It’s a drag in the best possible way

Drag has come along way since the days of Milton Berle. It’s no longer about men getting laughs as ugly women. It’s a performance art.

When you mention “Connecticut,” most people might think about hedge funds, insurance companies and multimillion-dollar estates along its Gold Coast. Few people associate “Connecticut” with drag-queen revues. But Sky Casper wants to change that.

“I had always said that Connecticut was missing some fun things that other places had, so I decided to bring it myself,” says the West Hartford-based founder of the eponymous Sky Casper Events, which produces drag revues for the Connecticut market. Casper set himself up as an impresario of fabulous theatrical divas six years ago, following an earlier half-dozen year stretch in a less than glamorous job with a finance company. The boyishly handsome Casper serves as host and talent coordinator for his weekly shows around the state.

Bella Daleahdo. Photograph courtesy Sky Casper Events.

“I knew a lot of people that believed in me, so I started a Saturday event called ‘Hartford’s Gay Social Saturday,’ to give LGBT individuals a place to hang out, be social and play games,” he continues. “We had different themes each week, which made it really fun and different from other places. Then I started my live singing and comedy ‘Pink Eggs & Glam Drag Brunch,’ where I bring in some of the most amazing drag performers in the world, and they put on an hour show during brunch. There are bottomless mimosas and such available.”

But the mimosas are hardly the only intoxicating aspect of a Sky Casper Events show. With all inhibitions happily parked at the coat checkroom, Casper’s talent lineup follows his one performance rule: There are no rules.

“I tell them to go wild, because I think people going to a drag show expect it,” he adds. “My drag performers are very good at reading the crowd, so if they’re doing something the audience doesn’t like, they will most likely cut that out of the performance and change it up. They’re professional.”

And no two shows are alike. “We rotate performers every month at each location, but each one includes live singing and comedy,” Casper says. “I try to pick performers that I think anyone would enjoy seeing. Sometimes I have ‘boylesque’ performers who are amazing dancers and singers as guests; sometimes I have bearded drag queens; sometimes I have biological women that do drag, but they are all entertaining and everyone always enjoys themselves.”  

Bella Daleahdo, one of the drag queens spotlighted in Casper’s shows, generates an industrial level of power for audiences expecting a high-energy experience. “If it’s your first time at the rodeo with Bella, expect splits, dips, death drops and a whole lot of sass,” Deleahdo insists. “Come with an open mind and ready to have a ball, because life is her party.”

Indeed, this isn’t Milton Berle doing Borscht Belt shtick in a tacky dress and ill-fitting wig. Then it was about laughing at men as ugly women. Now it’s about performance art.

“Drag takes lots and lots of time, even more if you try to rush,” says Angela Saxon, another member of Casper’s lineup. “Makeup takes two hours, but three hours is ideal. Getting dressed takes another 10 to 30 minutes. I will use every second available to me to get ready though. If I had 20 hours, I’m sure I would still feel rushed with my makeup.”

Saxon believes the essential element for a successful drag show is quality, adding, “I do look for hard work and elbow grease on every queen,” he continues. “Most people can tell the difference between the result of actual hard work and a performance that was just thrown together five minutes before the show. I want to see some thought behind a performance.” 

Sawyer Hurst, another Casper regular who performs under the persona Lotus, observes, “It sounds cliché, but passion is the cornerstone of any form of drag. There are so many types of queens — ones who dance, sing live, do comedy, recreate film or theater references. But regardless of what you do, you have to be passionate about what you are trying to convey. You are the product you’re selling to an audience, and how can you expect them to buy you if you don’t believe in what you’re doing?”

Still, Hurst notes that too much intensity is not part of the act. “Oh, we also don’t take things too seriously,” he adds. “We are essentially clowns, after all, just with better wardrobes.”

Casper’s “Pink Eggs & Glam Drag Brunch” rotates among Crave in Fairfield, Casa Mia at the Hawthorne in Berlin and Social in New London. Another production, “Tuck & Strut,” offers a “drag battle” among competitors. Casper has also booked talent for private parties and for nonprofit events, including Pride in the Park by the Triangles Community Center in Norwalk and a gala by the Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Hartford.

And in what is clearly a sign of the times, Casper’s shows are becoming favorites with Connecticut audiences of all persuasions. “Lately we have been getting a much larger straight crowd,” he says. “But for the past two years, it’s been a really great mixed crowd. I’m really proud.”

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