“That might sound a little pretentious. Medulla’s a little pretentious, though. You can put that in.”
Hey all! Welcome back for the newest installment of RoyalTea, where we corner and pester the drag performers you should be following! Performers who can thrash and bash, who aren’t afraid to get down and dirty and who DO NOT smoke cigarettes, thank you very much.
Welcome to her channel: this week, we got to interview local Hudson Valley queen, the aptly named, Medulla Oblongata (The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End). When you’re in her trance, she is a cone-shaped neuronal mass responsible for your autonomic (involuntary) functions ranging from vomiting to sneezing. We sit down and discuss the chaotic and unpredictable whirling entropy that shrouds Medulla’s life.
Queeries: So, what do you believe makes your drag special? What should we know about Medulla Oblongata?
Medulla Oblongata: My entire life I have wanted to make music. It wasn’t until I was sixteen or seventeen that I decided to throw caution to the wind and pursue a life in art at any cost. The initial idea that fueled and inspired me was the idea of creating a full spectrum experience that strives to touch the most extreme corners of the human experience; I wanted to create timelessness and motion. Sound can move and feel limitless when you begin to understand the science behind it.
Medulla represents the same things that I strive for as an artist in general — beyondness, otherness, catharsis, an avaunt garde sensibility that is willing to challenge, but also speaks from the heart. Drag and art needs to hold an experimental sensibility, otherwise you are just regurgitating commercial trends. In fact, I would say that allowing commercialism into your drag, your art, allowing your expression to serve as a reflection of the preordained expression that men in suits have dictated us to access is the utmost of violations. I’m giving you something that you’ve never seen before, something you never thought you would even remotely ever see, but something you can believe in. You owe it to yourself and to your audience to show them something they’ve never seen before, for better or for worse.
Q: The wild world of performance is unpredictable; I know you’re no stranger to the unexpected. Tell us about one of your crazier experiences onstage.
MO: The nonsense that happens to me would take up an entire interview in of itself. The craziest thing I can think of was when I broke that light at The Beverly in Kingston during my performance of Breathing by Kate Bush. I don’t really remember when it happened, I just kind of bumped into it. There were wires sticking out and shit from where I broke off the light and, for some reason, I had the inclination to grab onto the wires. Did I tell you that?
Q: No- oh my gosh.
MO: That definitely electrocuted me; it was rather painful. That was an interesting experience. There’s others, like when I knocked over the light at Snugs and the plant and dirt were just flying everywhere.
Q: How do you handle performance snaffus when they happen? Do you have any advice for handling surprises?
MO: No, not really; I think I handle them very poorly. You just try to stay on track as best you can and don’t beat yourself up.
Q: Who are your biggest drag influences? Musical influences? From where do you draw your inspiration? I know you do a lot of Kate Bush-?
MO: The first super drag moment for me was Leigh Bowery. He was this club kid in England who you’ve probably seen looks of, just didn’t know who he was. There’s a whole documentary on him on YouTube; it’s called The Legend of Leigh Bowery. I suggest you watch it.
Kate Bush wasn’t something that I really saw drag in until I was super into drag.
And then, with music, the reason I decided I wanted to do drag was bands like The Knife– bands that are super multi-media and super visual. I like the idea of something coming at you from multiple angles; in everything that I do, I always try to make it a full spectrum moment. Drag is a means for me to learn who I am as a performer.
Q: If Medulla were a meal, what would she be?
MO: I don’t fucking know.
Q: Do you have a favorite backstage snack?
MO: I’m thinking about snacks but every time I’m out in drag, I’m not eating snacks-
Q: Do you have a favorite… drunk food?
MO: Clif Bars.
Q: Huh, Clif Bars- Any particular flavor?
The peanut toffee ones.
Q: … I’ll link Clif Bars.
MO: Yeah, link Clif Bars, I wanna give a shoutout to Clif Bars: they’ve been doing me good for a while now. I’d probably’ve died from malnutrition without them. I get that way with Bolthouse Smoothies, too; I steal them. You can put that in. Link Bolthouse and Clif Bars.
Q: What advice would you give early career drag performers?
MO: I dunno, just to do it. The advice I would give to someone who hasn’t done drag yet is you really have to force yourself to do it. It’s a lot: you have to assemble everything, you have to be able to get the pieces bit by bit and then you have to be able to put a look together. In terms of performance, you have to have a concept and you also, for me, have to have a statement. A single sentence that fully encompasses what you’re trying to say. If you’re not trying to make a statement, then what are you actually doing, you know? You’re just wasting everybody’s time by telling them something they’ve already been told. You have to have a point of view, a certain dissatisfaction with something. It’s also very important for you to be your own artist as opposed to a mirror of another artist (or a commercialized brand that seeks to be seen as an artist).
Q: Any parting thoughts?
MO: i’m scared
Oh, poor thing; Medulla just reached over and typed that.
Well, leaving her shaking and confused seems an appropriate place to end, as that’s where she’ll leave you at the end of every performance. A true apex predator, the only way way to truly experience Medulla is by seeing her tear up a venue live. You’re in luck; she just curated a monthly roaming show based in New Paltz called Pompeii, first show is this Friday, July 6th. Medulla also graces monthly shows hosted by Victoria Precise and Valkyrie Hail, featuring the New Paltz Six.
To send you off, one more bit of advice from Medulla before you go:
MO: I don’t carry things.
Q: You don’t carry, like, a wallet?
MO: I haven’t owned a wallet my entire life.
MO: I had a wallet once in like, high school, then I lost it and just never got a new one. I lost in in the tenth grade. I just never got around to it and now it’s just been ten years or something.
Q: That sounds like my mother; she just carries everything in a tote bag.
MO: Yeah, I’ll just shove money in my pockets, it’ll fall out and I’ll lose, like- forty dollars.
MO: Yeah, it’s just having the money loose in your pockets. That’s my life; it’s terrifying, right?
As always, if you have an artist you feel should be profiled or are one yourself, feel free to reach out to me, @madsleighfaire (all held social media platforms). Until next time, this has been RoyalTea with Mads Leigh-Faire, interviewing Medulla Oblongata for Queeries blog; you make sure to have a great day, yeah?
Mads Leigh-Faire (he/him) is a freelance theatrical dramaturg, literary assistant, and drag performer. Mads hopes to use Queeries as a platform to educate and engage not only himself but the LGBTQIA+ community with a productive and empathetic dialogue surrounding our hopes, needs, dreams, fears, and accomplishments. They also have a lot of feelings about the sentience of droids in the Star Wars canon.