Indi McCasey is a member of Gender Offenders, a local drag and burlesque group that celebrates Valentine’s Day with a performance, (un)Lucky in Love: A Heartbreaking Drag & Burlesque Cabaret.
SFR: When did the Gender Offenders start up?
IM: In 2006, I’d just moved here, and there were two folks from the College of Santa Fe who put up a flier for people who were interested in performing drag. There were about six or seven people who showed up and, from that group, we put on our first performance. It was a sold-out show and people loved it. Some of the performers left town, so it’s a loose-knit group of performers.
What is the difference between what you guys do and more straight-up drag?
Well, for example, a couple weeks ago we performed with the Albuquerque Kings, which is a drag king troupe down there, and their acts were them on stage kind of lip-synching lounge. It’s just sort of them in [a] character that they’re parodying. What we do is try to take a song and try to tell a story to create tension with characters. It’s much more comedy and theater. There’s also mixing genders, it’s not just drag kings; there are queer femmes performing burlesque. I use a lot of queer masculinity or faggy masculinity. There [are] a lot more performances and exploration[s] of the gender spectrum.
The drag king phenomena seems new compared to drag queens.
I’d definitely say it’s becoming more visible. It’s interesting to look at the history because you had people like Billy Tipton who were performing in drag but passing as men because, at that time, a woman couldn’t do that in a jazz band. There were also people in Harlem who were doing variety shows as male impersonators. But there’s definitely been a revival in burlesque and roller derby, in more community-based performance, and a lot of that explores gender.
Your performances bring the audience into the story in a way that the more observational drag doesn’t. I’ve found myself relating to one character and then switching because another character seems to have more of my personality.
I think that, for me, was part of how I answered that question of ‘How do I not perform this misogynistic type of masculinity?’ There are tons of performers who are doing things like grabbing their crotches and singing about their bitches, and I wanted to try to portray something more complex. I used to start off with characters who were having a power dynamic with a dominant femme and then, more and more, it’s become more flaming masculinity as well as closeted or questioning masculinity. It’s a lot more fun to be vulnerable like that. You can see hyper masculinity everywhere, so we want to do something different.
It seems like a fun thing to perform outside of your personal gender role and character as well.
For me, my own personal gender has gone to a more masculine stage, where the things I wear on stage are also the things I wear when I go out dancing. For me, it’s not that different but, in this show, I’m doing a femme character and that’s going to be really uncomfortable because it’s not something I usually perform. It’s going to be exciting but it’ll be a little scary. I really like makeup a lot though, and I don’t get a lot of chances to wear it.
How have audiences reacted to you?
Because a lot of our performances happen at Wise Fool, I think a lot of the audiences are already used to performances that play with gender. The first Wise Fool show I ever saw, and actually what caused me to move here, was pretty inspirational; it was the Circus Luminous show at the Lensic. The strongest person was a woman and the tattoo lady gave her a kiss. There was a drag king and Cohdi Harrell was the contortionist, which is usually a female role, and he was wearing a tutu and kids were asking for his autograph after the show; and I thought that was just such a great way to play with gender and have kids see it so they can know there’s more out there than just those boxes. I think audiences here are just more open to this kind of theatricality.