‘The Drag Seed’ brings satire, killer drag queens to the stage


Pitt’s Department of Theatre Arts webpage screenshot

David Cerda’s “The Drag Seed” will run from Friday to Nov. 13 at Charity Randall Theatre as a Pitt Stages mainstage production.

By Diana Velasquez, Culture Editor

Pitt Stages’s next main stage production stars an eccentric child named Carson in the play “The Drag Seed,” who spends their days moonlighting as a drag queen.

Parker Stephens – the senior theatre major who stars as Carson — said he was immediately drawn to the role as soon as he read it.

“I really wanted to be going for the role of Carson from just the description alone. The idea of this child being not only such a deranged killer, but also a high-energy peppy fun drag queen,” Stephens said. “That’d be really fun to play.”

“The Drag Seed,” written by David Cerda, will run from Friday to Nov. 13th at the Charity Randall Theatre. General admission tickets are $15 and are available for purchase online.

The show is a parody of the 1956 movie “The Bad Seed.” Rather than Rhoda Penmark, a murderous little girl from the film, Carson leads the play as a murderous drag queen. When Carson’s mother, Connie, discovers her child’s nefarious deeds she goes on a maternal rampage, deciding whether to stop or protect her child.

Quinn Murphy, a senior theatre and women and gender studies major, plays the role of Connie. They said one of the more interesting parts about playing Connie was getting into a generational divide between older and younger members of the LGBTQ+ community — which is a larger theme of the play. 

In particular, Murphy said for much of the play Connie refuses to acknowledge Carson’s use of “they/them” pronouns. 

“I thought for that as a part of the characterization of Connie, because I think part of what makes her a little morally dubious is that she is not fully accepting of this new thing that Carson is doing,” Murphy said. “But that’s exactly what a woman Connie’s age would thinkshe’s like a middle-aged lady. I think that’s more honest than her completely full-scale respecting her child.”

Rebecca Hobart, a senior theatre major and the play’s director, said the play is very satirical. She said audience members may find the things said offensive, but to keep in mind the nature of satire.

“The show is satirical, it can’t be and should not be taken seriously. There are definitely a lot of vulgar, profane and definitely offensive things said here. And we’re supposed to not like that,” Hobart said. “And we’re supposed to be able to make fun of ourselves. I think in this process, I’ve realized that satire is definitely a dying art.” 

Murphy said that throughout the play’s production, the cast and crew often had conversations about editing and cutting lines in the play, because of their vulgarity. Some lines have been cut, but others stayed. 

“It’s a slippery slope. Because if you’re going to say ‘Well, this thing needs to go,’ then what’s to say that that thing doesn’t need to go? You can make an argument for every single line in the show,” Murphy said. “But I also understand that people are coming with different comfort abilities and stuff. And I want to respect that as well. So it’s an interesting kind of conversation we’re having.” 

According to Stephens, the cast and crew have made many deliberate choices to make sure that the audience understands how satirical this piece is. These changes include motions from the actors on stage, as well as loud and colorful set design. 

“I’d say that we’ve been making not only a lot of different acting choices, but we’ve also been going through a lot of design work to really hammer home that this is such a stylized world that we’ve created,” Stephens said. “I think it comes across very clearly. And hopefully, the audience feels the same way.”

But these are not the only changes the cast has had to make for the show. Cast members are required to wear masks on stage as per COVID-19 guidelines. Actors are all fitted with microphones, but they have lost the ability to act with their faces — a particular challenge for a show about drag queens.

Murphy said even though they’re disappointed that they can’t portray drag to the audience to the full scale the artform deserves, they’ve found ways to express their characters’ personalities in other ways. 

“I think we found ways around it. And I think there’s a lot of physical comedy in the show that still allows us to get our characters across,” Murphy said. “For Connie, I have a very particular way she stands, and I play a lot with her physicality throughout the play. I’m hoping that can kind of add something to the character when my facial expressions can’t fully.” 

For Hobart, she said despite the obstacles they’ve had to deal with, she wants people to find humor in the play, alongside its meaningful commentary. 

“I really want people to laugh. That is my main goal. And I think the general takeaway would be, sort of exploring generational differences in the queer community,” Hobart said. “Because it makes fun of like the older people’s outdated opinions and also makes fun of like how maybe younger queer people can’t take the joke.”

Murphy said they saw a very similar message in the play, especially in the generational divide in the LGBTQ+ community. They said the community should work more on acceptance and less on alienation when people don’t immediately take to a new phrase or identity. 

“It’s like, you have to accept all of this right now. Or else I don’t respect you. And I don’t think that should quite be the answer,” Murphy said. “I think we should allow people to grow, we should have conversations be like, ‘You know, are we okay with this? Are we okay with that?’ Not just not shut people down, or be looking to cast people out for different reasons.”