Q&A with Mrs. Kasha Davis: NEPA native returns home for drag performance
Ed Popil, a Taylor native and a 1989 graduate of Riverside High School, now resides in Rochester, N.Y. and has become an internationally known drag performer under the the stage name Mrs. Kasha Davis. Mrs. Davis competed on the seventh season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on Logo TV and is scheduled to return to Northeastern Pennsylvania for a performance at 11:30 p.m. Dec. 30 at Heat Bar & Nightclub in Wilkes-Barre.
Weekender: Tell me about your beginnings as a performer.
Mrs. Kasha Davis: I went to school for theater at Marywood. I was always been involved in local theater in the Scranton area. Ballet Theatre of Scranton was huge for me, especially with “The Nutcracker” this time of year. So I had done all those types of things. My parents would say, ‘you can’t make a life in the creative world, you have to balance it out with something realistic.’ So I got into business. That ended up taking priority, and I would do some theater on the side. Drag came into place around 2004 in Rochester, because it was something I could do and create a character who was really like the women in the Scranton area.
W: So Kasha is an homage to some local women?
KD: Oh, of course, my mom and my grandmother, who was a whistler back in her day in the vaudeville days. She was also from Scranton, and she had a radio show called, “The Italian Hour.” My drag character’s name is Kasha Davis, which is my first pet, an angry white poodle, and Davis Street, which is Davis Street in Taylor.
W: How did performing as Kasha progress?
KD: My husband and I went to Provincetown (Mass.) years ago, and we saw a drag queen there called Ms. Richfield 1981. She was this comedic character who would sing and tell her stories from her past, and I thought, ‘wow, I can do that.’ That’s when my husband and I sort of put together Mrs. Kasha Davis. Time went on, and I was performing on occasion on the weekends at the night clubs here in Rochester, and I would balance things out with work. Then along came “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” I had auditioned for every season from season 1 through 7. I always wanted to have the opportunity to go to Hollywood and do something, and I thought, ‘what could be more perfect.’ But I realized I had to become a full-time performer to take it seriously. I think it was the one thing that clicked in my last audition tape was that I would leave my day job to become a performer. And that’s what I’ve been doing since. I’ve traveled all over the country and the U.K. with my show, and it’s been great.
W: What business were you in prior to becoming a full-time performer?
KD: It was the call center industry. I worked at Dial America in Scranton, and I opened the current facility in Rochester. I worked for the company for 18 years, and I was the director for most of that year in Rochester. I was fortunate enough to have a husband who was supportive enough to say, ‘follow these dreams. You only get one chance to have this level of exposure.’ And it’s been great, touring around to colleges and night clubs and continuing working on finding other ways to have Mrs. Kasha Davis come into your living room.
W: What’s in store for your performance at Heat on Dec. 30?
KD: I’m fortunate enough to have the gal I’ll be performing with, Aggy Dune. We’ve been performing this particular holiday show, “Holiday Hams” for 12 years. We do a variety of different shows together as well. She’s fantastic. It’s a dream of ours to bring celebrity impersonation as well as quick change comedy routine stuff to the stage. There’s live singing. There’s lip syncing. There’s dancing, costume change. A lot of it is focused on our take on these celebrities, so it becomes comedic.
W: This holiday show is said to be special, because it’s like a home for the holidays that some people don’t have. What does it mean to be part of something like that?
KD: It’s huge. Gay, straight, whatever you identify with, people’s families sometimes become their friends or the community they build. It becomes difficult, most especially in the gay community to try to fit in, and when they go out to the night clubs and other community organizations, they have that support there. It’s extremely important to me. I’ve always had that since coming up in my years where I was able to go out and have that comfort. I think it’s fantastic that people like everybody over at Heat are providing opportunities for people to escape and be themselves for a little bit.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TLArts.
IF YOU GO
What: ‘Big Wigs: Holiday Hams’ featuring Mrs. Kasha Davis, Aggy Dune and house diva, Estella Sweet
When: Doors open at 8 p.m. Dec. 30. Happy hour from 8 to 10 p.m., and performances begin at 11:30 p.m.
Where: Heat Bar & Night club, 71 North Main St., Wilkes-Barre
Additional information: Tickets cost $7 and are available by visiting the Heat Facebook page at facebook.com/HEATNEPA and clicking on the Big Wigs Holiday Hams event listing.