Darrin Hagen and Kevin Hendricks have, at 28 years and running, an enduring relationship. They are also the brains, and beauty, behind Edmonton’s most flamboyant theatre group, Guys in Disguise, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
While Hagen, the long-reigning Queen of Edmonton’s drag scene, is the public face and creative force of the group, Hendricks’ work is no less important. He’s the behind-the-scenes collaborator, taking care of all the details, including renting the space, paying the bills, dealing with contracts, promoting the shows and much more. That allows Hagen to reach his artistic potential.
The two met where many gay couples met in Edmonton during the ’80s: Flashback. Hagen was a bartender known as Mz. Flashback, the head drag queen, while Hendricks was a customer.
“I can’t quite remember how it actually happened, but we ended up together,” says Hagen. “What was really interesting was that we kept it a secret for quite a while, ultimately because we wanted to figure out what it was without anybody asking us stupid questions.”
And at no time did Hendricks ever tell Hagen to stop doing drag. In fact, he encouraged it. Since he was a music promoter at the time, Hendricks was Hagen’s first booking agent, getting gigs for him and his drag-queen friends. Hendricks’ music experience helped him understand theatre marketing, which led to Guys in Disguise applying and getting accepted into the Fringe program in 1987.
Then, in 1991, the group was asked by Catalyst Theatre to co-produce the Loud & Queer Cabaret, and they’ve been doing it ever since. Now, Guys in Disguise is arguably North America’s premier cross-dressing theatre group.
“I always knew he was more than just a drag queen,” says Hendricks. “He’s a writer, a composer, a photographer; he’s a true artist.”
And the success of their 28 years together can be explained in three simple words: “Accept, adapt and advance,” says Hendricks.
“You don’t think about forever, you think about today,” adds Hagen. “You get to the end of today and before you know it, you have a decade piled up behind you. And then, you have two decades piled up behind you.”