Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Shirley Q. Liquor



It's about time our gay communities got stirred up over something more controversial than the right to enter into imitations of heterosexual marriage. And you couldn't ask for a juicier controversy than the one swirling around Mississippi drag performer Charles Knipp, aka Shirley Q. Liquor. On her ever changing Web site, her numerous CDs, and her syndicated radio spots (heard on some 900 stations), Liquor embodies every appalling stereotype of the trash-talking, perpetually put-upon African-American welfare mother raising her 19 "chirrun." In one of Liquor's best-known bits, she plays a stewardess on Ebonics Airways going through her preflight spiel. "If we runs into any problems on the aircraf' today," she announces, "our captain is the Reverend Cleotis Jefferson, who is also pastor of Macadamia Jubilation Congregation." Smoking on Ebonics is allowed, but "the airline do not be responsible if the white folks on the ground finds out about it." Arrival time? "Whenever we get there, we get there." The problem isn't Liquor's material--no one complained when the equally stereotypical Tyrone phoned in his Ebonics-laden reviews of All My Children on WGCI several years ago. The problem is that it's delivered by a white man wearing what he calls "brown makeup made for African-American ladies" and what his detractors call blackface. Knipp's shows have been protested and shut down in several cities--including Boston, where activists who'd never seen his act labeled him a "white supremacist." Knipp argues that Liquor is a loving parody of women he grew up with. Drag has always thrived on grotesque exaggeration, and whether Knipp's act is inspired or offensive, his presence here may spark useful conversations. He makes his Chicago debut as part of Farewell Chicago!, an evening in which local half-drag singing duo the Boofant Sisters (Cindy Sciacca and Joe Greene) bid the city adieu. The event features their trademark powerhouse vocalizing and campy improvised comedy, and maybe a rabid protester or two. Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, 773-472-3492 or 800-955-5566. Sunday, November 16, 9 PM. $20.

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