seriously? Not making fun of it, making fun OUT of it. Camp is a sneaky little bastard! I can feel it, and I know it when I see it. But try to explain it? I’ll be sitting here ‘till next Tuesday and still not have hit the nail on the head. I’ve read quite a bit on camp, I’ve sat and concentrated as the top scholars of camp attempt to explain it. The best I’ve heard on the topic was actually in the car on my trip to Maine. I was listening to Stephen Fry’s memoire “Moab is my Washpot” on audio book. (Yes I’ve come to that age when you listen to audio books on a car journey rather than your collection of Triple J’s hottest 100 albums with the windows down and the stereo up). At a sensible volume, I swam in the gorgeous voice of Fry explaining camp as an alternate world. A place to escape and find your people; designed especially for those who need something to escape into. Stephen Fry suggests that straight men don’t always understand camp, because they don’t NEED to. A needs based world of alternative access… not a terrible explanation of camp at all.

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Get to know the cast of Agorafaux-pas!

Tickets to Agorafaux-pas are starting to fly out the door, and it’s time to introduce you to the spectacular cast of dragsters.

Agorafaux-pas! includes two lead characters and three dynamic roles for a small chorus. We’ve dubbed the chorus “The Drag Minions” and I’d like you to meet the first of three: Stephen Blodgett!

Trading Card Stephan-Blodgett

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TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR AGORAFAUX-PAS

Tickets are now available for Agorafaux-pas! We are presenting over two nights and there are 34 tickets available per night.

If you’re organizing a big group, ask your friends to indicate the party name upon registration so you can all sit together. For example:

First Name: Agora
Last Name: Fauxbia “Ah-Mazing Party”

CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

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Introducing The Cast!

Agorafaux-pas! The cabaret style play I wrote inspired by my faux queen experiences over the past 3 years, is finally becoming a reality.

We started our rehearsals last week and over the next two months we are work-shopping the script and getting this little devil ready for its first public performance at The University of Maryland.

We are an interesting bunch of cast members, from disciplines including Performance Studies, Women’s Studies, American Studies, and the wild card Applied Physics.

Agorafauxbia, The Spangled Emperor, Stephen Blodgett, Cass Masualty, and one drag name still in process.

Agorafauxbia, The Spangled Emperor, Stephen Blodgett, Cass Masualty, and one drag name still in process.

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TWO BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS

First! 

AN OPEN CASTING CALL HAS BEEN ISSUED FOR MY PLAY:

AGORAFAUX-PAS

Casting-call-flyer

Second! 

WerqSF is screening at UMD Women’s Studies next week! 

WerqSF-WMST-screening-flyer

 

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