Drama at the heart of the gay rights movement

“When I first learned about drag, I saw Flip Wilson on TV dressed as a woman,” noted Decorah High School graduate Jim Baldrich Garst, known to many in Iowa and the Midwest in as 31-year-old drag performer Prunella DeVille. “I watched Flip and even Milton Berle. In college, after seeing a local drag show, I thought it was something I could do as an extension of my theatrics.
Garst grew up in a family heavily involved in both community theater and activism, and being on stage was comfortable for him, having also studied acting in college before moving to Des Moines. “I consider myself a ‘drag clown’ because it’s another avenue to be able to express my creativity and comedic talents. People expect drag performers to be outrageous. It’s like putting on armor or a superhero cape, I can say what I would never have, and sometimes I can be mean, and that’s a feeling of freedom.
In the theatre, for centuries, women were not allowed to perform on stage, as it was considered too improper, so men, dressed as women, performed all female roles. “It happened in ancient Japanese theatre, in Renaissance England, it was common practice,” Garst added. “Famous vaudeville performers known across America and Europe dressed as impersonators and entertained people on the stage.”
Garst noted that there were various reasons people would turn to drag; a transvestite man would wear female clothing as a fetish or something that arouses him sexually, but he may not be gay. “But,” he noted, “any other reason has nothing to do with sex.” Transgender people, who feel like their outer body doesn’t match their soul or personality, often turn to drag as an expression of a more public self, or, like Garst, they’re artists and love artistic and theatrical exaggeration. nature of gender.
Some people dress up on Halloween in a costume, but take this opportunity to get away, pretend, or play while being something they really aren’t just for one night. The same sense of Freud’s id and ego is found in drag.
Pro Tip: In drag, there are female impersonators who strive to impersonate a specific celebrity or woman and replicate their experience, and high drag, who don’t attempt to be convincing as a woman – or male in the case of the drag kings (women dressed and acting like men) – but follows a cabaret focal point, with songs and comedy woven into their performances. In case of high flirt, it doesn’t even have to be someone who dresses like the opposite sex, it just has to be a more outrageous personality of themselves.
Today, drag has become more mainstream thanks to TV shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race”.
“I like that drag is becoming more and more free and more and more artistic. But, at the same time, it’s like everything you present is what you present, no matter what. in your pants or what’s underneath, or whatever you like.
As a veteran drag performer, Garst has mentioned that the older he gets, the smaller the distance between his drag persona and himself. “Drag has been at the heart and soul of the gay rights movement from the start. As Prunella, I can be more outspoken about these issues, I can get away with a lot more and push these issues and make people think. When I was four or five years old, I was at a demonstration against the B-1 bombers with my parents – this activism has always been important in my life. In college, being cross-dressed gave me more freedom to speak out loud.
“But, there is a time and a place for both things,” added Garst. “I learned as I got older that yelling at someone isn’t always the best way to be heard. I love my drag character, but I can also play Jim. Sometimes it’s good to leave her (Prunella DeVille) at home and be appreciated for who I (Jim) am.

ArtHaus Pride Drag Show
Catch Prunella DeVille on stage at the ArtHaus Pride Drag Show on September 30 at 7 p.m. For more details on the show or Pride celebration, visit decorahpride.org.
Garst will celebrate 32 years of performing drag at Thanksgiving this year, performed in 27 states and Canada, “and aside from a Halloween, this is my first drag show at Decorah. I’m very excited, it’s the right time and the right place to come home,” said Garst with relief.
Garst emphatically stated, “And another thing I’d like to clear up, people correlate drag and sex as the same thing. I have a hardcore pot mouth because I like to shock in my performances. We’re not recruiting your kids to try dragging, we’re not trying to change anyone’s sexuality or hit on anyone in the audience – they’re just entertainment folks! Stupid, shocking, funny – YES! That’s why we do the first act as a family – it’s just entertainment.
“I am very happy that Decorah Pride participated in the Nordic Fest Parade, that Decorah is having a Pride celebration for three days! We feel the progress made by being multicultural but also by opening up to the rainbow. I’m just thrilled to be a part of that.


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