LGBT stories so rarely get to be told, and when they finally are, more often than not, they are stories of heartbreak, tragedy, and rejection told through a palatable, heterosexual lens. It is not often that we get to see LGBT stories told by LGBT creators, let alone stories with happy endings. A Night At Switch n’ Play, a documentary directed and edited by Cody Stickels, comes as a breath of fresh air to LGBT films. It is charming and genuine in its exploration of identity, and joyfully emphasizes the idea of found family.
Although it has a runtime of only about 70 minutes, it uses its time to its advantage, introducing the queer collective of Switch n’ Play, a drag and burlesque show at a gay bar in Brooklyn. Over the course of the film, we learn about each of the members of the collective; their stories, their “personas”, and what it means to them to be a part of Switch n’ Play. Not only do we get to see an up close and personal view of the members, but the documentary also includes footage of their performances, and you can almost feel the energy of the room.
What makes A Night At Switch n’ Play particularly interesting is the diversity within each member’s approach to drag. Drag means something different to each member of the collective, as does their presentation, and their relationship with their own gender and identity. They don’t confine themselves to the expectations of what a drag performer should look like, or what gender stereotypes dictate they should be, which reflects on their subversive performances and takes on what it means to “do” drag. The director takes care to connect with every member, allowing them to express themselves unapologetically to the camera.
The bar itself is a significant part of the magic –– it serves as a safe space for its performers, and draws in a crowd of LGBT supporters, creating an atmosphere not of objectification, but celebration. It is clear how all of the members feel at home when they are performing, and how they have found a family within the collective of Switch n’ Play. Seeing the sense of community that has been forged between the young adults of Switch n’ Play is quite moving, and beautifully portrayed.
As Pride month begins, it is even more critical to recognize films created by and for LGBT audiences. A Night At Switch n’ Play is a well-crafted and well-needed dive into drag culture, filled to the brim with the joy so often found in excess when LGBT people feel free to express themselves. Films like this one may not be revolutionary in terms of filmmaking, but are innovative in terms of their celebration of LGBT culture, and that alone is enough.
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Ezra Farner is an undergraduate student attending Southern Oregon University to study graphic design and film. In his free time, he enjoys watching movies, writing, playing video games, and wasting time on Twitter.