GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The drag show that features performers with Down syndrome and other disabilities has now sold out two shows even after — or perhaps because of — the controversy the show generated that has gained worldwide attention
The troupe of three arrived Thursday evening after a flight from London at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport to a joyous welcome that included press and fans.
These performers ate it up and they look forward to showing West Michigan what they are really here for beyond the headlines and controversy.
“If they come to the show they will see that we are not just performers, we’re professional artists and it feels great,” said “Justin Bond,” a 20-year-old Drag King who says she and no one else made the decision for her to perform drag. “I’m trying to show people how they can express their feelings around art and how much they love us and how they can be a part of us.”
Danny is a 44-year-old filmmaker and artist and his character is Gaia Callas, who he says takes up the stage and loves champagne.
Danny says he is aware of the controversy that stemmed after GOP congressional candidate Peter Meijer kicked the show out of a building he owned.
But Danny says he has the right to express his art.
“They have to recognize me, how clever, what I am,” said Danny, who speaks with a Cockney accent. “I be very proud of what I am. I am very, very unique, clever and the audience up there will say ‘hey, that man can dance.”
Drag Syndrome has done more than 40 shows in the last 18 months.
Drag Syndrome Creative Director Daniel Váis says the controversy in West Michigan is a first.
“I think this is something different. I didn’t expect this controversy. I didn’t expect this hate toward them,” Váis said. “But it’s here and actually it’s important that it happened because it started a conversation, an important conversation.”
He says the fears of exploitation are rooted in something else.
“It’s an excuse. Instead of investigating it and looking into it, they just say ‘oh, we protect them’ so they push them away from society and high culture. So, there is a hidden agenda there,” Váis said.
But the controversy is not the point, the show’s creator says.
“We’re not activists. We are not here to have a message and other than let’s do art. It’s first art and then if there’s a message and change, that’s brilliant,” Váis said. “They are incredible performers. They are master performers, incredible drag queens and kings and you should just come and see for yourselves.”