This weeks show of the Week is a show that was so successful with it’s debut that it is returning again for a second show! The night is organised by the troupe Zeal Improv and has a variety of different guests each time. I sat down with Kat, co-Director of Zeal, to find out more about Dragprov.
Hello Kat! Tell us about Dragprov and a little bit about yourselves?
DragProv is an improvised drag night organized by Zeal Improv. Our first show was in December at The Nursery Theatre, and this one will be our second. It’s a collection of artists and groups who are essentially performing drag made up on the spot. We have kings, queens and artists toying with gender constructs from all directions. There’s some music, some singing, some rapping, some drinking and, I’ll go ahead and say you might see some ‘art’. Either way, it’s a really fun night!
How did you come up with the show concept?
There were already people out there doing improvised drag, and as we became aware of more and more acts we thought it would be fun to do a themed evening. It’s a great way of crossing boundaries and getting new people along to improv and to highlight an area of our community that isn’t hugely well-known at the moment. We knew The Bareback Kings and Brent Would, so we dug around to see who else was doing it and also who wanted to give it a try. People were really excited by the idea, so we figured we’d give it a go!
Tell us a little bit about the show that is happening on March 28th – who is appearing?
We’re really excited about the line-up. The show will be hosted by Brent Would (AKA Francesca Reid), who is such a fabulous drag king and performer generally. Her transformation blows my mind, and I love Brent’s cheeky personality. We also have The Bareback Kings, who were my introduction to improvised drag. They’re a group of super-talented improvisers who are a real joy to watch and I would definitely go for a pint with those lads!
Then we have Christian Adore and Eaton Messe’s DragProv Revue – a musical duo from Cambridge. We were lucky enough to get to know them at the first DragProv night we put on in December and they are incredible. Really charismatic performers, fabulous singers and their relationship onstage is adorable. And finally we have Chris Nelson, who most often performs as the spectacular Sue Gives A F*ck – again such an incredible transformation, I definitely need some make-up tips from that girl! – but this time Chris will be playing with a new character, and I am VERY excited to meet her!
For those who do not know – tell us about Zeal Improv as well?
Zeal Improv started last year, and I run it with my co-conspirator Stephen Davidson, who runs QI, London’s first queer improv group, and is an incredible human being – I absolutely hit the jackpot having him as my co-director.
The idea behind Zeal is to create a safe space for LGBTQIA (I’m just going to say queer from now on, because that’s a lot of letters!) improvisers to play, to promote individuals and acts who may not always get the stage time or feel they don’t always fit in, and to encourage more queer people to get involved with improv and come and bring their stories and experiences to the stage. Together Stephen and I put on the first Zeal improv festival in July, which was part of the Pride Festival in London. It ran over seven days and we organised nights with The FA, Hoopla, The Nursery, C3Something, Duck Duck Goose, Monkey Toast and Improvable, who were all incredibly encouraging and awesome to work with, especially considering it was our first year.
We also offered two workshops (and The Nursery kindly supported us with free space) one with the amazing Maria Peters, who has been characteristically helpful, supportive and joyous – we love her A LOT – and one taught by our very own Stephen. Since then we’ve started to put on one-off nights, including Loud And Queer at The Miller through Hoopla and DragProv at The Nursery. We’re hoping to keep expanding, but at the moment it’s still just Stephen and I, so if anyone reading this is good at organizing get in touch – we’d love to have you involved!
What makes Dragprov so unique as a show?
It’s not a night that’s happening on a regular basis on the improv circuit. There are improvised drag acts, and the more people I speak to, the more it becomes clear that actually a lot of improvisers are interested in drag, whether it’s just watching it or trying it out themselves.
It’s not entirely surprising given improv is an artform where you can literally play anything on stage. Any gender, and race, any age. You don’t have to be human, or even necessarily sentient. So we’re all already toying with expectations and stereotypes the minute we step into a scene. Because of all the interest Zeal are looking at creating some opportunities for improvisers to try out drag, both in workshops and to offer more space for beginners on stage, so stay tuned…
What sort of style of improv happens at Dragprov? Do you always do the same format?
This is only our second show, so we’re still seeing what works. In our first show we had a segment for ‘drag virgins’ with a group of improvisers doing a really fast make-over challenge and other short games on stage. We’d love to do more of that in the future, and also to offer slots to people who are still workshopping improvised drag ideas. Last time we had James Witt’s improvised drag debut onstage as Ariel Starbuck and she killed it (unsurprisingly, given what an incredible improviser James is!) – I can’t wait to see more from her.
We also have drag artists who don’t usually do improv working on incorporating improvised aspects into their acts, so it works both ways. We’re open to any style of improv, the more varied the better as far as we’re concerned. For this night, as with anything we do, we’re always open to suggestions and ideas, so get in touch!
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
We’re on Facebook and Twitter at @ZealImprov and we have a website at www.zealimprov.com (although we’ll be updating that as we get nearer to this year’s festival, which will be running in the days leading up to the Pride march in London).
What do you think 2018 holds for the world of improv – what would you like to see happen in the next 12 months?
So many exciting things! I started doing improv just under two years ago and I’m still constantly surprised and excited about how varied it is an artform, and how many new nights are popping up, how many different one-off classes and courses are on offer, and how much everyone in the community just really wants it to grow, regardless or school or style.
Obviously shows like Austentatious and Showstoppers are really expanding people’s idea of what improv is outside of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (which is awesome and trailblazing, but just one really specific example of what improv has the potential to offer). So I’d love to see a few more shows really breaking through like that. Also I think we’re really lucky to have so many guest teachers over in London who bring with them their own styles and experiences from around the world, so more of that! I took some really interesting classes with On The Spot from Hawaii during last year’s Slapdash festival that really inspired me.
Obviously with a Zeal hat on I’d love us to work on different aspects of diversity. Groups like Nu-Z Land and Jumprov are awesome and are doing a great job of working towards greater racial diversity, but we still have a really long way to go. I also think things such as age, socio-economic background and disability still need our attention, so I’d love to see some projects popping up to try and redress the balance in other areas.
And Finally – in three words, why should people come and see Dragprov at the The Nursery?
Kat said so.
Jennifer Saunders is my all-time favourite. Sarah Colonna is my current favourite. That’s only kind of cheating…
Favourite short form game to play in improv?
The last thing you liked on social media?
Most likely an ‘animal friends’ video. Nothing brings me more joy than animals buddying up! I think the most recent one I saw was a duck that was friends with two dogs. I feel better just thinking about it…
What would your autobiography be called?
Can We Start Again? I wasn’t Ready…
What is your favourite joke?
Cannot think of a single joke right now. Although I went to an open mike night last night and a teenager got up on stage and spent five minutes talking about how much his farts smelled. It was ridiculous, but somehow incredibly endearing, and it may have been the wine, but I found him hilarious!
Improv group you would love to collaborate with?
If we’re going full aspirational, The Glenda J Collective! Royalty…