COURTESY OF DAVID ALLYON
Normally, the Methodist Archives are a quiet place that hold pieces of history from the Methodist Church, as well as some of Drew’s most important documents. However, on Tuesday Feb. 19 at 6 p.m, the Methodist Archives were buzzing with students, faculty and members of the Madison community, all waiting to see Pissi Myles (Joseph D’Angio) and her husband David Ayllon. Myles is a drag queen who has performed throughout the United States, although she mainly performs in New York City. D’Angio and Ayllon are residents of Somerville, N.J.
Despite the fact that Myles has only been performing in drag for four years, she has made quite a name for herself. D’Angio majored in musical theater at Montclair State University. After struggling to land acting gigs for several years, Ayllon suggested that D’Angio try doing drag and D’Angio’s stage persona, Pissi Myles, was born.
Aside from being Myles’ husband, Ayllon is also a photographer and most of his work is done with drag queens. Prints of the various different queens he has photographed were hanging throughout the Archives on Tuesday night. Unlike most photographers in this field, who take photos of the drag queen as they are getting ready, Ayllon prefers to take pictures once the queen is fully in drag. When asked where he got the inspiration for different photo shoots he mentioned that he is more often than not inspired by the queen. Allyon said, “I am interested in the illusion that you see and adding more illusion to it.”
The event was meant to foster discussion about the history and culture of drag, as well as why it should be recognized as an art form. The event was co-sponsored by The Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA), Women’s Concerns House (WoCo), The History Club, the Art Club and the Art History Club and was a huge success, with so many attendees that extra seating had to be brought out. The discussion was lead by the Methodist Library and Special Collections Associate, Candace Reilly. It started off with preset questions, such as how Missi picked out her name and what the hardest part about doing drag is. The audience was also invited to ask questions about an hour into the event.
The last half-hour of the event featured a performance where Myles lip-synced to Billy Porter’s broadway rendition of “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease. She also sang "I Am What I Am,” a song from the musical, La Cage aux Folles, which the movie “The Birdcage” is based off of. After the performance, there was a reception upstairs.
Overall, the event was a huge success and students especially appreciated it. “It was really cool to have another LGBT event that involved people from off campus,” Violet Wallerstein (’20) said. “I think it was a really fun event for everyone, and the archives did a great job setting it up. It was an awesome time.”
“The Drag As An Artform event was really something special,” said Marina Mozak (‘19). “Of late Drew has seemed completely focused on political representation in lecturers. But this talk was far more exciting, bringing together visual art, performance and a healthy discussion on LGBT+ representation that Drew has been sorely missing.”