Every third Saturday, Golden Boy Coffee Co. pushes the tables and chairs of the coffeehouse in order to create a small runway for Eclektic Elektric, a performance collective that includes queerlesque, drag, and other variety acts from local LGBTQIA+ artists.
Mama Scarlett, Eclektic Elektric’s founder, director and producer, started Eclektic Elektric in 2017 with Mina Panamour in order to create a community for LGBTQIA+ artists who did not necessarily fit into other spaces. They wanted to make artists feel more seen so they can create inspiring and meaningful art.
“My main goal in this is to elevate marginalized voices,” Scarlett said. “I use my platform to extend the spaces that have already been created here in Denton, and make more space for [people of color], trans, [non-binary] and differently-abled bodies to have a stage for their voices to be heard. We are a family that strives to be fiercely kind and love artists unapologetically for their quirks and the things that make them different and beautiful.”
Scarlett said her duties in the troupe include organizing events and communicating amongst the group along with handling most social media marketing and delegation of jobs within the group.
Along with Elektic Elektric, Scarlett said she also has a mentee troupe called the Fanny Pack, in which members of Elektic Elektric mentor those in the Fanny Pack through the steps of creating and perfecting a routine, along answering any questions they may have from costuming, to choreography, to music mixing and makeup. All it takes to join the Fanny Pack, she said, is to simply sign up.
“They can choose when they would like to have their ‘spotlight’ performance,” Scarlett said. “We have one Fanny Pack spotlight a month at Eclektic Cabaret. We also mentor the Fanny Pack in all of the other jobs you can fulfill in a show. From kittening, to stage managing, to music and social media — we try to help prepare new performers be successful in any show they choose to be a part of.”
Storie Cunningham, Golden Boy’s co-owner and social media and events planner, said that Eclektic Elektric started performing at the coffee house after Scarlett approached Golden Boy shortly after they opened their doors.
“We were on board immediately because drag and burlesque were things we knew we were interested in showcasing from the start,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said one of Golden Boy’s most important missions is to facilitate a safe, open, and accepting space, especially for artists in marginalized groups such as the LGBTQIA+ community.
“In this flourishing community of artists and musicians, it’s a struggle to find venue space,” Cunningham said. “It’s been amazing getting to work with so many talented performers, and it’s a huge bonus that their show’s themes and messages are very inclusive and unique. One of our goals this year is to showcase more artists and queer performers of color, as we’ve seen a huge need for this in our community.”
To kick off 2020, Eclektic’s January show was hosted by one of its DFW drag performers, Rex Luther, who describes themselves as the “Burt Reynolds of Drag” due to their campy style of comedy and their gender-bending looks, whether that be giving themselves feminine eye makeup and a masculine mustache or wearing a bra and panties along with a strong, masculine face.
“I got into [Elektic Elektric] through a group interview they hosted at Greenspace dance studio,” Luther said. “This troupe holds a special place in my heart because it was the first big step I took within my drag career. It has shown me how to take on opportunities and work side by side with many great performers.”
Luther said they started hosting in May of last year for the troupe, and have found other hosting gigs as well through the connections made through Eclektic Elektric. Luther said hosting is something new to their drag role that they really enjoy, though it is as demanding as performance in terms of expectation.
“I feel hosting is more difficult because you are directing how the crowd is going to feel about the show,” Luther said. “You are the show’s biggest fan and you need to show the audience the reason why they came there.”
Throughout the show, Lana Morgan, also known by their drag name Beau Dacious, works Eclektic Elektric’s sound. Morgan said they currently work behind-the-scenes by running sound tech and making posters for the shows. Though they could see themselves performing part time in the future, they said working behind-the-scenes aligns more with their interests and how they support their community.
“It was at an [Eclektic Elecktric] show that I first began to connect with the queer community after spending most of my life hiding a vital aspect of who I was,” Morgan said. “It was also around the time that there was a push for ‘gatekeeping,’ from exclusionists claiming that asexuals were invalid. I was quietly terrified of being more openly myself, but also knew that it was something I wanted. The [Eclektic Elecktric] shows gave me the safe space to do that, and I was never once judged for who I was or how I identified.”
Taking the stage for her second performance with the Elektic Elektric troupe was Camila Gonzales, known for her two drag personas Nuvo and Richie Riche. She said their two drag personas were heavily inspired by “High School Musical’s” Sharpay and Ryan Evans. Gonzales describes Nuvo Riche as an over-confident hot mess and Richie Riche as classy and smooth.
“Even though Nuvo and Richie are exaggerated versions of different aspects of myself, they’re both still me,” Gonzales said. “Honestly, since I am still kind of new to this and have two different personas, it’s hard to describe my brand. I typically just perform what catches my interest. I am a drag performer. For me, drag is an opportunity to combine my different creative talents and interests into one outlet. It allows me to combine choreography and dancing, the visual art of makeup and costume design, acting and comedy.”
As for what Elektic Elektric has planned for next month, one of its January performers, Sammi Nilla, said that they look forward to hosting February’s “Things We Love” show.
“My favorite part about being a drag performer is the opportunity to interact with my audience.” Nilla said. “While hosting I love to get up and personal with the audience and keep them engaged throughout the evening.”
Featured Image: Drag queen Sammi Nilla holds multiple dollar bills during their performance at Golden Boy Coffee Co. on Jan. 18, 2020. Image by Meredith Holser