“Performance Anxiety” explores alternative gay and drag identities

“Performance Anxiety” may be the least structured of the four shows featured in the Queer Theatre Festival, but that’s not to say it’s not emotionally resonant, thought provoking or funny.

Writer, director and sole performer senior Nicholas Becht is simply more concerned about reaching his audience than utilizing a formal structure. “The concept of the show is that the fourth wall of my room is taken down, and I’m not ready,” said Becht, chuckling at his own description.

Becht said the idea of doing a self-reflective performance began to brew in his head nearly two years ago, but he noted that the type of show he desired to put on was in a perpetual state of change.

“The more I started planning it, the more anxious I got. So it was safe for me to move [the show] to the more abstract and explore my family, my childhood and the specter of the bearded lady,” Becht said.

Perhaps the most prominent theme of “Performance Anxiety” is the concept of the bearded lady. Becht himself sports an impressive beard and has even incorporated it into his drag act.

“I was a bit hesitant to do drag my first year here. I thought the only way to be a drag queen was to shave and look like the performers on ‘RuPaul,’” Becht said.

After reading Nightwood by Djuna Barnes in professor Grahm Drake’s Gay and Lesbian Literature class, Becht began to realize that the motif of the bearded lady not only existed but also could prove to be an alternative to the conventional way of dressing in drag.

“I grew up loving to play dress up and I also love Bette Davis. So when it came to coming up with a drag name I thought, ‘Why not Bearde Davis?’” Becht said. A fellow drag queen later pointed out that he could take the name a step further. “He told me, ‘You have to make it Bearde GAY-vis!’ and the name stuck.”

Becht’s persona as Bearde Gavis and his own experiences shaped his desire to influence the dialogue about gender norms with regard to hair. “I don’t see hair to be at odds with femininity,” Becht said. “You can be fem and still rock a beard.”

Becht explained that this sentiment is especially important to him because of his minor in women’s studies. “One of the reasons I’m doing this show is because it will help fulfill my requirements for my minor. Of course, I also just wanted to do it,” Becht said.

Another theme Becht said he hopes to touch on in his show is the idea of coming out of “multiple closets.”

“The typical narrative is, you’re in the closet, you have an attraction that society doesn’t jive with, and once you come out, everyone knows,” Becht said. According to him, this doesn’t tell the whole story. “There is a sort of ‘gaytriarchy’ in gay culture. They privilege masculine, straight-acting men, and if you’re someone like me you have to come out again and say, ‘I’m fem, but I didn’t say I didn’t want to be a man,’” Becht said.

Becht will also have an interactive discussion with his audience, which he said that he plans to incorporate into the show. “If people are fed up with me and don’t want to talk to me, they’re welcome to leave,” Becht said. “Hopefully, they won’t be loud enough to disrupt my show though!”

Even if your questions don’t get answered, Becht will include his email address in the program to continue the discussion with his audience.