Drag Daddy Productions: Louisville-based theater company spotlights diversity, inclusion

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By Alixandria Thomason

While “Drag Daddy Productions” might be a racy name for a theater company, the way it came about is beyond wholesome. The company was started by Tony Lewis, whose goal was to produce shows that highlight the resilience of the human spirit with a focus on diversity. According to Tony, “Over my years of producing drag theater, I have seen so many performers put on a pair of heels for their first time under my direction, and then go on to become full-fledged professional queens. I have always felt like a proud dad in these moments.” Tony hoped to foster and support a whole new generation of drag performers thriving in the world of theatre.

Tony was born and raised in Louisville but spent 19 years living in Chicago. There he created MidTangent Productions, a queer theater company that was most famous for their show SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DRAG QUEENS. After moving back to Louisville in 2018, he brought the cast from Chicago and began looking for a new venue. The search landed him at Play Dance Bar, one of the most popular bars in all of Louisville. By 2019, with two sold-out shows under their belt, MidTangent Productions decided to rebrand as Drag Daddy Productions.

As with any dream, there were moments of discouragement. According to Tony, it was difficult to find the right people: people who were not only excited about the dream, but who were dedicated to making it a reality. It took two years, but gradually he built a strong foundation of people, which included friends and family members. According to Tony, “It truly takes a village to bring theatre to life, but once you get there, it is such a rewarding feeling.”

And then, of course, there was Covid. Though many of their plans for 2020 were cancelled, Drag Daddy was able to pivot and do a virtual showing of ROMEO AND JULIET with all of the performers in different places. The company was also one of the first to start performing live again, with ALICE IN DERBYLAND! at Paristown in April. This show will be brought back in 2022.

When asked about the most rewarding show he’d ever produced, Tony responded with HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH, saying he’d gotten to work alongside some incredible artists. The show received overwhelmingly positive feedback from critics and audience members, one of whom was the musical’s composer, Stephen Trask. Trask came to see the show on the closing night and afterward thanked Tony for the “gorgeous production.”

Drag Daddy Productions is so much more than a theatre company. It’s a way of life. Providing a safe and inclusive space for everyone–from performers, to the crew, to the audience–is of utmost importance to everyone involved. The company’s ultimate goal is to one day have a space of their own that can also be used for drag education for young artists. In Tony’s words, “I would love for Drag Daddy Productions to be able to provide a safe space for those young people ready to slap on a pair of heels and strut.”

From producing known queer shows (or shows with a queer spin) to original works, Drag Daddy Productions has a bright and exciting future. Going into 2022, they’ll focus on collaboration with community theatre companies and bringing their shows to Louisville and beyond. In conclusion, Tony says, “In the end, I always want to stand with pride with all the work we bring to the stage.”

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