All The Kings Men document gender identity in “Play in the Gray”


Gays and lesbians are by no means equal citizens in the world, but 50 years ago, we were barely visible. The mainstream seems to be gearing up for its next major revelation: Gender identity. Now genderqueer and trans identities are beginning to get some attention. It may not be coming to a megaplex near you, but the new Kaitlin Meelia documentary, Play in the Gray, is a great addition to a growing number of films about drag, trans and genderqueer experiences.

Currently making the festival circuit rounds Play is an intimate look at identity, sexuality, love and performance art that aims to shake the foundation of gender stereotypes by exploring the work and personal lives of Boston drag-based theatre troupe All the Kings Men. In addition to capturing the often times hilarious ATKM performances that comment on gender and sexuality within our culture, Play in the Gray delves deeply into the stories, identity struggles and everyday lives of the performers behind this art.

Indeed, ATKM is not your typical drag troupe. In the new tradition of drag innovators such as Sissyboy, the Kings Men don’t just put on suits and mustaches. Performances include Victor Victoria-esque women dressing as men dressing as women as well as ambiguous individuals. It is this gender play that makes Play in the Gray a revolutionary look into and dismantling of the gender binary.

Behind the scenes, Katie, Maria, Julee, Karin, Jill and Leighsa, the members of All the Kings Men, practice hard, spend long hours on the road, and struggle to “make it” — they want All the Kings Men to be a household name.

Personally, they struggle to discover who they are, who they want to be, and who they are afraid of being. Play in the Gray travels with the troupe members as they visit their hometowns, have difficult conversations with family, work their day jobs, maintain relationships, and share their stories of personal struggle and identity.The troupe members challenge the notion of what it means to “be a man” or “be a woman,” shedding light on what happens when the answer is not that easy.

But if you think that human interest documentaries can be a snoozefest, you will be pleasantly surprised by the humor and outright slapstick hilarity that Gray brings to the subject of gender. Not sure whether to describe themselves as a drag, comedy or dance troupe, ATKM bring ambiguity to performance as well as gender in an amusing, non-threatening way.

Here’s the trailer:

Upcoming screenings include the Atlanta Film Festival, The Indie Spirit Fest in Colorado Springs and Cambodia’s Queer Film Festival but check their site for showings near you.

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