Alex Florence performed with the drag king troupe The Salt City Kings from 2004-2010 and with the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire from 2008–2014. He shares his thoughts on Kingdom of Heaven.
I recently had the pleasure of reading Kingdom of Heaven. The journey of the central character MJ is, in some ways, similar to my own.
Kingdom of Heaven reminds me of my own adventure of finding my own inner drag king, an adventure that later helped me connect my brain, outside appearance and soul.
My drag adventure started at the very young age of 14 when I put on my first “show” for my brother and mother. My debut consisted of whatever I could find to wear that was flannel to channel my inner pop star (via a song by Joey Lawrence). As it turns out, growing up in a very LDS home, with a mother who was and still is very strict on gender roles, my first performance was a flop. Thoughts of freeing the me inside were suppressed for the next decade.
In Kingdom of Heaven, MJ is approached to perform, which sets her journey in motion. Just like MJ, my journey began when I was approached to try out for a drag troupe at the age of 24. MJ and I both experienced a very real moment when she first put herself in drag and the thoughts of “Well, there I am!” surfaced.
I don’t want to give too much away other than Kingdom of Heaven isn’t about transitioning in the way you might think. We don’t know if MJ’s journey will take her as far as coming out as transgender. But we do know that her feelings of never quite fitting in to the typical LDS gender roles that have plagued her, her whole life, come to the surface.
Some who do drag enjoy the entertainment value of it, the art of illusion, allowing them to be the magician, letting the audience believe whatever they want to. For others, it is liberating to break out of the “norm,” gender role they are stuck in, helping them break down the barrier of what gender is or can be. They are able to create or recreate the character or feelings they keep locked inside. To be able to do bring all of this together and bring their drag persona to life is very empowering.
MJ finds confidence performing as a drag king; it helps her begin to see herself as she truly is. Isn’t that what we all want? For our family and friends to look at us and see our authentic selves?
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (book & lyrics by Jenifer Nii, music & lyrics by David Evanoff), the first original musical in Plan-B’s 25-year history, receives its world premiere March 31-April 10. Go to PlanBTheatre.org for tickets and more information.