May 11, 2024

Coffeehouse Chronicles #175: What a Drag! Chronicles of Drag

Coffeehouse Chronicles #175: What a Drag! Chronicles of Drag

Curated by Michal Gamily and Brian Belovitch
Moderated by Benjamin Gillespie
Performers and panelists: Agosto Machado, Michael Lynch, Mark Oleszko, Joe E Jeffreys, Michael Musto, Rachel Rampleman, Jimmy Camicia, Elyssa Goodman, Shelly Mars, Charlie Wo, Steve Kaufman, Peggy Shaw, Esther the Bipedal Entity, Lena Horné, and more to be announced

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Curated by Michal Gamily and Brian Belovitch
Moderated by Benjamin Gillespie
Performers and panelists: Agosto Machado, Michael Lynch, Mark Oleszko, Joe E Jeffreys, Michael Musto, Rachel Rampleman, Jimmy Camicia, Elyssa Goodman, Shelly Mars, Charlie Wo, Steve Kaufman, Peggy Shaw, Esther the Bipedal Entity, Lena Horné, and more to be announced

Brian Belovitch (he,him) is an actor, author, public speaker and mental health professional. He has a storied career as a writer and gender outlier. He was a featured guest on The Moth Storytelling Hour on NPR relating a story from his critically acclaimed memoir, Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man. During the height of the NYC club scene frenzy in the mid 80’s he lived as a vivacious trans woman. As Tish Gervais, he was breaking barriers as a nightclub performer at the Limelight, Palladium, Pyramid, Studio 54, Area and Danceteria as the “Bombshell of Rock n Roll.” As an actor he’s appeared on New York stages for more than three decades in various theatrical incarnations, most notably as a member of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company. Last Fall he appeared in Twisted, as Lavinia Monteblanc De La Croix in a new play at Theatre for the New City in NYC. His appearance as Alice, First Lady of the Earth in Conquest of the Universe, or When Queens Collide by Charles Ludlam at LaMama marked the 50th anniversary of the Ridiculous. In 2019, Brian was a recipient of the Acker Award for writing that is given annually to East Village, NY avant- garde artists. As a playwright, his groundbreaking Off-Broadway play, Boys Don’t Wear Lipstick, was honored with a 2000 GLAAD nomination. Most recently he can be seen in Julio Torres directorial film debut, Problemista. In June 2019, Brian was named one of the 50 most influential LGBTQ authors of all time by Barnes and Noble and participated in the 50th anniversary of Stonewall Gay Pride Parade in New York City. Brian is also the subject of a documentary film that made its world premiere at DOC NYC titled; I’m Gonna Make You Love Me directed by Karen Bernstein. He’s a frequent guest on multiple podcasts such as Ebony & Ivory with Lady Bunny and Monet Exchange and Night Fever with World of Wonder hosts James St. James and Fenton Bailey. Brian holds a Master Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Hunter College and had the unprecedented honor of delivering the commencement speech to the class of 2022. Presently, Brian works in private practice where he utilizes his lived experience as a cis gay man of trans experience to help others who are exploring their own identity journeys. As a long-term survivor of HIV Brian lives proudly as an out beloved gay man, advocating on behalf of the LGBTQIA+ community in all its wondrous expressions. Insta: @transfiguredbook @im_listeningtoo

Benjamin Gillespie (PhD) teaches theatre, communication, & gender studies at Baruch College, CUNY. He is co-editor of the Journal of American Drama and Theatre. His essays and reviews on queer theatre and performance histories have been published in a wide range of journals and anthologies. He is currently editing two books: Split Britches: Fifty Years On and Late Stage: Theatrical Perspectives on Age and Aging, both to be published by the University of Michigan Press in 2025.

Michael Lynch has been performing since the age of thirteen, he is a founding member of TOSOS Theater Company founded by Doric Wilson and was a member of Peter Brooks' ICTR (The Ik), a member of Great Jones Rep, attended the High School of Performing Arts, NYSF Festival: Ti-Jean and His Brothers by Derek Walcott, House of Lear, Silence, Cunning, Exile, Street Theater by Doric Wilson (TOSOS Theater), Leaving the Blues (TOSOS Theater).

Lyra Vega is a New York City drag artist based out of Manhattan, New York with a passion for live music. With a name that is derived from the Lyra constellation of a harp from Greek mythology, she combines her musical abilities with a cosmic aesthetic. As a full-time performer, Lyra has weekly shows at various Queer venues, including The Stonewall Inn, Monster Bar, Red Eye, and The Ice Palace on Fire Island, among others. She also works frequently with her all-Drag band, The Bad Judies. You can find her on Instagram for all show dates and more info at @itslyravega.

Michael Musto is best known as the long running "La Dolce Musto" columnist for the Village Voice, which he still writes for. His byline has also appeared everywhere from Vanity Fair to the New York Times, spanning issues that are pop cultural and sometimes political. Musto has written four books, including the non fiction guide "Downtown" and the roman-a-clef novel "Manhattan on the Rocks". He is a regular commentator on TV and in documentaries and has won the Glam award for Best Writer/Blogger 10 times.

Rachel Rampleman creates bodies of work that explore gender, artifice, and spectacle. Utilizing directorial, curatorial, and anthropological processes, she showcases exuberantly irrepressible personalities who revel in challenging clichés and taboos to rethink and reimagine the gender construct. A sampling of subjects include Girls Girls Girls - the world's first and only all-female Mötley Crüe tribute band, and Tazzie Colomb - the world's longest competing professional female bodybuilder. With her current project "Life is Drag", she is documenting the most singular and innovative performers of the currently exploding alt-drag and neo-burlesque scenes. This ongoing and ever evolving project is the largest digital archive of drag in the United States, with over 350 performances.

Jimmy Camicia was the co-founder, director, writer, producer of Hot Peaches, one of New York's earliest openly-gay theater companies, and usually performed in their shows.  The company's productions ranged from variety cabarets to narrative musicals based in popular music genres, and produced its shows in various Downtown Manhattan theaters and clubs from 1972 to 1997.  The troupe toured Europe during the mid-late 1970s and from 1989-1997.  The company was known for showcasing drag artists as performers in their shows -- some of the more well-known included (in chronological order) Minette, Zamba, Jackie Curtis, Mario Montez, Alexis Del Lago, Marsha P. Johnson, Sister Tui, Wilhalmina Ross, Lola Starr, Agosto Machado, Cyril Ciprian, Bette Bourne, Harvey Fierstein, Ondine, Clio Young, International Chrysis, Ron Jones, Michael Michelle Lynch, Lavinia Co-op, Perfidia, Anthony Hegarty (Anohni), Hapi Phace, Hattie Hathaway, and Bianca Leigh.  JImmy's memoir "My Dear Sweet Self: A Hot Peach Life" (Fast Books, 2013) tells his story with the company.”

Elyssa Maxx Goodman is a New York-based writer and photographer specializing in non-fiction writing and documentary photography. Her book Glitter and Concrete: A Cultural History of Drag in New York City is out now from Hanover Square Press. It was named a 2024 Stonewall Honor Book for the Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Book Award, one of Vogue’s Best LGBTQ+ Books of 2023, one of Booklist’s Best History Books of 2023, and is currently shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award in LGBTQ+ Nonfiction. Elyssa's writing and photography have also been published in Vogue, Vanity Fair, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, The New Yorker, them., InsideHook, Artforum, Elle, VICE, New York, i-D, and many others.

Shelly Mars is a multimedia performance artist whose work explores sexuality and power using an expanding catalog of created personae. An originator of 80s/90s queer performance culture, she is recognized as a pioneer of contemporary alternative comedy and transgressive solo theater. Mars has performed for over 30 years across the United States and worldwide. Her monologues appear in many publications including Creating Your Own Monologue, alongside work by Karen Finley and Spalding Gray. Mars’ work has also been cited in many academic journals including Marjorie Garber’s Vested Interests: Cross Dressing and Cultural Anxiety. Mars has performed over 15 solo shows, including Sex on Mars, Invasion from Mars, and The Homo Bonobo Project, her quixotic multimedia performance piece studying the sexuality of the Bonobo apes, which has been performed at NYU, Performa, and the Brooklyn Museum. She was awarded a New York State Council on the Arts grant in 2010, along with grants from the Arcus Foundation, the Gill Foundation, and the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art. She was an Artist in Residence at Museum of Sex from 2002-2009, and has led workshops on solo performance at Harvard and Brown universities. Credited as the first “drag king”, Mars has been featured in several documentaries on the subject including the HBO television special Drag Kings, and the independent film Venus Boyz. A feature length documentary about Mars, The Dark Matter of Mars, premiered at New York City’s NewFest in 2006. A member of SAG and AFTRA, Shelly has appeared on sketch comedy shows including Kids in the Hall and The Jamie Kennedy Experiment. On film, Mars as played numerous roles including work in films such as Mary Harron’s The Notorious Betty Page, Drop Dead Rock (co-starring Debbie Harry and Adam Ant), Jennie Livingston’s award-winning short film Who’s The Top, and the cult classic The Virgin Machine. Mars also appeared as a gender coach on the month-long A&E series Role Reversal, and co-starred on Comedy Central’s Out There in Hollywood comedy special. In 2017, Mars released “From Mars”, a series of high quality prints documenting seminal moments in her performance work, along with lithographs inspired by The Homo Bonobo Project. Her next multimedia performance piece is currently in development and will incorporate these images, as well as a chimerical video works.

Charlie Wo is an NYC-based performer who tells stories through the art of drag and burlesque, and explores gender through both their hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine personas.

Esther the Bipedal Entity is a conduit through which various biochemical algorithms choose to express themselves. In her practice, Esther explores history, media studies, fashion, and dance through video and live performance. After stints as a video producer at NYLON and Hearst, she recognizes the limitations of legacy/liberal media and seeks to create concise and engaging content to better contextualize our position in history.

Lena Horné is a vivacious drag performer and entertainer based in Brooklyn, NY. Using her god given southern charm and voice to match, she empowers every person under her spell to dream of a brighter world; a world filled with fashion, possibilities, and diva anthems. Whether Lena is singing from her heart or talking up a storm, she’s sure to delight every crowd under the sound of her mic.

Coffeehouse Chronicles


Coffeehouse Chronicles is an educational performance series exploring the history of Off-Off-Broadway. Part artist-portrait, part history lesson, and part community forum, Coffeehouse Chronicles take an intimate look at the development of downtown theatre, from the 1960s’ “Coffeehouse Theatres” through today.

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