Dragged To New York

Asger Thieden, COL ’23, Copenhagen, Denmark

My summer experience was mostly spent in New York and mostly on the weekends. It is not often that you get to go on paid weekend trips to New York city and go out to bars and night clubs – but that is exactly what I was fortunate enough to do while studying New York’s drag scene with lecturer, Dr. Steve Viscelli.

Garments and wigs go flying as the performers powdered faces and painted lips make out the mouthing of a popular number. Sitting at the bar or at a side table, the test is to be invisible as an observer while the spectacle is going on. With big movements and exaggerated facial features, the performers prance around the room, occasionally collecting tips. How do they interact with the audience? How does the audience interact with them? Are they wearing prosthetics or padding? How are they gendering their costume and make-up? My eyes dart around the crowded room to gauge reactions and emotions while quickly jotting words and sentences on my phone.

“Room is very loungy up to the stage.”

“one tip was $50 showing a bit of wealth. Amount announced by P.”

“››there is the cast from fire island, y’all, is this a casual outfit in Hell’s Kitchen?‹‹”

While it feels easy enough to note down what I’m seeing, the real memory challenge begins when the notes have to be typed up the following day. Why did she say that? What might have caused that reaction? Typing it out on my computer on the two hour ride back to Philadelphia drags me back out of The City’s night clubs with their blasting speakers and bright lights. Back in Philadelphia I discuss the results with Dr. Viscelli. Avoidable mistakes, good jotting habits, and better photo practices are all discussed as I learn all about research in sociology, institutional review, and working with queer performers. While it can be difficult and frustrating at times, when I’m back in a bar chair with an iced tonic in hand, I assure myself that there is nothing I’d rather be doing with my summer, and nothing I’d rather learn than how to do this research well.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services