My grown kid Harry, a.k.a irreverent drag queen Amber Alert, first performed drag in pre-school. His debut theatrical show was in the after-school program in first grade. He insisted on taking a dress and feathered boa from his dress-up box to school. He was staging a production of 101 Dalmations, in which he’d cast himself as Cruella de Vil.
I don’t see as many of Amber’s shows as I’d like. Her gigs often begin at midnight or later. So I was excited this week when she told me she’d be in a show that started at 8pm. She was reprising her Ivana Trump character for a show curated by the leftist performance collective Citizens United.
A little background: On November 8, 2016, Citizens United gathered a group of drag queens, poets and punk musicians to commemorate what they assumed would be the election of the first woman president of the United States. On January 18, 2017, they reassembled on the eve of our first fascist inauguration. This week, one year later, they convened to (re)consider: “What Happened?”
Laughter in the orange-colored face of adversity.
The performers shared works that were created out of the stresses, anxiety and depression that comes with shocking executive orders and daily breaking news. They moved us with heartfelt brilliance. Amid the reminders of so many lives turned upside down, it was drag queen Amber Alert and performance artist Chris Tyler who gave the audience some much-needed laughter in the orange-colored face of adversity.
They opened the show with a 30-second clip of President Obama’s successor and his daughter, Ivanka, appearing on The Wendy Williams Show in 2013. The voting majority of people knew before the election what despicable, deplorable Donald himself summed up in 30 seconds.
Then Chris took the stage as Ivanka Trump to lip sync “Daddy Issues” by Demi Lovato. The performance soon became a mother-daughter act. Yep, my one-and-only Amber Alert, as Ivana Trump, joined in on background vocals.
A Hidden Valley dystopia.
For their closing number, we find Ivanka and Ivana in a New York City dystopia. They are trapped in the penthouse of Trump Tower. It’s the only safe place in the city. And the only provisions are squeeze bottles of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. In this touching scene, Ivana belts out Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man.”
I realized that night how I have internalized each setback decreed by our so-called leader and the Republican administration. So Amber and Chris’s comedy sketches were just the coping mechanism I needed. It is, after all, the one-year anniversary of our country’s initial unraveling. Ivana and Ivanka helped me step back, de-stress and feel ready to move forward again on a more positive note.
No laughing matter.
My hopes for the future now rest with Special Counsel Robert Mueller. I have faith, too, that midterm election results give Democrats control of the House and Senate. And I’m energized by you and all who continue to march, speak up and speak out for equality, fairness, and justice.
Doing what’s right, fighting for what’s right is stressful. So while we do the work, remember that humor can help trigger a positive swing in attitude. Our current state of affairs is no laughing matter. But I also know that laughter can boost immunity, trigger the release of endorphins, and improve blood flow.
Finally, I want to give a special shout out to all the performers at Ars Nova Wednesday night for sharing their art. And to Chris Tyler’s Ivanka and Amber Alert’s Ivana, who made the best of a bad situation by making us laugh again. I remain one proud mom of a comedic and irreverent drag queen named Amber Alert.
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