Filmmaker to discuss drag documentary on campus

Rachel Christian

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Image: Gabrielle Burton, Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Burton

Gabrielle Burton wants to make people question gender roles. “When people think about sex and gender, it’s black and white,” said Michael Kramb, a performer in Burton’s documentary “Kings, Queens and In-Betweens,” (KQIB). “And for me, something like drag is a way to show the gray areas because it’s not black and white. It’s never been black and white.” KQIB, with filming in-progress, tracks the vibrant drag scene in Columbus, Ohio over the period of two years and examines what defines gender. Burton, in conjunction with several departments and organizations on campus, will discuss the process of making KQIB during a special dinner in the UC East on Monday. Ron Mitchell, editor of the Southern Indiana Review, said he contacted Burton, who was published in the literary magazine last year, and asked her if she’d like to come to campus and discuss her film. “I thought bringing Gabrielle (Burton) to campus was an excellent opportunity,” Mitchell said. “The more I discovered about her, the more impressive she became.” Burton was first introduced to the Columbus drag scene when her friend Seth asked if she would watch a performance his husband was in. “I had no idea there was such a large community for drag here,” Burton said. “It made me start questioning the meaning of gender roles in our society.” As the mother of a boy and girl, Burton said she was interested in exploring the tight restrictions and expectations placed on the two genders. “We limit our boys and girls with what they can play with (or) what they can do,” she said. “Because of that, they grow up thinking you’re only allowed to express yourself in certain ways.”

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Image: Topher Wright, Twinkerbell, Mr. Cool Ethan, Mattie and The Reverand Roy Rogers perform on stage together. Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Burton

There are many complexities within the drag community itself, Burton said. There are some performers who do it strictly to entertain, while others are trying to make a serious political statement with their work. Burton said she hopes when her documentary finishes, it will answer the questions and clarify the misconceptions people have about drag. She said KQIB will be done sometime next year, and it would be great to take the film on a screening tour around the country. Burton will also be screening work-in-progress clips from her film on Tuesday in Forum 1. A student-led panel discussion will accompany the screening. Both events are free and open to the public, though the seating at the dinner is limited. If students want to reserve a space at the dinner, contact Assistant Dean of Students Tara Frank.