Feb. 2 event showcases opera and drag performancesWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Two local art worlds will collide Feb. 2 for “Opera Ain’t No Drag,” a show featuring two Toledo Opera vocalists and six drag performers.
“It’s going to be an experience that will be enjoyable for everyone and it will be a great introduction to the arts for people who haven’t seen one or the other,” said Lexi Staples, producer of the show and executive director of the Pride of Toledo Foundation, which puts on the annual Toledo Pride weekend during the summer.
The show will feature opera singers Jennifer Cresswell and Sean Cooper performing tunes from the upcoming Toledo Opera production of “Don Giovanni.” Drag queens and kings Deja D. Dellataro, National Holiday, London Asia, Spacee Kadett, Orion SpanKing and Santana Romero will lip-sync popular opera songs. Each performer will do two routines and the show includes an intermission.
Staples, who does hair and makeup for Toledo Opera, thought of the idea for an opera/drag show in 2009 and has been working toward it since then.
“[I thought], how can we make opera seem really fun to people who haven’t experienced it before and how can we make drag seem fun to people who haven’t experienced that before?” she said.
She said feedback from everyone she approached to perform was positive. One of those performers is Kadett, the first-ever National King Entertainer of the Year. He lives in Detroit, but performs regularly in Toledo.
“I thought [the idea] was awesome; I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it at first,” Kadett said. “It’s a really exciting spin on two exciting forms of art.”
He said he travels to perform about once a month on average.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. It’s a great experience and you get to meet so many cool people,” Kadett said. He became interested in drag performance as a member of his university’s gay-straight alliance.
Staples said, “[Kadett’s] a great performer and obviously we have a lot of local talent and we were pretty choosy with who we asked to do the event.”
Holiday, who has been performing as a drag queen for 14 years, said she liked that the show gives her a chance to do songs other than Top 40 hits. The Sandusky-based performer added that the show will also help broaden her exposure in Toledo.
“I’m kind of new to the Toledo scene and just trying to get out there and meet new people and get a new fan base,” said Holiday, who was Miss Ohio Continental Plus 2011. Holiday will perform to “Art is Calling for Me” and “Habanera.”
Opera community members also said they were excited for “Opera Ain’t No Drag.”
Suzanne Rorick, executive director of Toledo Opera, said she is glad that the show will take place at Collingwood Arts Center. She also said, “I thought it was a very clever way of expanding our audience and reaching out to a broader piece of the community.”
Cresswell, a soprano who met Staples in middle school, joined the Toledo Opera Children’s Chorus at age 11. She now serves as its director and will play Donna Elvira in “Don Giovanni” this February.
She said of the opera/drag show with a laugh, “I probably won’t be the best dressed one there.”
Cresswell added that the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied (LGBTQA) community has always been supportive of Toledo Opera and that the show gives her a chance to do something new.
“I’ve never seen any drag shows so I think it’ll be an exciting and informative night all the way around,” Cresswell said.
Fellow opera singer Cooper, a bass-baritone, will play Leporello in “Don Giovanni.” He is also a faculty member at Bowling Green State University.
The singer said that drag and opera share many qualities, like pageantry and the idea of escaping into a different reality.
He also added with a chuckle, “Opera is one of these art forms that’s misunderstood. When it’s bad it’s really bad and I don’t know if it’s the same in drag shows, but I imagine it to be the case.”
“For me, [opera’s] a very vibrant living art form and I think a lot of people mistake it for this thing that’s put on the shelf, an archaic museum piece.”
The opera and LGBTQA communities have connected in the past through the group Primo Divos. Kelly Heuss, Toledo Pride marketing co-coordinator, said opera supporters were also receptive to drag performers at an event preview during Toledo Opera Celebrity Wait Night at Fat Fish Blue on Jan. 21.
“The people there seemed so excited about the event and couldn’t wait to come out and see it. And that’s sort of a whole different crowd for us,” Heuss said.
Staples said Toledo Pride is aiming to sell 200-300 tickets for the show. She hopes the event becomes an annual occurrence.
The overall goal is to build bridges between arts communities — and connect with the overall community, she said.
“The goal is to make more community events that are bringing the LGBT community closer to the community at large and making sure we’re a strong part of Toledo.”
Proceeds will be split between the Pride of Toledo Foundation and Toledo Opera.
“Opera Ain’t No Drag” starts at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Collingwood Arts Center, 2413 Collingwood Blvd. Doors are at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 each or two for $25. Tickets can be purchased at OutSKIRTS Bar, 5038 Lewis Ave., from 7 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Saturday, at OperaAintNoDrag.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1 (800) 838-3006.
Tags: Collingwood Arts Center, Deja D. Dellataro, Jennifer Cresswell, Lexi Staples, London Asia, National Holiday, Opera Ain’t No Drag, Orion SpanKin, Santana Romero, Sean Cooper, Spacee Kadett, Toledo Opera, Toledo PRIDE