ALL THE KINGS MEN
Performing to standing ovations from L.A. to London, and starring in the acclaimed documentary Play In The Gray, Boston-based performance troupe All The Kings Men (ATKM) use pop-cultural satire, burlesque, comedy, dance and a host of alter egos to address and upend gender issues. Audiences comprised of radical young queers, straight moms, dads and fill-in-the-blanks leave shows stirred by the out-and-proud, unapologetic messages.
The six members each bring years of performance experience to their (fe)male roles. Maine native Katie Allen has a strong background in music and theater; Julee Antonellis, once a dance instructor and Pro-Am competitor with the Arthur Murray Dance Company, can bust a move in hip-hop, modern dance or ballroom. ATKM co-founder Leighsa Burgin is formally trained in both performing and fine arts, while Jill Gibson makes up one half of the duo Axe to Ice Productions with ATKM member/puppeteer Karin Webb (they produce a monthly vaudeville show in the Boston area). ATKM co-founder Maria Kogan got her start in theater 30 years ago in her parents’ living room and also works as a graphic designer.
The sum of their combined training produces comic skits that routinely dazzle audiences. “If grannies, mustachioed weirdos and other outrageous characters can be hot alongside our boy band heartthrobs, then count us in!” they say of their on-stage personae. “We want to change not only the face of what queer performance means to the mainstream, but be an inspiration to the queer community itself to go out and create dynamic, sexy, professional and quality art—art that can break down the walls that divide mainstream works from smaller and often less-patronized, funded and visible artists. We believe in being an inspiration and a support to the younger generations who view our work,” the group says.
To that end, All The Kings Men teach eye-opening workshops to instruct pupils in the art of drag and how to “strut for success.” Their class “Gender Lines: Definition Versus Reality” not only explains the nuances of drag and multiple reasons people cross-dress, but also offers an interactive talkback session with the artists themselves. But most of all, the talented sextet “believe[s] in laughter, great art, constant evolution and using our voices to say exactly what’s on our minds.” –KL