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The Creators of a Mobile Drag Stage Want To Increase Visibility Among Performers

As Pride season continues in Dallas, Texas, drag performers are fighting for visibility and to create access to shows for viewers. At the time of writing, there are hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills pending within Congress, with about 20% of them coming from Texas. Many of these bills are calling for the ban of drag performances. As part of their fight against these bills, several drag performers are–quite literally–mobilizing.

Back in June, the American Institute Of Architects Dallas’ LGBTQIA+ Alliance launched their Set The Stage campaign, in which they invited several architecture firms to design the world’s most fabulous mobile drag stage. Among these firms was Turner Construction, who placed first in the competition.

“They did more than [expected],” says Paloma Rodriguez, Dallas-based Associate Architect and Alliance Chair. “[Turner] donated materials and they just gave their time. They allowed us to be part of the construction–which is a risk that they’re taking, in a way…end especially knowing general contracting firms are not generally open to something like this, it was really nice to work with Turner.”

The stage, which Rodriguez describes as being comprised of several “squares” with “wheels at the bottom” and can be moved around easily, was unveiled during a special event at a Dallas showroom. Local queen Jenni P hosted the event, which featured performances from Krystal Summers and Barbie Davenport Dupree.

Barbie Davenport Dupree. Photos: AIA Dallas

Dupree has been performing in drag for 13 years, 11 of those in Dallas. She was drawn to the mobile stage–as well as doing the honor of being one of the inaugural performers, as she has always felt that drag is a beautiful way to bridge various facets of the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’m always making sure that I’m performing in unique places and unique atmospheres,” says Dupree. “Drag is a way that brings people from all forms of life together. It doesn’t matter where you come from where you’ve been who you are when you come to a drag show it’s all about being together and enjoying the moment. The mobile stage is a way to bring everyone together cross the country.”

Following the unveiling, the stage was donated to Drag Star Diva, a drag production company specializing in drag brunches, drag shows, and digital content to create new avenues for drag performers. 

Though reps for Drag Star Diva didn’t confirm any upcoming events, they teased some performances with the mobile stage for the fall, going into spring of next year. 

The Turner Construction crew. Photos: AIA Dallas

Summers, who has been performing for nearly three decades, hopes that with the mobile stage, drag won’t be universally associated with clubs and bars, but rather as events designed to serve a variety of people across different places. She also hopes to destigmatize performers, especially as trans people, drag performers, and–intersectionally–trans drag performers, are the ones mostly feeling the effects of the anti-LGBTQ bills active in legislation. 

“I love the idea of the mobile drag stage because we are at a time where drag is mainstream and performances happen all over the place in various venues,” says Summers. “Drag is no longer something only reserved for a dark corner late at night in a nightclub. The time is now to be visible and express our art when certain groups try to label us as groomers and inappropriate.”

While the political landscape still has room for improvement regarding the wellness and safety of LGBTQ+ people, many of those involved with the creating and unveiling of the mobile stage say the sense of community among various facets–local politicians, the male-dominated world of architecture–was inspiring to them. This sense of kinship is vital, given the nation’s current political climate, and especially as Dallas celebrates its customary Pride month this September.

“I think at the end of the day, drag shows are another form of art,” says Rodriguez, “just like architecture is in a way, and I think it’s important to represent those around it…it’s about creating the space to educate people.”♦

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