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The Sun(rize) will come out tomorrow…

Since my arrival in 2014 as Rep Stage’s new Producing Artistic Director, I made a very conscious choice to keep my history as a professional drag artist separate from my current position. Something about those two worlds didn’t seem to align, at least not until now.

OK, some history… My first professional job in NYC was as a principal performer with Jane Comfort and Co., one of the dance world’s premiere movement theatre ensembles. The piece I was hired for explored race and gender, often by flipping known situations of racial injustice and patriarchy, thus I found myself involved in many moments of the piece in drag. This is also where I met my drag mother, Andre Shoals/“Afrodite.” A drag mother is a seasoned drag artist who takes a young, emerging drag artist under their wing. Andre was a star of the ‘90s NYC drag scene and beloved among the community, and he also happened to be a dancer with Jane’s company, so I was very lucky indeed.

My curiosity grew as I realized drag offered me a way to explore my own identity as a queer man, engage with a certain part of my community’s history, and discover an avenue of performance/theatre I had yet to venture down. I was interested in how drag could connect, beyond pure impersonation, to the musical theatre grand dames whom I adored. How could I create a fictional character based on entertainers like Liza, Shirly McLane, Joey Heatherton, Bette Midler etc., who had one-women shows on tour, in Vegas and on television? I was fascinated by how they combined their private life with their public personas, and how they shared their experience through stories and song. And thus, Sunrize was born.

Close to 30 years after Sunrize’s birth, I find myself in a “post-RuPaul’s Drag Race” world, a world that has been exposed to drag on a global level, with so many inclusive examples of who can be a drag artist and glimpses of all the artform has to offer. I see Trans women, Trans men, Gay/Queer men, Cis women, Non-Binary folx, crafting ways to explore gender performatively in the most exciting and entertaining of ways.

I hope that you will discover what has made Sunrize so endearing to so many is her naivete, her giant heart and her passion for entertaining. Her story is at times bumpy, humorous, vulnerable and celebratory, but always focuses on finding our true selves, defining our own personal meanings of success and living with a commitment to love and kindness. So please join us for this special event in November, as I am so excited to share this piece of my history with you with an evening that I hope will leave you with a smile on your face and warmth in your heart.

With gratitude,
Joseph

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