The world of performance art is a boundless planet, and one that welcomes citizen artists from all walks of life. Take, for example, The Miltown Kings, Milwaukee's drag-oriented theater troupe.
"This gang of gender benders consists of kings, queens, femmes and everything in between," says member Leo Long. "A Miltown Kings show can be -- and usually is -- a million different things."
The Kings' unique form of performance art involves acts ranging from sexy to funny to provocative. Most of the performance pieces express political statements, gender issues and challenge societal norms.
The Kings perform seven times a year at the Miramar Theatre.
The Miltown Kings consist of 10-15 rotating cast members and often includes special guests. Each member of the troupe has an altar ego / deistinct persona, such as "the bad ass," "the hopeless romantic" and "the dirty old man."
"Being on the stage allows the performers to explore any person they ever wanted to be," says Long. "The Miltown Kings are the hidden jewel of the Midwest."
Recently, the Miltown Kings celebrated their fifth anniversary. In 2004, original members Viktor Huge-O, Neil Down and Mario Belivdares Suave saw a need in the community for gender-bending performance art and decided to start the group.
OnMilwaukee.com recently sat down with Long and deciphered what makes the group tick.
OnMilwaukee.com: What is the mission of your group?
Leo Long: The Miltown Kings are committed to providing a platform for quality, interactive performance by creating a safe space for both performers and audiences. This empowers self-expression and encourages the challenging of social and gender norms, thus fostering the diversity of an all-inclusive and ever-evolving community.
OMC: How often do you perform?
LL: We have seven shows in a season -- which runs from September to June -- at the Miramar Theatre. We also perform at community events and colleges, as well as many traveling shows all over the United States, all year 'round.
We also host drag troupes from all over the United States at our third annual KingStock, which is March 21 at the Miramar.
OMC: Are there any other groups like yours in Milwaukee?
LL: There are other places that host drag shows in Milwaukee, however we are first -- and as far as I know the only -- full-drag king troupe that works together as equals to plan full-scale drag events on a regular basis.
OMC: Is Milwaukee sometimes too conservative for your form of entertainment?
LL: We experienced that early on. Often times, audiences didn't know what to do with our style of drag. However, they learned quickly to love us. Now we are blessed to have the most wonderful and loyal fans. We have been very lucky to have wonderful people support what we do and help us become successful.
OMC: Community building is an important aspect of your group, right?
LL: Yes. Our goal as a troupe has always been to create a community. We aren't a show you just watch. Our audience members are encouraged to be part of the show, whether that means dressing up for a theme, shouting back at the emcee, dancing with performers or flirting with each other.
We want to create a fun and safe place for all folks to laugh and think together, regardless of their sexual or gender orientation. We hope that this will build strong bonds in the larger community and encourage people to speak out for what they believe in.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.