Drag was first banned in San Francisco in 1863. From then on, restricting the traditional LGBTQ+ artform became more and more popular.
In the theater world, from highschool plays to famous shows like Rent, non traditionally casted plays and characters in drag, are all very normal. Drag was even portrayed in ancient Greece, when men played both male and female roles. With Tennessee’s new bill against the artform, the future of drag and theater is threatened.
The bill specifically restricts “adult cabaret performances” in public or in the presence of children. It bans them from occurring within 1,000 feet of schools, public parks, or places of worship. The punishment is a fine of up to $25,000 or up to a year in jail. Yet, this bill is so constitutionally vague that business owners and performers don’t exactly know what they’re allowed to show.
This is one of the many laws Tennessee is trying to pass in order to criminalize the LGBTQ+ community. Its effects on the theater community are vast, and limits productions in the area. Theatre Americana is fortunate to be located in California, where progressive legislation is virtually the opposite of what’s being passed in Tennessee, but our members’ hearts hurt for their brethren in any State that is repressing the arts.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a happy ending to this story. The bill was already passed on March 2nd, and is already influencing other Republican-led states. North Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, Nebraska, and South Carolina have all recently advanced similar legislation.