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Varla Jean Merman’s Stand By Your Drag

Review by Steve Desroches

The late, great Nina Simone once said, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice—but I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty.” While not mentioned in that quote, it is fair to include drag queens, as their role within the LGBTQ community has been beyond just entertainment. Through their performances, they speak truth to power, interpret queer lives, and can act as a cultural bonding agent. There is no drag performer in the country that has more consistently welded together art, culture, hilarity, politics, and absurdity than Varla Jean Merman. And in these frightening and infuriating times for the LGBTQ community, the pressure to respond is on all of Provincetown really, but on drag queens in particular, as they are themselves in the hateful crosshairs of far-right-wing Republicans, Christian nationalists, and the MAGA cult. Varla Jean Merman’s Stand By Your Drag is the perfect answer to the bigotry that haunts our country as well as a celebration of drag culture, which has a long rich history nationwide, especially here in Provincetown.

Let’s be clear, Varla Jean Merman’s Stand By Your Drag is first and foremost a raving good time. Funny and ridiculous in the best possible way, the show is twice as jam-packed with blazing jokes, brilliant parody songs accentuated by musical director and accompanist Gerald Goode, and sight gags from here to the horizon and back. Written by Merman along with Jacques Lamarre and Ricky Graham, with direction by Michael Schiralli, the show is everything a drag show should be: bitingly clever and sly, comedically relentless where it needs to be, ensconced in glamour, and with a core message of standing up for oneself and each other, giving a middle finger when it’s the punctuation mark that works the best. But the brilliance of Stand By Your Drag isn’t just its commentary on the external political and cultural pressures coming down on drag, but also on how drag can be taken for granted or how those performers who don’t neatly fit cookie-cutter culture or the superficial social-media influencer phenomenon that social media can impose can be cast aside. So do your patriotic duty and go see Stand By Your Drag, as no doubt the Founding Fathers in their wigs and high heels had drag in mind, too, when they wrote the Constitution.

Varla Jean Merman’s Stand By Your Drag is at the Crown and Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Tuesday through Saturday at 9 p.m. now through September 9. Tickets ($40/$50) are available at the box office and online at For more information call 508.487.1430.

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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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