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Dungeons and Drag Queens going strong a year later

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Photo courtesy of Paul Curry
Photo courtesy of Paul Curry

Since speaking with the SGN in January last year, comedian Paul Curry and musician Carson Grubb have brought their live fantasy adventure show Dungeons and Drag Queens past the halls of the late Jai Thai, and soon it may carry them and certain Seattle queens beyond the borders of Washington state as well.

Dungeons and Drag Queens is what it sounds like: a live session of the popular tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, with drag queens playing the main cast of heroes. Grubb plays piano and electric violin to fit the situation, and as the dungeon master, Curry plays the side characters and adjudicates the rules — though he's hardly the one in charge.

"We get the beautiful, rebellious, sassy attitude of the drag queen putting the dungeon master in his place, while simultaneously hitting this deep role-play," Curry said over Zoom. Because of that balance, it seems like the show has been successful in hitting "both angles," attracting fans of both drag and Dungeons & Dragons alike.

Curry and Grubb decided to expand the project after a big turnout in March last year.

"I think we realized it could be something bigger when we sold out Hale's Ales a year ago," Curry said. "If this can sell 300 tickets, this can probably do anything. And then we had a meeting, me and Carson, where we went over our dream plan: best-case scenario, what are we doing in one year?"

Their answer to that was that they'd be touring the West Coast, performing in Portland and various cities in California. New York City is also on their list.

The essential formula hasn't changed much, but the show has been far from stagnant. One of the biggest differences between now and a year ago, Curry said, is the production value. There are much fancier visuals on the stage, to aid the audience in following important narrative context, like transitions from one location to another.

Curry credited a new member of the production team, Banji Oyewule, for having a big part in those improvements. "He's really great to work with," Curry said. "He has a lot of insight and chops when it comes to producing."

Audience participation has also been dialed up a notch. In every scene, the audience is assigned a role of their own, like a rabble of peasants, an assortment of woodland creatures, or an army of the queen's soldiers.

Some of the cast members have also taken improv classes at Bandit Theater, just to brush up on those skills and be prepared for whatever a fantasy land might throw at them.

"We really wanna invest a lot of time and resources into making sure the queens have all the tools they need to enjoy the adventure," Curry said.

Photo courtesy of Paul Curry  

Speaking of queens, according to Curry, the regulars are somewhat "geographic." The Tacoma cast includes Tina Shay Monet, Jinkx Monsoon, and Solana Solstice. Tina Shay Monet and Issa Man are part of the Seattle cast.

"They're already so good at improv," Curry said of the queens. "When we did the first class, they didn't know any of the Bandit-specific lingo and rules and stuff like that, but they're so innately in tune with how to make the vibe funny, and flow."

Despite the pressures of the pandemic to digitize everything, Dungeons and Drag Queens has been true to the roots of the tabletop gaming genre and a largely in-person affair. Part of the show's next steps, however, will be into the digital realm, to help it reach a wider audience.

"One place that we really think we can improve on, and that we're really focusing on, is just getting footage edited and posted online," Curry said. "That's a big kind of bottleneck for us. And so we're always in the market for a video editor."

Bottleneck or not, word has gotten out enough that Dungeons and Drag Queens has garnered recognition from a popular tabletop role-playing show hosted by actor and writer Brennan Lee Mulligan of CollegeHumor fame.

Curry recalled, "Dimension 20 hit us up and they were like, 'Hey, we're having some drag queens on for a special... and we're thinking of calling it Dungeons and Drag Queens. Is that okay with you?' And we were like, 'Yeah, that's cool.'"

"My hope is that we can form this new genre," Curry said.

Playing Dungeons & Dragons can mean "pulling out this element of childhood play that has long been repressed by adulthood and reawakening that," Curry said. "And I think it's perfect for the Queer community, because at the end of the day, D&D and these tabletop role-playing games are about being who you are, being who you want to be, and assuming an identity that is the most fun for you."

For the audience, Curry had this to say: "I know how ridiculous the world is and how ridiculous it is to just spend two hours sitting, watching something. So thank you.... I'm so indebted to our audience that I just hope I can make their day a little bit better by coming to our show."

You can follow Dungeons and Drag Queens to keep up with future tours, showings, and other events on Instagram and TikTok @dndqlive, and book tickets for shows at https://www.dndq.live