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DeLa Soul

by Steve Desroches

There’s no doubt that there has never been a time where there is more opportunity for drag queens than now. With the popularity of the phenomenon of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag leap-frogged to a new level of respect in the realm of live performance in not just mainstream culture, but within the LGBT community. It’s a dizzying time to be a drag queen. There’s no blueprint, no road map for how to ride the crest and then catch the next wave. Is it a fad? Will drag go mainstream? Will it return to its roots? It’s both thrilling and startling for drag queens on the live performance circuit as they try to take it to the limit, stay relevant, and maintain artistic integrity. BenDeLaCreme, a break out star from season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race, returns to Provincetown each summer to tap into the town’s creative energies and mystique to work on her craft and revel in the collection of queens that come here annually making the town a global capital of drag in this new era.

Within the fan base of RuPaul’s Drag Race there is a growing movement encouraging people to be a fan of drag, not just Drag Race. As much as the show has done for drag, television has its limits, and seeing former cast members perform live can be a shock for some. However, it’s often a pleasant surprise, as talents and abilities that don’t fit neatly into a reality show format shine on stage. Long before the show even began BenDeLaCreme, portrayed by Benjamin Putnam, was already a rising star, well known in Seattle for her burlesque-infused aesthetic and indefatigable cheery disposition. But she was also making a mark for her intelligence, pushing herself and the expectations of drag to whole new levels. In those not so long ago days drag had persistent stigma as a low-rung art form, as well as a nagging discomfort, and at times outright disapproval, of men embracing femininity even within the LGBT community. There was also very little money in it at the time. Much of that has changed for the better, but Putnam has never let all of that distract him from the soul of drag, which for decades has been a uniquely queer voice in performance.

“My reverence for drag is unlimited,” says Putnam. “I respect it for the sacred tradition that it is.”

That tradition has been in Provincetown for almost 100 years now, making it almost as old as the art colony itself and, arriving not long after the founding of the Provincetown Players, becoming part of the fabric of the town. In fact, when the town experienced conservative spasms and tried to expel gay and lesbian people, the town’s licensing board refused to issue alcohol licenses to bars and nightclubs that employed “female impersonators,” the term of the day back in the 1950s. Clearly those efforts were in vain. It’s only recently that even here in Provincetown the long, long list of drag performers is getting the attention and respect it deserves. Since the 1920s Provincetown has been home to the best of the best.

That’s something that Putnam noticed when he first arrived 11 years ago as the host for the burlesque dance troupe the Atomic Bombshells. The creative synergy and imaginative generosity of the drag community is next to impossible to find anywhere else. This place let Putnam take risks as all artistic boundaries in Provincetown have an elasticity to them. It’s here BenDeLaCreme presented her first solo shows like Terminally Delightful and Cosmos, and last summer’s hit, Inferno A Go-Go, a hilarious and thoughtful drag retelling of Dante’s Inferno. The show infused tough issues of our times dressed in fringe and sequins, generating big laughs in a rollicking good time show about a book most of us were supposed to read in high school, but never did. It was that show that really cemented BenDeLaCreme as a headliner in Provincetown easily filling the large Paramount room at the Crown and Anchor each night.

“I like exploring complex issues through artifice,” says Putnam. “I love comedy and camp. Instantly, you let your guard down and are more open. It can act as a subtle guide to take audiences to places where they wouldn’t normally go.”

This has been the winning process for Putnam coming off his television success: being true to himself as an artist and at times defying the limiting expectations of those that only come for RuPaul’s Drag Race catch phrases and gossip. This summer BenDeLaCreme is already generating big buzz with her new show Ready to Be Committed, inspired by the New Year’s Eve marriage proposal Putnam received from his partner. He said “Yes,” but also admits, “The blood drained from my face, and my heart fell into my butt. I was terrified.” Introspective by nature, Putnam wrote the show to explore love and marriage, dipping into the darker side of his real personality and then put through the naivetй and optimism of BenDeLaCreme in this campy walk down the aisle. The show premiered in June at the Laurie Beechman Theatre in New York, as Putnam wants the show tight and seamless before coming to Provincetown, notorious for fickle and discriminating audiences.

Photo: Ji Ji Lee

“Provincetown in many ways is the most challenging, as the audience changes nightly,” says Putnam. “You can sell out one night and everyone is applauding wildly, and the next night you have 50 people sitting there staring at you blankly. It makes you a much better performer. I never debut my shows in Provincetown, I take them to New York first. Everyone thinks New York would have tougher audiences, but no way. Provincetown has way tougher audiences than New York.”

BenDeLaCreme presents Ready to Be Committed at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Provincetown, Wednesday through Sunday at 7:15 p.m. through September 1, with a closing performance on Monday, September 2. Tickets ($25) are available at the box office and online at For more information call 508.487.1430.

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Graphic Artist

Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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