Former Detroit Drag Queen's Play Looks At LGBT Issues Through African-American Lens

By Emell Derra Adolphus

Demetris Dennis Taylor's new stage play, "No Time for the Pain," is gay melodrama in two acts, a fusion of Spanish telenovela and fairy tale, and rife with evil queens, monsters, angel dust and bar flies.

"What do you do (as a heterosexual woman) when you find out that your fiance of seven years has been having an affair with your twin brother for five of those seven years?" says Taylor, before adding the twist: "Your twin brother finds out he's HIV positive, and you find out you're pregnant and HIV positive."

Running July 25-27 at 1515 Broadway in Detroit, the stage play is 23 years in the making for Taylor, also formerly known as drag performer Samantha Stephens Divinity. As Taylor, he might turn a few heads with "No Time for the Pain." His intention, he says, is to create a dialogue regarding the issues that affect the LGBT community: HIV, drug abuse and racism.

"The situations that we are dealing with (in the stage play) are absolutely incredible," says Taylor, 44, a native Detroiter who now lives in Atlanta. "We are taking LGBT culture and looking at it from an African-American standpoint. So, we have a number of different scenarios going on as life usually does, and we have a group of people and everybody is dealing with something differently."

He gleefully adds: "This is my baby coming to life ... finally!"

The main character, played by local drag performer Fantasia Dior, is modeled after Taylor's personal history in the black Detroit LGBT community. Making his debut as a drag queen in 1993 in the Ms. Amateur Gigis pageant, Taylor says he became a matriarch figure to chronically homeless gay youth. After seeing many gay teens die from poor decisions, he says, the stage play is his opportunity to pass on some wisdom and open the community to discussion.

"The play is a vehicle to help remove some of the 'isms' and the phobias that we have," Taylor says. "When you look at the situations, the situations are the same (across all communities). We deal with health issues. We deal with the fact that someone may be an enabler and can't take care of their own life."

The play is also a lesson, explains Taylor, in how issues that are perceived strictly as "gay problems" are actually universal problems.

"The issues are still so relevant," he says. "I want to promote discussion. I want to take a look at LGBT living, particularly when we have heterosexual people coming and seeing that everything is the same in the types of people we deal with."

The LGBT community, Taylor explains, is stagnant on progressing beyond issues such as HIV and drug abuse because wisdom from elders falls to deaf ears, as elders are slighted by a community that values youth.

"LGBT is a young culture. Over 35 and it's downhill. Child, once you cross 40, it's almost over if you let it be," he says, noting that specifically the slighting of the trasgender community.

"As you well know, the 't' of the LGBT community is constantly being overlooked," says Taylor. "So stage plays like this are crucial and paramount to the evolution of what we want to see in LGBT culture, so we can remove a lot of the stigma. Every character in this play, someone will say I know someone like that. Everybody who comes - straight, gay, bi, tri - will know someone or say this reminds them of somebody."

The universal familiarity is people struggling to deal with life's obstacles.

"Everybody deals with things differently, and once we see that the issues are the same, it's just how we approach them, that's the difference. (And then) we are able to understand one another."

"No Time for the Pain" is an official Hotter Than July sponsored event and will run 8 p.m. July 25-26 and 2 p.m. July 27 at 1515 Broadway in Downtown Detroit. All seats are $20. For more information, call 248-688-5178.

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