David LeBarron Tells “The Complete History of Drag” in a Mix of Humor, History and Autobiography

The history of drag

David LeBarron


David LeBarron has been a performer, playwright and storytelling force for decades. His diverse performances are designed for an array of audiences from children to art houses to repertory theaters to Dungeon & Dragons groups to schools to intoxicated patrons at bars. He is co-founder, with Andrew Henkes, of Apt3F, a performance non-profit devoted to staging and championing underground performers.

Given LeBarron’s skilled storytelling, it’s easy to see why he is the recipient of a WeHo grant for the annual One City One Pride. His new show, “The Complete History of Drag in a Few Mo-mo,” merges history, humor and autobiography.

Viewers will leave more informed about drag history but not by facts alone. This is not a lecture. LeBarron embodies on the stage the wit, wisdom, and vulnerability of an aging drag queen as she reminisces about her past.

Here talks with Steven Reigns about drag, the show’s inspiration, and what he wants for the community.

Q. How would you describe the show?

A. I usually say it’s about the history of drag as told by a dying diva in a sh-tty little drag club in the Valley. But honestly, it’s about not being invisible. It’s about knowing, as Larry Kramer said, “we are not crumbs.” We are not new. Two-spirits and queens have existed since indigenous times throughout the world, and it pisses me off that it isn’t acknowledged.

Q. And what is a Mo-mo?

A. A Mo-mo is pretend French for “a moment.” It’s a play on the character Auntie Luscious’ slight pretentiousness, bless her heart.

Q. What prompted you to create it?

A. A few years ago, for my birthday, I wanted to do a short storytelling show about my days in drag. It was a fun party because a lot of my current L.A. friends never knew me to even do drag. I wrote story after story, memory after memory, and thought these might be as a play. I devoted a year to research and then met Tom Sapasford PhD, writing in the field of ancient drag. He read it, loved it, and I knew I was on to something. It took a while to shape, as this isn’t the standard way I write plays.

Q. Did our current climate spur you forward?

A. I started this with Obama and then workshopped it when we were sure Hillary would win. Last winter I’m in rehearsal and say my line: “Gay rights? Civil liberties? You think this is permanent?” ….and I just started genuinely crying. I thought about re-writing the line. Since the play takes place in the future, I choose to believe in a future that will be not just female, but queen-worthy and fabulous…that is if we keep fighting and remembering.

Q. Is the narrator of your show Auntie? Where does your autobiography merge with Auntie?

A. Auntie Luscious is and was me. David is the narrator. He chats with the audience, sets up the space and then, with the flick of a switch, becomes Auntie. Auntie is at her last show, a decade or so in the future, talking with a newbie queen who had just arrived on the scene.

The personal details are all real: from hanging with Quentin Crisp, being a horrible lip syncer, sewing dresses at the last minute, to screaming at fag bashers. The historical details are also true. The play is fairly Euro-centric, as though Auntie — me — is chasing down her pedigree, but I try to be inclusive.

The title is a bit of a word play as it is actually Auntie “completing” her story.

Q. Auntie spouts out wisdom that reminds me of Dorian Corey’s final scene in “Paris Is Burning.” Are drag elders shamans for the queer community?

A. I want the drag elders to be our shamans. Some are. Maybe I shouldn’t say this publicly but at a WeHo event a speaker pissed me off. She was horrified that a new trans-kid didn’t know about Harvey Milk. Other speakers were also mocking. I got ruffled. It’s easy to be bitchy and condescending. It’s easy to get entitled thinking the new kids should simply know everything or have degrees in our past. No. It’s our job. The onus of sharing our history is ours!

A queen once jibed to me, “Honey we got through the AIDS crisis, aren’t we done?” I thought, “not unless you want history to repeat. Again!”

Q. What did receiving the One City One Pride grant mean to you?

A. I was thrilled. I have worked with The City of West Hollywood for years, curating artsy events. It means a lot to an artist that a municipality cares, doubly in a world where arts funding is all but gone. Also, fringe festivals tend to be a money pit. Few break even. Performers do it because there is an innate sense that it has to be done. Having that grant made the show possible. The ticket prices are low because I just want everyone to see it, with the grant I can do that. It’s nice.

Q. Any current Queens mentioned?

A. I have a lot of drag friends and sisters. I kid you not, almost everyone of them says “Do you mention me?” Even Chi Chi LA Rue! I’m like, “No bitch it’s called the history of drag, you’re drag in the present.” However, I do mention Ru Paul and a few others currently alive.

Q. Drag queens are known for one-liners. What are your favorite quips in the show?

A. I have so many. But there is a moment in the show when I am wondering if the history of drag is important. I say, “to be made ignorant is to be injured and we are left broken. Like a one-winged bird, spinning instead of soaring.”

“The Complete History of Drag in a Few Mo-mo” is a solo show written and starring David LeBarron, directed by Marc Silvia and produced by APT 3F. It is being performed at the Other Space Theater at The Actors Company, 916 N. Formosa Ave. in Los Angeles. Tickets, $10, can be purchased online. Performance dates are as follows:

Prev: Sunday, June 4. 3:30 p.m.
Thursday, June 15. 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 18. 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 24. 3:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 25. 7 p.m.