From ancient Greek actors to all-male Elizabethan casts to the drag queens of today, cross-dressing performers have been around for nearly as long as live performance itself. In It’s a Drag, Janet Tennant provides a fascinating and colorful look at performing artists who adopt the characters and dress of others. With a particular focus on theatrical history in Britain and North America, Tennant also turns to modern performers like RuPaul, Mj Rodriquez, David Bowie, and Billy Porter. She surveys the many reasons that performers have cross-dressed over the years, whether to tell stories, to amuse audiences, to create distinctive alter egos, to call attention to social and political issues—or merely for reasons of expediency.
In addition to its memorable portraits of Shakespearean boy actors, pantomime dames, and other cross-dressing performers across history, It’s a Drag takes stock of the present and considers the future of the practice: How will the drive toward equality affect the use of cross-dressing and cross-gender role casting? Will gender-blind roles become as prevalent as color-blind casting? And will cross-dressing continue to amuse and impress audiences, or can we imagine a time when gender differences will cease to be important?
Janet Tennant spent many years lecturing, researching, and training in Europe and beyond, focusing on improving workplace relationships. Tennant's fascination with cross-dressing originated in her experiences as an amateur actor, often playing the glamorous prince in pantomime and less glamorous male roles in girls’ school Shakespeare productions. She has four grown children and lives with her partner in Lichfield, UK.
"Janet Tennant has created a fascinating and meticulously researched book examining the history and development of cross-dressing in performance. She successfully brings together the numerous and diverse strands that have influenced and created modern day ‘cross-dressing’ performance in an accessible and highly readable manner."—Alison Young, writer and researcher, Secretary of the British Music Hall Society
"A fascinating, informative, comprehensive, and authoritative guide to cross-dressing in all its forms, from its earliest incarnations to the present day-resurgence in theater, film, and entertainment . . . An essential textbook for all students of drama and gender studies."—Kate Edgar, theater director, musical director, and composer