It often amazes me how traditional the theatre can be, I mean an art-form rooted in “the suspension of disbelief,” so often can’t come up with creative ways to include the LGBTQ community, non whites, and those with disabilities on a regular basis. Of course, there are exceptions, but clearly not enough. So, while the theatre community is struggling to make ends meet, these marginalized groups get together and try and make it happen for themselves and often end up earning money for everyone but themselves. I have met so many theatre artists of the LGBTQ community that have turned to clubs and bars as an outlet for performance, because there seems to be no place for them in theatre; most characters are straight, and as an actor your “straightness” is often heavily policed. During a rehearsal for a play in Philadelphia a few years back, the director stopped rehearsal to let me know that I was “sitting like a comfortable gay man.” I stopped and looked down at my body and could not see what made it “gay,” and could not believe the manner in which he was handling the situation. It makes one wonder, “does this happen to actors who are not openly gay or actors who are straight?” Is this the way we professionally handle these things?
I decided to talk to a friend of mine, Dinah Sore, to learn about what led to their current path of performance. So, I went to the one place I knew they would be, Inside The Green Room.
Do you still go by Dinah B Sore? How did you come to be called by a name like that?
DS: Technically, I’ve shortened it to simply Dinah Sore. Too many people didn’t get the pun and people began to refer to me as Dinah Shore, who is a real person. Before that I had experimented with a couple of Drag names, most of which are too terrible for print.
Honestly, I was just trying to think of a funny name and it came to me. It made me laugh, and I love Dinosaurs so it seemed like a good fit. I think it captures who I am: this beastly drag queen lol.
But it’s a good name. Easy to remember, kitschy, with a little bit of an edge to it. I think it fits me.
I’ve known you to work administratively with a few different theaters in Philly before I saw you perform, what were your initial career goals? (Theatre administration? Actor? Drag Superstar?) And how did they change over time?
DS: I’ve always had trouble with this question. I’m both blessed and cursed because I’m an artist of many different mediums. I’m a writer, a painter, a performer, a visual designer. When I went to college I wanted to be a film director, (I still make and show videos on a regular basis. In fact, as the new Video/Light jockey at Voyeur Night Club I found a way to get to make videos that get seen by thousands of people) but found that that particular path wasn’t for me. So one day I changed my major and changed direction. I had done theater since I was a child, but I was more interested in creating images than deep character analysis. What’s important to me is that swell of emotions images can create, and how to use those images to tell a story. To use the gayest example I can think of: That magical moment in the “Wizard of Oz” when Dorthy steps out of her black and white house into a world of color. I want to be the guy that does that. Any way I can.
That is a hard thing to define.
Because of that I’ve had a crazy amount of random experience and credits to my name, be it Dinah or Ken. I did administrative work because it provided me an opportunity to be in a theater every day. When you’re the only one in the room who knows how lighting works, or what production expense breakdowns look like, it gives you a deeper understanding of the art and a vast opportunity to explore your art.
I’m constantly surprised at the number of other theater artists who don’t know every aspect of their craft. It’s appalling how many performers don’t know how to use a microphone properly, or find their light, let alone operate a sound and/or lighting system.
One of my favorite stories, that I think of time and time again, is a quote about Alfred Hitchcock. I think it was the screen writer of “Psycho” who said, “The reason Hitchcock was such a great director was because he started as a set painter.” He had done every job there was to do; he knew his art inside and out.
My point, simply, is that I’ve done a lot because I chased every opportunity and every chance to grow that presented itself. There’s never been a grand master plan, but rather a general pursuit of values that have led me down this remarkable path.
It was either 2013 or 2014 when I first got a text about Corner Queens Cabaret. How did that venture come to be?
DS: A brief version of a long story: A group of my friends and I made a weekly habit of getting together and performing for each other, more often than not, in drag. It was really an excuse for us to drink, dress up, and perform something. Word got out about our gatherings and soon a local theater offered to let us use their theater on Monday nights. Then we had a show.
What did you learn from producing a weekly show like that?
DS: That it’s hard. With a traditional show you have weeks or even months to prepare, to problem solve, to rehearse. Some weeks you’re just not inspired and you have to dig deep to create something to present. It didn’t all work, and nothing feels worse than failing in front of an audience. I’ve been working on a recent number for 3 months, allowing myself to refine and polish it before I perform it for an audience, with a weekly show you don’t have that luxury.
But it also made me grow, and think faster on my feet. It forces you to push yourself in ways that you wouldn’t have to otherwise. Because at the end of the day an audience is going to show up and you have to do something.
Drag Wars: how did that come to be?
DS: My friend, Bee Reed, one day told me she thought I should do it, and I couldn’t think of a good reason not to. It was a completely spur of the moment decision.
It ended up being a life shaping decision. It taught me a lot about who I was as an artist and I got to know a completely different artistic community happening within my own town. Joining Drag Wars was the beginning of a long chain of events that led me to where I am today, and I could not be more excited.
Tell us everything about your experience. (Were you nervous, what was it like performing along side so many queens, what did you learn, what was the scariest part?)
DS: The very first time on the Drag Wars stage was probably the most nervous I’ve ever been. It was a lot of pressure, and continued pressure throughout the competition. I was so nervous I barely spoke to the other girls, it wasn’t until near the end that I finally started feeling comfortable.
But the competition was great. I learned so much. In a competition setting you open yourself up to feedback and criticism that you wouldn’t otherwise get. Sometimes that criticism is brutal, there is nothing like being in front of a room full of people and being told over a microphone that your face is terrible, but goddamn my face was better next week.
It’s a great way to learn and to grow. One of my proudest moments was the night I got eliminated. I had gotten much further than I ever expected and I had worked my ass off. I was beyond exhausted. But I also got a standing ovation, and praise from all of the judges. For someone who mostly worked in a backstage capacity… you don’t often get applauded. It was incredibly reaffirming. It let me know that this weird path was, in fact, the right one.
You just let out that you will be participating in the Divas of Drag Tour with Live Nation. How did you feel when you got the news?
DS: I, mildly, freaked the fuck out.
After Drag Wars ended, I continued to perform and got to know Mimi Imfurst (Braden Chapman) better. She was aware of my background and continued to book me as a performer, designer, administrator. This past summer I designed the lights for “Divine Intervention” which was a magical experience, and she and I really developed a good working relationship.
When Mimi first contacted me about the tour, I assumed that “Divine” was going on tour. When she explained that this was a tour featuring several of the biggest stars from Rupaul’s Drag Race, I could barely believe it. I should probably point out that my role on the tour is more administrative/technical, but it’s still an amazing opportunity. When you do a show, particularly a tour, you become family with them. To think of these people, who I admire deeply, as being my contemporaries is incredibly exciting, but I also know that I have to have my game face on. This could be my one shot of taking my career to the next level. I’ve never done a national tour, nor anything this high profile. It’s intimidating and incredibly exciting and I don’t even like to talk about it for fear of jinxing myself.
Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
DS: I have no idea. I’d like to think I’d have the whole package: house, kids, a job I can be proud of…
But I could have never predicted my life now ten years ago. It’s very likely I could end up a junkie on the street, or maybe I’d want to get into politics. (I’m a total politics nerd. Some people have Real Housewives, I have the House of Representatives.) I think I’d be a good communications director a political campaign. I love the madness of public discourse in this country, and I think it would be fun to shape political arguments.
One of my dreams has been to meet Madonna, so if I achieve that in ten years I’ll consider that a success.
What is the hardest obstacle in life you’ve overcome?
DS: Without going into detail, I had a rough childhood. I know a rough childhood is common in most people’s lives, and no doubt my experiences are probably shared by a lot of people. But the determining factor, for me, was seeing my parents hopeless. What I do today, and what I will continue to do as long as I’m able, is live the life I want to live.
What is love?
DS: I don’t accept the premise of the question.
Love is undefinable. I can speak from experience that love changes, evolves, and cultivates. I’ve been with my husband for 12 years, and in that time our relationship has evolved into something I couldn’t put into words.
I’ll give you my best example: Our wedding. We had been together 9 years and had lived together for 6. We wore wedding bands and lived pretty much as a married couple would. We were, obviously, pro-gay marriage but didn’t feel rushed into getting married. Then my sister had a baby, and it felt like my family was growing and I wanted Josh to be, officially, part of the family. At that point it was a familial type of love, not necessary romantic, that was the point of the wedding. But at various points our love has been romantic, passionate, sedated, hysterical, and comforting. And that’s just one person I love, not mentioning family, friends, random people who make me smile…
So, love in undefinable…
We think you are undefinable and wish you the best in all you do!
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