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Celebrating D.C.’s drag history

New Dupont Underground exhibit offers photos, videos, and live performances

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A drag performer entertains the crowd at the 1994 Black Gay Pride Day celebration on May 28. (Washington Blade photo by Kristi Gasaway)

As the city continues to reopen, the Washington Blade and Dupont Underground announced this week plans for a new exhibit highlighting the history and power of drag in D.C. and around the country.

The exhibition showcases a mix of photographs and video footage that authentically honor the roots of drag in America, while celebrating the power, pride, and leadership that define the community. D.C.’s drag scene inspired a generation to embrace its power and raise its voice.

The Exhibition showcases photographs gathered from the archives of the Washington Blade and video footage from interviews with Drag Queen Shi-Queeta-Lee and Drag King Pretty RikE. The photographs and interviews offer a glimpse into the past and explore the future of what drag is becoming as a culture and as an art form.

The innovative exhibit runs from Friday, June 4 to June 27 at Dupont Underground (19 Dupont Circle, N.W.).

Exhibition times:
Fridays, 3-7 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Drag shows 8-10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays
Drag brunch 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Sundays (starting June 13).

Tickets can be purchased at washingtonblade.com/royals with tickets starting at $5.

Drag show performers include Bombalicious Eklaver, Brooklyn Heights, Cake, Farrah Synclaire, Gigi Paris Couture, Pretty Boi Drag, Shi-Queeta Lee, and Sasha Adams. More performers to be announced soon.

Presenting sponsors are the Washington Blade, Dupont Underground, and the Leonard-Litz Foundation. Additional sponsors include Absolut, Ariadne Getty Foundation, Pepco, Washington Regional Transplant Community, and Devil’s Backbone.

The exhibit is part of the Focus on the Story International Photo Festival 2021, #FOTS21. focusonthestory.org.

Exhibit Preview

A scene from Gay Pride Day in 1983. (Washington Blade archive photo by Leigh Mosley)
Activists listen to Carol Lee at a rally in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Oct. 10, 1988. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)
The competitors at the starting line of the High Heel Race in 1988 are about to take off. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)
A performer entertains at the 1996 Black Pride Festival. (Washington Blade archive photo by Clint Steib)
A scene from the 2001 Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade archive photo by Clint Steib)
The drag troupe ‘DC Kings’ pose for a photo on July 11, 2010. (Washington Blade archive photo by Michael Key)
Ba’Naka is voted ‘Best Drag Queen’ in the Blade’s ‘Best of Gay D.C.’ readers’ poll in 2012. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
A scene from the 2012 High Heel Race. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
Shi-Queeta Lee performs at Town in April of 2013. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
One team poses for a picture at ‘DragBall’ at Stead Park on June 2, 2013. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
Blair Williams is crowned Miss Gay D.C. America 2013 at the annual competition held at Town Danceboutique on Sept. 16. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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Photos

PHOTOS: Night of Champions

Team DC holds annual awards gala

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Team DC President Miguel Ayala speaks at the 2024 Night of Champions Awards on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Team DC, the umbrella organization for LGBTQ-friendly sports teams and leagues in the D.C. area, held its annual Night of Champions Awards Gala on Saturday, April 20 at the Hilton National Mall. The organization gave out scholarships to area LGBTQ student athletes as well as awards to the Different Drummers, Kelly Laczko of Duplex Diner, Stacy Smith of the Edmund Burke School, Bryan Frank of Triout, JC Adams of DCG Basketball and the DC Gay Flag Football League.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Photos

PHOTOS: National Cannabis Festival

Annual event draws thousands to RFK

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Growers show their strains at The National Cannabis Festival on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 2024 National Cannabis Festival was held at the Fields at RFK Stadium on April 19-20.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

‘Amm(i)gone’ explores family, queerness, and faith

A ‘fully autobiographical’ work from out artist Adil Mansoor

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Adil Mansoor in ‘Amm(i)gone’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. (Photo by Kitoko Chargois)

‘Amm(i)gone’
Thorough May 12
Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D St., N.W. 
$60-$70
Woollymammoth.net

“Fully and utterly autobiographical.” That’s how Adil Mansoor describes “Amm(i)gone,” his one-man work currently playing at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. 

Both created and performed by out artist Mansoor, it’s his story about inviting his Pakistani mother to translate Sophocles’s Greek tragedy “Antigone” into Urdu. Throughout the journey, there’s an exploration of family, queerness, and faith,as well as references to teachings from the Quran, and audio conversations with his Muslim mother. 

Mansoor, 38, grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and is now based in Pittsburgh where he’s a busy theater maker. He’s also the founding member of Pittsburgh’s Hatch Arts Collective and the former artistic director of Dreams of Hope, an LGBTQ youth arts organization.

WASHINGTON BLADE: What spurred you to create “Amm(i)gone”? 

ADIL MANSOOR: I was reading a translation of “Antigone” a few years back and found myself emotionally overwhelmed. A Theban princess buries her brother knowing it will cost her, her own life. It’s about a person for whom all aspirations are in the afterlife. And what does that do to the living when all of your hopes and dreams have to be reserved for the afterlife?

I found grant funding to pay my mom to do the translation. I wanted to engage in learning. I wanted to share theater but especially this ancient tragedy. My mother appreciated the characters were struggling between loving one another and their beliefs. 

BLADE: Are you more director than actor?

MANSOOR: I’m primarily a director with an MFA in directing from Carnegie Mellon. I wrote, directed, and performed in this show, and had been working on it for four years. I’ve done different versions including Zoom. Woolly’s is a new production with the same team who’ve been involved since the beginning. 

I love solo performance. I’ve produced and now teach solo performance and believe in its power. And I definitely lean toward “performance” and I haven’t “acted” since I was in college. I feel good on stage. I was a tour guide and do a lot of public speaking. I enjoy the attention. 

BLADE: Describe your mom. 

MANSOOR: My mom is a wonderfully devout Muslim, single mother, social worker who discovered my queerness on Google. And she prays for me. 

She and I are similar, the way we look at things, the way we laugh. But different too. And those are among the questions I ask in this show. Our relationship is both beautiful and complicated.

BLADE: So, you weren’t exactly hiding your sexuality? 

MANSOOR: In my mid-20s, I took time to talk with friends about our being queer with relation to our careers. My sexuality is essential to the work. As the artistic director at Dreams of Hope, part of the work was to model what it means to be public. If I’m in a room with queer and trans teenagers, part of what I’m doing is modeling queer adulthood. The way they see me in the world is part of what I’m putting out there. And I want that to be expansive and full. 

So much of my work involves fundraising and being a face in schools. Being out is about making safe space for queer young folks.

BLADE: Have you encountered much Islamophobia? 

MANSOOR: When 9/11 happened, I was a sophomore in high school, so yes. I faced a lot then and now. I’ve been egged on the street in the last four months. I see it in the classroom. It shows up in all sorts of ways. 

BLADE: What prompted you to lead your creative life in Pittsburgh? 

MANSOOR: I’ve been here for 14 years. I breathe with ease in Pittsburgh. The hills and the valleys and the rust of the city do something to me. It’s beautiful, it’ affordable, and there is support for local artists. There’s a lot of opportunity. 

Still, the plan was to move to New York in September of 2020 but that was cancelled. Then the pandemic showed me that I could live in Pittsburgh and still have a nationally viable career. 

BLADE: What are you trying to achieve with “Amm(i)gone”? 

MANSOOR: What I’m sharing in the show is so very specific but I hear people from other backgrounds say I totally see my mom in that. My partner is Catholic and we share so much in relation to this. 

 I hope the work is embracing the fullness of queerness and how means so many things. And I hope the show makes audiences want to call their parents or squeeze their partners.

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