Rogue Performer Preview: The Real Black Swann, Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen

Feb 25, 2023 | 2023 Articles, Arts & Entertainment, Rogue Festival

by Les Kurkendaal Barrett

The Rogue Festival is almost here! Here is another of several Rogue Performer Preview articles that will be going up between now and March 3. You will be able to find all of them, along with a preview article about the Festival itself, in our Rogue Festival category and you can find more info on our Rogue Festival event page over on KRL News and Reviews. Tickets for the Rogue Festival can be purchased on their website and you can find this year’s schedule.

I am returning to the Rogue Festival with a revamped version of my show The Real Black Swann Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen. This is the story of William Dorsey Swann, former slave, who became the “Queen of Drag” in the late 1800s. She was also the first queer activist of record.

A lot of people ask how I got the idea to write this show. I actually got a text from fellow performer Eleanor Cathleen O’Brien with a link and a little note that said “This could be your new solo show.” It was a link to an article about William, and after I read the article and the rest is history, I guess I owe Eleanor a huge favor.

The show had its world premiere at last year’s Rogue Festival. I took the show to six different festivals last year, and the show grew more and more in each city. I took the show to the The International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, and I was pleasantly surprised at the reaction that I got there. I wasn’t sure how a story about a Black American former slave would go over, but audiences loved it. This was when I realized that I had a hit show on my hands.

I even won an award there (The Doric Wilson Award), and also won The Fringe Encore (producers pick) at Cincy Fringe. It is such an honor to introduce the world to someone who we don’t know enough about, and I am still shocked at how little information there is available about Swann. The show is also being turned into a Documentary that Kurkendaal-Barrett hopes to be finished by late 2023/early 2024. The show will be at LABrynth. For more info check out the Rogue website

LAByrinth Art Collective

Performance Dates/Times
Friday, March 3 @ 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 4 @ 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 5 @ 8 p.m.
Friday, March 10 @ 10 p.m.
Saturday, March 11 @ 3:30 p.m.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and also on podbean.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section. You can also find more theatre coming up on KRL’s Local Theatre event page.


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