A theater group in Northern California sparked controversy for providing young children with the opportunity to create their own drag characters during an overnight camp. The Young Actors’ Theater Camp is organizing a weekend workshop that lasts for three days and two nights. It is the first of its kind and will take place in the mountains of Northern California. Children as young as eight years old can participate and learn about the “Art of Drag” to “create their own drag personas.”
The weekend camp is being offered at a “pay what you can” price point, with the aim of enabling more children to participate. This means that parents can pay whatever they can afford to send their young children to the event, even if they cannot pay anything at all. The theater group in Santa Cruz is able to offer this option thanks to an anonymous donation.
On Friday, March 31, 2023, the drag camp began, which offered workshops on the history of drag performances and character creation and performance. The goal was for children to put together a final show to share with their loved ones.
While supporters find drag weekend exciting, critics are dismayed and demotivated by its occurrence.
“Parents that take their kids to this should be arrested,” one person wrote on Twitter user.
Some individuals were supportive of drag as a whole, but believed that young children should not be introduced to it.
“‘I have no problem with drag shows,” one person wrote. “I grew up in Vegas and there are a few female [sic] impersonator shows that are great. Just keep the kids out of it. You wouldn’t take them to a burlesque show or strip club, either. While I’m at it, kid beauty pagents[sic] aren’t good either.”
In 2021, Ryan, a gay man, created a group to educate young children during the weekends.
“Through the last 22 years [of the camp’s history] this is not the first movement of homophobic or transphobic legislation we’ve seen,” Ryan said. “But as camp directors, we find this is what we can do for the future. The children are literally the future. The more kids see that expression and creativity, and however, you present on the spectrum, should be welcomed in this world, the better.”
Ryan continued, “About a decade ago, when we first started our Drag Night at camp, we had one parent who wrote a very hate-filled Yelp review, and it really got under my skin.”
There is a lot of disagreement regarding the art of drag.
“Why is it admirable when Robin Williams does it – and flawlessly, I might add – but all of a sudden, it’s off the table when your child might want to put on a costume that has been previously known for the opposite gender?” Ryan stated.