Dear Dr./Ms. Panti Bliss – the only thing wrong with this show is the title.

It should be “From Hidden Basements to Castle Courtyards” because that is the tale you are giving us.  You are a political giant who found your way to lead through drag.  Wigs-shmigs.  You are bigger than wigs.

If you, dear reader, would like a taste of Panti’s achievement, look no farther than the documentary, “Queen Of Ireland“.  Raised in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Country Mayo Ireland, where the popular acronyms were BVM – Blessed Virgin Mary – and TG – Thank God, and there were few professions open to a gay person.  That was it.  Period.  Full Stop.  So Panti had to follow her own instincts, and those led to “Hidden Basements.”  It was a time of gender discombobulations and it seemed that Bliss’s only job was to drink until drunk and run around like a mad person.  Still everything was hidden, done in the dark.  It wasn’t until Bliss saw a regal drag queen that fate came calling.

Drag queens do not hide.  They sparkle.  They seek the spotlight.  They are unapologetic and they invite you to love, love, love them.  THIS was something Bliss could understand.  In she leaped.  And now, as a mature human of 55, Bliss wonders out loud to us.  “What is my role now?’  Now that drag queens are swimming in a sea of youngsters raised on RuPaul who have no concept of the decades of struggle – what is the job now.

This is an extraordinary evening of storytelling.  Bliss visits us in the audience to set up her thought process.  Who is the youngest person here (three 23 year olds fess up).  Is this their first drag show – OH NO.  And who is the oldest person here.  This takes a bit more coaxing, but once we all got on board there was a heated contest.  Cathy – age 77 won.  Is this YOUR first drag show, Bliss asks.  OH NO says Cathy.  So look at us Bliss says – we are decades apart and still connected to drag.

Time for stories! 

The stories flow: an invitation from the Irish Ambassador of Austria to come to Bliss’s own film premiere, for which she had to dig up a date when her beau flaked.  There is the dildo (Gerth Brooks) smuggled into a West End show.  And the time Bliss and father went to an art show in Dublin.  These are not gay stories – they are stories, and Bliss knows how to deliver.  A couple of sections are devoted to Bliss’s parents who have always been supportive.  The mister was a country vet and had seen more cruelty, joy, and oddities than most of us can imagine.  He viewed Bliss’s coming out as a part of nature’s many unexplained gifts.  The missus became a sort of celebrity after the release of “Queen of Ireland” when men who had left Ireland because they could not live an openly gay life wrote to her with the stories they never got to tell their own parents.

The show becomes a clarion call for equality.  World wide equality.  Today, trans people are the canaries in the coal mine.  The rest of us may think we are not affected, but just look around at what is going on.  When Ireland became the first country to legalize gay marriage by popular vote, Bliss was in the center of the 2015 celebration that happened in the courtyard of Dublin Castle.  Hence “From Hidden Basements to Castle Courtyards.”

The new charge is to take that 9 year old victory and deliver its promise worldwide.  And when the fascists full of fear try to stop you, tell them where to head in.  Just as Bliss did at the first Gay Pride Parade in County Mayo – and that was a recent 2022.

You can find that moment here.

This show is a call to arms backed up by some hilarious and captivating stories.  This is not a casual wig discussion.  Drag queens, Bliss reminds us, refuse to be invisible.  Drag queens and the others who are not US are dancing in the light in a world that despises them.  They are RADICAL.

Closes June 23. Only three more shows.  GET THERE.  TICKETS HERE.

If These Wigs Could Talk – Written and Performed by Panti Bliss, Directed by Phillip McMahon

Irish Arts Center, 11th Avenue and 51st Street.