Sophia Timba | January 29, 2024

Teaching the Art of Drag

Ed Popil, aka Mrs. Kasha Davis, is serving as an artist-in-residence in the Department of Theatre and Music Studies.

Mrs Kasha Davis Ed Popil Edward

Ed Popil is many things to many people — husband, father, businessman, activist, former contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, and now, artist-in-residence at SUNY Brockport. However most know Popil best as his drag queen alter-ego, Mrs. Kasha Davis.

In partnership with the Department of Theatre and Music Studies, Popil is spending the academic year at Brockport performing, teaching, and advocating for tolerance and acceptance across groups and identities of all kinds. Theatre professors Danny Hoskins and Ruth Childs played an instrumental role bringing the residency to Brockport.

Mrs. Kasha Davis performing her one woman show Mrs. Kasha Davis 

 

“We started talking with people around campus and so many people have been supportive,” Childs said. “We received funding from Dean Monica Brasted, Dean Thomas Hernandez, Provost Martin Abraham, the Diversity Office, the Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity, and multiple departments such as English, Women and Gender Studies, Honors, Theater, the School of Business. I mean, it just goes on and on and on.”

Throughout the Fall 2023 semester, Popil (performing as Mrs. Kasha Davis) hosted Bingo nights, starred in her one woman show There’s Always Time for a Cocktail, and gave a series of lectures all while planning to teach Brockport’s first ever drag course starting this spring – Drag Culture, Theory, and Performance.

“Right now, we have enough stuff for probably three classes,” Hoskins said. “We have so much information, so many books, so many ideas, and we have enough time to do maybe a third of what we’re planning for this class.”

The course will cover the history of drag, going back hundreds of years and across multiple cultures, up to modern day drag and its various categories and styles. Popil will discuss drag’s impact on mainstream media, fashion, art, and music, and in particular, the influence of RuPauls’ Drag Race. Students will also have the option to create, design, and perform as their own drag personas or help to put on a show in other production roles.

“When many of us first look at drag, we have preconceived notions of what it is, but it’s an art form. And just like if you tried to have a class on just ‘music,’ well, music encompasses so much, right?” Popil said. “That is what we want people to understand. There are different types of drag. There’s so much to talk about.”

“When many of us first look at drag, we have preconceived notions of what it is, but it’s an art form.”
Ed Popil

For Popil, the opportunity to teach a course on drag hits close to home. Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, there was little in the way of acceptance or community for young people experimenting with gender identity or sexuality. Even at home, he was discouraged from self-exploration.

“I was told to suppress anything feminine about me, and anything that had to do with femininity got me scolded and ridiculed,” Popil said. “I think I’m trying to provide what wasn’t there for me when I was a child or young adult. If I can help people see something as healthy and okay and normal, we can have conversations and opportunities for people to affect change within their families and communities.”

Although Popil only discovered drag well into his adulthood – and was subsequently cast on RuPaul’s Drag Race – he’s proud of his work and the change he’s inspired through Mrs. Kasha Davis.

“I thought to myself, ‘If I were to pass away today, what am I leaving?’” Popil said. “I can finally say this is the work I’m supposed to do in my life, and I’m hoping that I’m just getting started.”