Drag is not some kind of new thing to happen in Athens. For as long as I have been a citizen of the Classic City, there has always been a drag show to go to and if we are to look at drag like we look at other forms of art, I think we can say that now is the Age of the Kourtesan.
With shows at Max, The Globe, Sister Louisa’s Church, and the 40 Watt, The Kourtesans make sure that there is opportunity to be seen from all angles. From the curious drag newbie to the diehard fan, a chance to experience what Athens drag can be—to grow and experience the art form for themselves.
One of the things that the Kourtesans showcase is a diversity of talent that allows for many forms of drag. On any given night the cast of characters can be glam girls, pageant queens, club kids, bearded queens and anything in between.
When I asked show runner Karmella Macchiato what she thought the overall message of the Kourtesans was she said, “We just want to encourage people to be themselves, even if they feel like they might not fit in elsewhere…” Creating that sense of welcome and safety is one of the things that the girls do best. The world might be crashing and burning around us, but at a Kourtesans show you are surrounded by your closest friends and family, so you can let yourself go a little bit. It is an anything-goes kind of vibe—people can go wherever they want, drink what they want, love who they want, and be as free as they want—as long as they don’t walk on the stage during a performance. In such tight spaces you might get a glittery pump to the chin.
But the Kourtesans exist as more than a drag show. They are queens of the social media age. With each girl showcasing their own personal styles and tastes, they not only exist as ambassadors for the troupe but as ambassadors for queer life in Athens. Each queen has a strong media presence and are all outspoken when it comes to current events as they affect the Athens queer community and the community at large. Kourtesans are smart and opinionated and show that there is more to drag than glitz and glamour.
It is because of this openness and celebration of being yourself that has led many queer kids to don the title of performance artist for the night (myself included). Every so often there will be a night of tryouts where those willing will turn a look and compete get an offer to perform alongside the girls for a night. It is on nights like these that a Kourtesans show can be really special. Nights like these are about celebrating being whatever kind of you that you want to be and they are right there with you, cheering you on and celebrating you the way you celebrate them.
The world can get you down and make you want to call UNCLE but sometimes, even if only for a couple hours, it is worth having something to do that will put a smile on you face, get you dancing, make you laugh, and maybe even make you a little uncomfortable. I’m not saying that a drag show is going to solve all the world’s problems…but I’m also not saying it wont.
Robby Bailey is a writer in Athens, Ga. You can follow him on twitter @robbebailey