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Presented By: University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)

Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series and the Institute for the Humanities present: Legendary Drag Queens: Gigi’s Meets Aunt Charlie’s: A Tale of Drag Scenes & Queens

Historic Theater / Michigan Theater


This pro­gram presents a rare com­ing together of six leg­endary Drag Queens from two noto­ri­ously fab­u­lous night­clubs in the gritty epi­cen­ters of Detroit and San Francisco’s Ten­der­loin district. 

Inspired by artist James Hosking’s project Beau­ti­ful by Night, on view at Insti­tute for the Human­i­ties Gallery, following three San Fran­cisco Drag Artists over the course of one night at Aunt Charlie’s, the last gay bar in the famed San Fran­cisco Ten­der­loin dis­trict, an area in the process of being com­pletely re-defined by gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and the dot-com takeover.

This series event brings the San Fran­cisco Aunt Charlie’s Queens together with Detroit’s own reign­ing Queens from Gigi’s Cabaret, home of the longest run­ning drag pageant in the United States. Appear­ing from Detroit are Maxi Chanel (House of Chanel), Nickki Stevens, and Lady T Tem­pest. Hail­ing from San Fran­cisco are Olivia Hart and Donna Per­sonna. The six artists come together to dis­cuss the his­tory of their lega­cies and art­form, the role of lin­eage and queer com­mu­nity build­ing, and how drag has changed the world through activism, glam­our, and cel­e­bra­tory inclusion.

The evening will be hosted by Ben John­son, cur­rently the Direc­tor of Per­form­ing Arts for the City of Los Ange­les Depart­ment of Cul­tural Affairs, whose posi­tion tasks him with devel­op­ing pro­grams of cul­tural exchange among other things. Pre­vi­ously he was the Direc­tor of Edu­ca­tion and Audi­ence Devel­op­ment at the Uni­ver­sity Musi­cal Soci­ety at the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan (1996−2008). While in Michi­gan, he was steeped in Detroit’s his­tory and lore, and it is through this lens which he cen­ters drag her­itage and his­tory as an impor­tant and unique cul­tural con­tri­bu­tion to the vital­ity of Michi­gan per­form­ing arts his­tory, align­ing it with the equally impor­tant and vital his­tory of Aunt Char­lies, the last remain­ing strong­hold of queer and trans-cen­tered cul­tural space in San Francisco’s Ten­der­loin district.

Co-pre­sented by the Uni­ver­sity of Michi­gan Insti­tute for the Human­i­ties, this pro­gram cel­e­brates the exhi­bi­tion open­ing of pho­tog­ra­pher and film­maker James Hosking’s mul­ti­me­dia project, Beau­ti­ful by Night, an exam­i­na­tion of class, labor, and iden­tity among aging drag per­form­ers in San Francisco’s Ten­der­loin neigh­bor­hood, fea­tur­ing the three San Fran­cisco Queens pre­sented here. 

James Hosk­ing sup­ports his sub­jects by shar­ing their sto­ries and hopes to work towards iron­clad non-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws pro­tect­ing employ­ment and hous­ing, and the more truth­ful rep­re­sen­ta­tion of this com­mu­nity in both news and entertainment.

Directly fol­low­ing the pro­gram, join us for an open­ing recep­tion at Insti­tute for the Human­i­ties Gallery and meet the artists.

This event is in-person at the Michigan Theater. Learn more about COVID-19 pro­to­cols for Penny Stamps Speaker Series events.

This program is organized and presented by The Penny W. Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series and the Insti­tute for Human­i­ties, with support from UMMA in conjunction with the exhibition Oh honey...A queer reading of UMMA's collection (on view through February 20, 2022). 

Lead support for the exhibition Oh honey... is provided by Alan Hergott and Curt Shepard and the University of Michigan Office of the Provost.

Media Sponsor: Between The Lines/Pridesource

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