Please view in HD 1080p.
Workhorse Queen is an experimental documentary film following Rochester-based drag queen Mrs. Kasha Davis’ life, career, and recent shift toward international visibility after competing on the reality television show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Ed Popil is not the type of performer you might expect to see gracing the Drag Race mainstage. Even within the drag community, Mrs. Kasha Davis is a unique character. Ed Popil’s Mrs. Kasha Davis is a 1960’s era housewife trying to liberate herself from her domestic toil by performing at night. The character is an homage to his own mother and was developed out of a desire to acknowledge the underrecognized domestic labor performed historically by women. In addition to his unique character, his commitment to his local community, his unique personal history, the often heartbreaking behind-the-scenes process of maintaining his performance practice, his husband’s touching several-year process of documenting him for YouTube and Ed’s decision to quit his day job as a call center manager to perform as Mrs. Kasha Davis full-time in his late 40s all create an unconventional portrait of the state of drag culture in 2018. Ed Popil’s Mrs. Kasha Davis is one of many drag queens who represent the transition of the drag community away from a niche nightlife presence toward integration into mainstream culture.
Although Hollywood may be calling, Ed Popil is still devoted to his community in Rochester. Through hosting Drag Story Hour for children at libraries and theaters in the region, creating one and two-woman theater shows, throwing benefits for LGBTQ+ organizations and hosting many other events like drag brunch in town with several of his fellow queens, the drag performer has had substantial impact in his local community. Ed Popil is devoted to leveraging his success on reality television toward being the positive gay public figure he never had growing up: an active community member reading stories of acceptance to children, a father, a husband, and a 47-year-old drag queen performing two-hour long theater shows with over ten costume changes in a field dominated by 21-year-old drag queens aspiring to get on to reality tv by lip-syncing to Britney Spears songs for 6 minutes.
The documentary features interviews with Ed, his husband, drag fans across the world, club promoters, reality tv stars, drag queens, members of the Rochester queer community and many more. It presents a behind-the-scenes look at the theater shows, club gigs, community events, film premieres, drag conventions and international drag performance tours that Mrs. Kasha Davis participates in across the United States and abroad. The film also looks into the future – staging moments from a hypothetical future children’s television show hosted by Mrs. Kasha Davis.
About the artist:
Angela Washko is an artist, writer and facilitator devoted to creating new forums for discussions of feminism. Since 2012, Washko has operated The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft, an ongoing intervention inside the most popular online role-playing game of all time. Washko's practice spans interventions in mainstream media, performance art, video and video game development. She is committed to telling complex and unconventional stories about the media we consume from unusual perspectives. She is an Assistant Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University and a research fellow at the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry.
A recipient of the Indiecade Impact Award, a Franklin Furnace Performance Fund Grant, a Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art at the Frontier Grant, and a Rhizome Internet Art Microgrant, Washko's practice has been highlighted in The New Yorker, Art in America, The LA Times, Frieze Magazine, Time Magazine, The Guardian, ArtForum, ARTnews, The Hairpin, VICE, Hyperallergic, Rhizome, the New York Times, BOMB Magazine and more. Her projects have been presented nationally and internationally at venues including the Museum of the Moving Image (New York), Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art (Helsinki), Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Milan Design Triennale, the Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennial, the Hammer Museum (Los Angeles) and the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Her writing has been published in Creative Time Reports, FIELD Journal of Socially Engaged Art Criticism, Copenhagen University Peer Reviewed Journal (NTIK), Neural Magazine, VASA Journal of Images and Culture, .dpi Feminist Magazine of Art and Digital Culture and more.
Special thanks to Scott Andrew, Kevin Ramser, Jesse Stiles, Anna Azizzy, Steven Levins, Darrius Fletcher, and Sam Horgan for their production contributions to the project so far.