Three drag performers will host storytime this weekend at the Somerville Public Library to deliver the message that it’s OK to be different.
Alli Thresher formed Storytime with Drag Kings, Queens, and Friends when they heard about storytimes elsewhere in the country that featured drag performers. They thought about their friends and local performers—”magical, sparkly, amazing people” ranging from drag kings and queens to circus performers—and decided to host a one-time storytelling at the Democracy Center in Cambridge. Thresher was overwhelmed when more than 100 families showed up, and the storytime turned into a traveling show.
Storytime with Drag Kings, Queens, and Friends has featured wrestlers and performers from “The Slutcracker.” Each guest reads a book, and the storytime wraps up with “It’s Okay to Be Different” by Todd Parr. The message exceeds the storytime’s obvious focus on gender identity, as bald performers might add in “It’s OK to be bald” and glasses-wearers tell the audience that “It’s OK to wear glasses.”
“The whole idea behind this is however you want to be—you want to wear suspenders and a flannel shirt and play with dolls and trucks? That’s awesome. You want to wear a sparkly tutu to drag storytime and then go play football with your friends afterward? That’s awesome too. Everything goes,” Thresher says.
Thresher produces and hosts the storytimes, and says the format is very fluid. If the audience is getting restless, they’ll work in a song or some stretches.
Ann Cassesso, head of children’s services at the library, says she decided to book the storytime after a coworker saw it elsewhere and raved about it. She’s seen a flood of interest, and is expecting at least 50 families.
“I’m getting phone calls from as far out as Shrewsbury and Framingham, people asking ‘How can I get in?’” Cassesso says. “We have a progressive group of trustees and friends of the library, so I think Somerville is a leader and something like this is new and it’s what people are asking for, so we’re happy to provide it.”
The storytime at the Somerville Library will feature drag performers Claude Kitten, JP, and Butch Sassidy, and audience members can informally ask the readers questions at the end of the readings. The program will start at 2 p.m. on Jan. 20 at 79 Highland Ave.
Thresher says people of all ages, from newborns to adults, are welcome to attend.
“It’s a really fun time, and part of the reason why I started this is this is something I really wished was around as a kid, and I’m just really happy it’s taken off,” Thresher says.