Nothing says Pride like an extraordinarily colorful 12-foot stage on wheels bedazzled with drag queens driving through Downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO.
Each Saturday for the rest of June, the Mobile Drag Performance Unit, presented by FagSigns, will be making curbside stops in multiple Downtown Brooklyn and DUMBO locations to put on an interactive drag show, complete with solo acts and group numbers from local drag performers.
Drag shows are usually confined to the interior of a bar, restricted by age requirements and COVID-19 regulations. This mobile unit aims to remove barriers by performing curbside in public areas and outside of an LGBTQ+ elderly home.
"I'm not a drag performer, I just have a deep affinity for drag," Matthew Day Perez, owner of FagSigns and the brains behind the Mobile Drag Performance Unit, said. "Maybe folks don't feel comfortable going to a bar so we're bringing it onto the street."
FagSigns is an LGBTQ+-owned, direct-to-consumer neon signage company that takes on ambitious artistic endeavors. The organization has produced art shows for LGBTQ+ artists, including two at World Pride in 2019, and is now forging into the world of drag.
"I want to create a platform for other queer artists and entertainers," Perez said. "I think [drag] is so important. I want to be clear, it's all forms of drag--drag queens, drag kings-- there is a whole gradient of drag and that should be celebrated."
June in New York City is Pride month, an annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and their fight for equal rights. It dates back to June of 1969 when a Gay nightclub in Manhattan was raided by police. Days of pro-LGBTQ+ demonstrations followed, marking the groundswell of a major social movement.
All month long, Pride is honored with protests, parties, performances and vigils for those lost to HIV/AIDS and hate crimes. The original 1969 protest is commemorated each year on the last Sunday of June with a city-wide parade.
"I think a lot about the AIDS pandemic and how drag shows created a great deal of levity for a community going through trauma," Perez said. "Now, in this other form of COVID-19, these performers are really supporting their communities."
Showtimes will be at 2:00pm, 4:00pm and 7:00pm at Albee Square, St. Felix Place's Stonewall Houses (New York's only LGBTQ+ Senior homes) and the DUMBO Archway, respectively. Upcoming performances will take place on June 19 and 26.
The pop-up features a different lineup of performers each weekend. Brita filter, Lagoona Bloo and DJ Lady Simon performed on June 12, Robyn Banks, Robin Fierce, Lola Michele Kiki, Hibiscus and DJ IVENCHY will perform on June 19, and Scarlet Envy, Xunami Muse, Essa Noche and DJ Loyaalteee will perform on June 26.
The Mobile Drag Performance Unit is made possible by a grant from the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund, as part of New York State's Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
"That fund has helped secure all of the resources we've needed to produce a rolling stage and it has also allowed us to reach out to queer talent to book them and pay them which I think is really important," Perez said.
Perez said it is going to be a jovial, community-building experience.
"For me personally, drag shows are a wonderful place where you can interact with other queer folks in a really safe space as well as be entertained."