Although Halloween is still a ways away, this Demon King’s already a busy beast! A stage performer and producer by day, Anson Reign is also the creator of the city’s largest musical alt-drag revue… which returns to Purgatory this weekend!
Thotyssey: Hello Anson, thanks for chatting today! How’s your summer so far?
Anson Reign: My summer has been one of transition and growth — some painful, but all for the better in the long run. Just slowly moving toward that cooler weather and my favorite season, autumn.
Yes, thank Gawd for that! And the Spooky Season Cometh, which I’m guessing you’re also excited about.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Always looking forward to Spooky Season here.
Were you always into that horror aesthetic while growing up? And in general, were you always a performer or artist of some sort?
When I was about three, my favorite thing to watch was a tape we had of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I’ve just always gravitated toward that aesthetic. My mom read a lot of horror novels by Anne Rice and Stephen King, and I was a voracious reader as a kid… so I read all sorts of horror books before I was ten.
And I come from a family of performers: I grew up watching my dad and older brother do community theater, and I got started as a performer when I was about eleven. I knew musical theater is what I wanted to do with my life ever since.
Where’s your hometown?
I’m a NYC native, born and raised on (whispers) Staten Island — but my family moved to Arizona when I was 13. I came back to NYC as soon as I could to go to theater school, and start trying to pursue my dream.
Does being an out and proud transman complicate your life in theater?
It definitely threw a wrench in it. I didn’t come out as trans until I was almost 32 years old, so everything just kind of changed for me — including my voice and singing ability when I started hormones. There aren’t exactly a lot of roles in musical theater written for transmen… so I thought that by transitioning and embracing my truest self, I was also saying goodbye to my lifelong dream.
As it turned out, The Public Theater wound up holding an open audition for trans actors for a new musical called Southern Comfort. I submitted a tape from where I was living at the time in Tucson, AZ, and got a call back. I flew to NY, auditioned twice, and got the role. So I made my professional off-Broadway debut at The Public Theater — specifically because I was an actor who also happened to be transgender. So as complicated as it makes things, it’s also worked out in my favor from time to time.
Amazing! It’s great to see musical theater changing and adapting, and to see diverse, talent getting these opportunities. Cheers to Angelica Ross!
Yes, the theater landscape is shifting… and it deserves to. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
So how did you discover drag, and become Anson?
I had never wanted to do drag because I was dealing with my own gender issues, and was afraid people would think I “wanted to be a man.” I had some friends, all cis lesbians at the time (95% transmasc now), who started performing as drag kings circa 2007-ish. One night, I got a call from one of them begging me to step into a show because they’d just lost an entertainer and “you’re a theater person, how hard could it be for you?” They were desperate and my arm was twisted, and so about 24 hours later I was doing my first bar show as drag king Anson Reign. Turned out I had an absolute blast even though I was faking all of it, but I was bitten by the bug and dove into all things drag headfirst.
I’m hearing “Acid Rain” in your name, is that the pun? Or am I way off?
There was no real pun involved when I picked the name. I just liked the name Anson and the name Rayne, but I figured if I spelled it R-E-I-G-N… that’s what a king does. But lots of people have made reference to “Acid Reign” over the years, and I certainly don’t mind it; it’s just not what I had in mind when I picked the name. I just picked two names I liked! I knew I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself by being “The Italian Stallion” or “Pat McGroin.” I wanted a more vague name that sounded like I could do anything and everything, because that’s what I wanted to do.
How would you describe your drag today?
Campy musical theater meets horror movies. If you ever need a tap dancing guy covered in blood, I’m your man.
“Drag Out Loud” is a recurring showcase you host and produce at Purgatory in Brooklyn, featuring live singing drag performers of varying gender presentations. Tell us what this show is about, and how it came to be!
I’ve always had a passion for cabaret shows. One of the other shows I produce, “Trans Voices Cabaret” at The Duplex, features trans and nonbinary performers. When I got back into drag, I thought it would be fun to combine those two passions. There are a lot of shows in NYC that feature live singing cis drag queens, but not many — if any — that featured drag kings or TGNC entertainers. So I posted casting calls and people responded, and then once we’d started performing, I had folks reaching out to me who’d either seen a show or heard about it via word of mouth. This community is really wonderful about passing along information about performance opportunities. [And that’s how] Drag Out Loud was born!
The show returns this Saturday to Purgatory!
It is going to be amazing — the cast is full of of incredible talent. I’d add that folks are always welcome to buy a ticket to donate back to a member of the TGNC community. Just buy a ticket like you normally would and then message me to let me know you’ve done so and what name the ticket is under. We’ll make sure it gets into the hands of someone who can use it!
Everyone should check out this amazing musical experience! Okay, in closing… it may be early, but do you know what kinda look you might turn for Halloween?
Oooh, I love this question! I like creating my own fun random Halloween looks (as opposed to dressing up as someone or something specific), and I’ve always wanted to do an ice demon. So that’s currently at the top of my list. I don’t know entirely what that means yet, but I envision black leather, horns, and ice crystals to start.
Can’t wait to see that… hopefully it’s gonna be a cold Halloween! Thanks, Anson!