I.C. Kings to perform at fundraiser for UI Honors Program domestic violence awareness

BY AUDREY DWYER | MARCH 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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Leave your worries at the door. Tonight, let the true colors of personality unravel as the euphonious music guides the quest to identity.

The University of Iowa Honors Program and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance will host “Gender BENT: The I.C. Kings Experience” at 8 p.m. today in Old Brick, 26 E. Market St. The performance will feature local drag-king troupe I.C. Kings and will benefit the Domestic Violence Intervention Program. Event organizers are asking for a donation in the form of one household item for admission. In addition to the performance, local business Hoard’s Bakery will give away pies to audience members through a raffle.

Promoting individuality, creativity, and shameless disregard for societal gender norms, the I.C. Kings members can relate to those involved with the domestic-violence organization.

“Domestic Violence Intervention Program unifies with women of different identities and people who are survivors,” said Audrey Smith, a co-president of Feminists Majority Leadership Alliance and an avid fan of the I.C Kings.  “It may not be directly related to the Iowa City Kings, but both are rooted in accepting and being proud of who you are. You’re able to get help from a support group and move forward in a positive way or even just to get back on your feet to move on from abuse.”

The domestic-violence group helps women of different identities and women who are survivors of traumatic experiences to form a support group and hope.

“Individuality is very important and many women have had that destroyed because of certain experiences,” said Shy Nishikawa, volunteer coordinator for the Domestic Violence Intervention Program.

“We are two in the same by wanting to connect with people. The I.C. Kings’ performances influence others in the community in a very powerful way. They show who they are and what they believe in without being afraid. No one should be left alone, and they don’t deserve to be beaten or abused.”

By bending the gender line and blurring boundaries of social expectations, the I.C. Kings members are known for bringing a unique performance.

“They do not just put on masculine roles, they gender-bend,” said Miss Kitty, the MC for the entertaining troupe. “The audience won’t know what’s happening all the time, and that opens up the show to a wide variety of acts.”

Annie Christenson, diversity coordinator for the UI Honors Program, agreed with the unexpected twist of performances. Christenson partnered with Smith to bring this boisterous and creative event to life.

“You’re just kind of taken aback — like, ‘What’s happening right now?’ ” Christenson said. “They pull off their personas so well, you actually believe they are men on stage. But in the back of your mind you think, ‘They are women.’ It messes with you, but that’s what is fun.”

Members of the I.C. Kings said blurring this line between male and female is exactly what they’re aiming to do.

“It can be intimidating, and it takes a lot of courage to get on stage,” said Franky D. Lover, I.C. King. “But, it’s empowering. That positive reaction from the crowd validates the gender play.”

“When you do the things we do, you’re picking apart what makes gender,” said another I.C. King, Hugh Jindapants. “Expectations of what men and women are supposed to do are not important. You don’t have to follow any guidelines, just be yourself and do what you want.”

Julius Fever, another one of the I.C. Kings, noted his search for identity through stage characters.

“Performing with the I.C. Kings has been great for my body image,” Julius Fever said. “On stage, I perform masculinity as an exaggerated farce. Off stage, I embrace my masculinity and at the same time identify as a woman. I don’t need smooth legs and makeup to define my gender. I am confident in my own interpretation of femininity.”

Others said they find inspiration through the troupe members’ confidence.

“The I.C. Kings have stood as role models for me,” Smith said. “To see someone who is so proud of who they are and do what they want to do has allowed me to identify with them. It solidified in my own knowledge that I, too, can be proud of myself and be part of that community.”

Discussions of personal stories, Smith advised, are the best way to learn about one’s self. She hopes for a fruitful panel discussion during the event in which those who tiptoe cautiously around sensitive topics can ask questions without feeling embarrassed, awkward, or ashamed.

“Conversations need to happen about why people say what they do [about feminism and LGBT issues],” she said. “We need to share those kinds of stories and figure out who we are and what we are fighting for.”

The group has seven local active members with occasional guest performers. As the members continue to perform and have an effect on all communities, they look toward the future with hopeful aspirations.

“The harder you work, the more you get back,” Lover said. “We hope people will take the torch and keep the tradition alive.”

“To be clear, if Lady Gaga called, we would be gone like THAT,” Jindapants joked, snapping his fingers.

• What: “Gender BENT: The I.C. Kings’ Experience”
• Where: Old Brick, 26 E. Market
• When: 8 p.m. today

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