Kendra Kuliga has been entertaining audiences as Drag King Ken Vegas since 1996 and leading the DC Kings since founding the troupe in 2000. Their debut at Club Chaos in March of that year began a gender-bending journey that continues today.
These diverse entertainers still mesmerize audiences throughout the Metro D.C. area and beyond. March 2013 marks the group’s 13th Anniversary. The DC Kings are the longest, continuously running Drag King troupe in the world.
The Original Phase 1, in D.C.’s Eastern Market area, is home base and hosts the DC Kings on the second Sunday of each month. A special anniversary celebration takes place on March 10.
Having produced more than 350 shows, with 250+ Drag Kings, throughout 156 consecutive months, at a multitude of venues, what keeps it fresh and exciting for Vegas?
“I love seeing the new generations of Kings explore gender-bending performance with music of the day,” beams Vegas. “Also, I am inspired by how veteran Kings help very shy new ones overcome their fears and self-doubts and develop into outrageously entertaining performers with great confidence and creativity.”
Watching such transformations over the years motivates Vegas to continue to provide “a supportive and fertile ground for the Kings to grow.” The DC Kings are truly a family, and respect—for each other, their audience, and the community—is both a key element of the troupe’s policies and a factor in their longevity.
Even after 13 years, the DC Kings remain diverse in race, gender, sexual identity, age, and background. At any given show, the high-caliber productions might include lip-syncing, live singing, male impersonation, dancing, burlesque, and theatrical skits, to name a few categories in their expansive repertoire. And, it’s not unusual for these avant-garde entertainers to push beyond gender boundaries, shattering preconceived notions of what is male and what is female.
The troupe’s broad appeal and ever-increasing fan base extends to the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Community—both in the audience and on stage, as DC Kings. In addition, each performance includes an American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreter, as do the troupe’s monthly meetings.
At their shows, the DC Kings often raise funds for an organization within or an ally of the LGBTQ community. Capital Queer Prom (and each annual Prom’s designated beneficiary: One In Ten, The Women’s Collective, Transgender Health Empowerment, Wanda Alston House, Wanda’s Will Project, Youth Pride Alliance), DC Rape Crisis Center, Deaf Abused Women’s Network (DAWN), Mautner Project, and Phasefest are among the recipients.
Vegas’ admiration of and appreciation for the performers reflects a humility that helps to explain why the DC Kings hold their founder and producer in such high regard.
“The DC Kings truly are a supportive group of amazing, diverse, and talented individuals,” Vegas asserts. “Watching my King brothers discover the stage and develop into great entertainers is rewarding. They have helped me grow and become more sensitive to the world around me.”
13 Years of the DC Kings: Sunday, March 10, 2013; Phase 1, 525 8th Street, SE WDC; Doors at 7 pm, Show at 9 pm; $10 at the door, cash only bar; 21+; Visit www.dckings.com.
Photos by Michael Boling