Texas Christian University Offers Drag Course

Texas Christian University offered a “Queer Art of Drag” course for the spring 2023 semester that required students create “drag personas” and give a performance.

The course was offered by the school’s Women and Gender Studies department and was taught by Dr. Nino Testa, also known by his drag persona “Maria Von Clapp.”

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“Drag is an art form with a rich history of challenging dominant norms and systems of oppression; building queer community; and cultivating experiences of queer joy in a hostile world; but drag has also been deployed in service of violent ideologies and can sometimes participate in harmful normative logics,” the course website reads. “Critical drag explores drag performance as an outlet for social critique, pedagogy, and queer world making.”

According to the syllabus, students enrolled in the course had to create a drag persona by making a “drag vision board,” a bibliography, a “worksheet,” an “in-class lip-sync performance,” a “storyboard” and a final performance.

Divided into two parts, the “drag vision board” consisted of “a series of brainstorming questions to help [students] begin to do the critical self-reflection necessary to develop a drag persona for this class,” and “a collage of images/ideas/quotes to help [students] visualize [their] inspirations for both [their] persona and [their] performance.”

To complete the bibliography, students were required to find “8-10 articles about the people, performers, aesthetics, movements, politics, ideas, or communities that inspire [their] persona.”

“My Drag Worksheet” required students to name and describe their drag persona, come up with a “drag greeting” and “lip-sync portfolio,” and “strike a pose.”

Students also had to complete an “in-class lip-sync performance” that lasted approximately one minute. While not required, students were welcome to wear makeup and were expected to focus on “choreography, movement, gestures, poses, style, facial expressions, and accuracy of the sync.”

The “storyboard” helped students plan their performance and answer questions like “What will the themes of the performance be? How will you create tension/narrative? What elements of style and genre will be important to your performance? What materials will you need to execute your performance?”

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A final paper and presentation in the voice of their drag persona, as well as an edited video performance to be shared at the university’s “Annual Night of Drag” rounded out the course requirements.

To receive an A or A-minus in the course, students were also required to participate in a “live group number on the night of the Spectrum Drag Show,” choreographed by “Drag Aunty De’ja DuBois.”

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