First Lady? in 2019: An Interview with DeDe Deville

Drag performer DeDe Deville and I sat down in the Mid-century Modern front room of her cozy house on Strawberry Hill. Before I mic’ed her up and we settled in to talk, she showed me the projects she’s currently working on–flannel shirts pinned up on a dress form, a platter with a bed of fake hundred dollar bills, a rubber Donald Trump mask transformed into a grotesque Holofernes, and a recently completed Renaissance dress.

DeDe was a Rocket Grant  recipient in 2013 and her play First Lady? ran the following May at the Fishtank Theater, a DIY theater venue. She played Ms. Russell, a drag queen and First Lady of the United States, whose husband had just won re-election. Interviewed by a reporter, Ms. Russell outlines the past four years beginning with the inauguration of the first gay president. 

The story that unfolds throughout the play begins with her husband’s election as Vice President–a position that lasted only hours when the newly inaugurated president died at the inaugural ball.

Over the course of our interview we discussed the grant itself, as well as the writing process, the set and costumes, and the way that this political play has aged in the past five years:

On Applying for the Grant

On the Writing Process

Jackie Kennedy replica eagle broach

The Plot in Detail

Nancy Regan inspired gown (left) and suit (right)

On Costume and Set

The hotel room set at the Fishtank Theater

On how First Lady? Has Aged Politically

Original promotional poster

This year DeDe is commemorating 25 years as a performer with a series of 12 photographs. Some of her costumes and other documents from her performance career can be viewed at GLAMA and The Kansas City Museum.

Drea DiCarlo, February 2019

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