A drag-king performer is assembling an LGBTQ-themed yearbook dubbed “The Queerbook” to celebrate performers and entertainers in Philadelphia and other major cities.
Chris Jennings is a freelance portrait photographer from Baltimore who actively competes in drag-king contests. Jennings, who prefers the pronoun “they,” is calling on LGBTQ dancers, actors, singers, comedians and other performers throughout the country to be part of the project “The Queerbook.”
The book will be printed at the end of Jennings’ national tour next year and will feature images from different shows featuring drag kings and queens, burlesque shows, musical performances and stand-up comedy routines.
Jennings will be in Philadelphia Oct. 20, Pittsburgh Sept. 9, Brooklyn Oct. 8 and Seattle Nov. 8-9.
The yearbook recognizes local ambassadors within the LGBTQ community and provides an opportunity to raise their profiles, Jennings said. “Queer performers give their time and energy to help create fun environments at Pride festivals or other events that feature LGTBQ entertainers. I want to provide an opportunity for performers to have a dedicated space that announces to the world exactly who they are and what they do,” Jennings said.
Jennings — who has spread the word online — described the open-casting-like sessions where participants fill out a form and provide a yearbook-like quote. In each city, performers will gather together for a photo shoot that resembles school-picture day, photographs Jennings has previously taken.
Jennings said the idea for the yearbook came to them when local newspaper photographers would take their picture at drag-king and Pride events and never ask for their name.
Since launching the project in February, Jennings organized the first stop on the photo-shoot tour in Baltimore on June 24. More than 25 performers participated.
Jennings said the project is an opportunity for LGBTQ performers to meet, connect and share their experiences as queer entertainers.
Finn Gerhardt, a new drag-king performer from Baltimore, participated in the first “Queerbook” shoot and said it provided them with a sense of community that they’ve never felt before. The photo shoot also helped them land a performance opportunity.
“It was so wonderful to be around so many other amazing performers and artists, many of whom I’d never met before. We talked, we listened, we laughed, we shared. I’ve never felt a sense of community and commonality with other performers quite like that. I even got my next gig out of the event,” Gerhardt said. “I left feeling so much gratitude for the friends I made and feeling honored to be counted among so many wonderful queer voices.”
Most of the entertainers work in the same city and didn’t know each other before the photo shoot, Jennings said.
“We’re building a queer collective of influencers. We are more than entertainers. We are leaders, we are inspiration, trendsetters, educators, role models, mentors and so much more.”
Performers and entertainers interested in participating in the Philadelphia leg of “The Queerbook” tour can contact Chris Jennings at thequeerbook.com.