Dobama launches Full Circle program

Veranda L'Ni

“At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen” opened at Dobama Theatre on Jan. 26, but there is more happening at the theater than a show.

With the production, Dobama launched its Full Circle program—a new initiative to connect members of those communities represented in the scripts Dobama produces to artists during the rehearsal process, and to patrons through audience-engagement offerings during the run of the show.

For “Drag Queen,” Dobama collaborated with local drag performer Onya Nurve who served as a consultant on the show, helping to ensure the production is created with cultural competency. She was present in rehearsals and assisted on choreography, makeup, costume, and dramaturgy.

Playwright Terry Guest recalled, when he was 15, his uncle “sat me down and said, ‘I am gay and I have AIDS,’ literally in the same conversation. I was in the closet, but was queer but was really conflicted by that. I was barely out of the closet to myself.” His uncle died about a year after that conversation.

“That was tough for me,” said Guest. “It shoved me further in the closet and further into religion for a couple years, but I still had this interest in exploring his life and honoring him in some way, but I didn’t know how.” Guest felt that someday he would want to explore those complex feelings of inner turmoil, confusion and fear, which led him to “At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen.”

Because the script, in part, addresses the health disparities facing BIPOC LGBTQ+ people living with HIV, Dobama is partnering with the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland to provide free HIV testing, resources, and information to audiences. There will be post-show discussions following Saturday night performances throughout the run, featuring representatives from the AIDS Task Force as well as from Dobama artists involved with the production.

Another Full Circle engagement event will be held on Saturday, Feb. 10, when Dobama, in partnership with Near West Theatre and Veranda L’Ni, Cleveland's tallest drag entertainer,  will offer a Drag Story Hour for families at Dobama. L’Ni is creator of the Drag Pride Flag and is a mainstay of drag events in Greater Cleveland, and Near West Theatre’s Drag Story Hour performances have been important in serving Cleveland’s West Side.

While “At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen” is appropriate only for adult audiences, Dobama’s Drag Story Hour will offer families a chance to be a part of the experience.

“This is a raucous, hilarious, entertaining, moving, and thought-provoking play that is equal parts drag show, comedy, and drama,” said Dobama’s Artistic Director Nathan Motta. “We are thrilled to share this production with Northeast Ohio audiences and we’re just as excited about the collaborations and partnerships that have made all the surrounding Full Circle events possible. This vital program is an example of what being a forward-thinking professional theater is all about.”

Also in the works as part of Full Circle programming is a Drag Cabaret Show as well as preshow conversations with area drag entertainers. For more information about these events, as they become available, and for a complete performance schedule and tickets, visit www.dobama.org.

Colin Anderson

Colin Anderson is the director of production at Dobama Theatre.

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Volume 17, Issue 2, Posted 5:01 PM, 01.30.2024