Researching a Pioneer of Drag Performance and Representation
As gender identity, gender expression, and sexuality are discussed and analyzed more than ever—and while opponents attempt to suppress representation in many communities across America—a historical look at a long-forgotten drag pioneer could enlighten and inform us, even 100 years after his death.
Professor of Theater Domenick Scudera has written an original play, The Half of It, inspired by the life of Bert Savoy (1876 – 1923), a performer who did not shy away from being “out” and authentically himself offstage at a time when being gay and wearing women’s clothing could have gotten a man in trouble. Savoy’s form of drag was a precursor to the type of drag performer we associate with the contemporary drag queen: flamboyant, sassy, larger-than-life, and “fabulous,” said Scudera, who discovered Savoy’s contributions while doing research for a course focused on the history of drag performance.
“For me, Savoy should be a model for the LGBTQ+ community, an important figure whose work was a steppingstone to the work of contemporary drag queens,” Scudera said.