Queer Queens Reign In New Paltz

Photo By Jan Whitman

All hail the Queen(s).

Last weekend, New Paltz welcomed royalty to campus when the Queer Queens of Qomedy stormed McKenna Theatre to benefit the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center.

Poppy Champlin started the Queer Queens of Qomedy — a traveling comedy show featuring a rotating cast of lesbian comedians — seven years ago, and since then, she has been the only constant performer.

“I always try to choose two headliners which makes it hard for some people to pay for the shows, but I really want this to be the strongest lesbian show that you could see in your town or region,” she said.

For the New Paltz show, Champlin chose Jessica Kirson, who has performed as a Queer Queen nearly 10 times in the past, and Cara Kilduff, a New York City-based actor and comic.

“Kirson was just on fire…and Kilduff did a really good job,” Champlin said. “She’s younger in terms of standup comedy, and that might have shown, but she’s learning her craft really well.”

The Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center, which was founded in 2005, strives to advocate for, educate and support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning individuals, families and communities throughout the region, according to their website.

Jan Whitman, a member of the LGBTQ center’s board of directors, said she had seen some of the performers before and contacted Champlin because “everyone needs a laugh,” especially when it’s “comedy for a good cause.”

Whitman said the proceeds of the show will go to general operations and continuing the work of the non-profit group, which includes supporting the programs the center offers.

“There are a wide variety of groups — of all ages and interests — who meet there,” she said. “There’s a group that works with fabrics, AA groups, women’s groups, men’s groups. There’s something for everyone at the center.”

Kathleen Dowley, coordinator of the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program, said Whitman contacted her in December to ask if the program would be willing to cosponsor a fundraising event for the center.

“Our program underwent a self-study in 2009, and we recommitted ourselves to doing more outreach in the Hudson Valley, and finding ways to reach out to organizations and agencies in the region who are also committed to improving the lives of women and the LGBTQ populations in the Hudson Valley,” Dowley said.

Dowley said she worked with Whitman and Champlain over the winter break to develop posters and strategize about publicity. Bringing the Queens to New Paltz was Whitman’s idea, but Dowley said the program was happy to support their work.

“I believe it is the first time we have cosponsored an event with [the center], but we are hopeful it won’t be the last,” she said.

As the “boss,” Champlin said nothing is off-limits in terms of what jokes her fellow comedians can make or what topics they can explore.

“I don’t edit anybody,” she said. “I don’t tell them what to do or what not to do. I never appreciated when people told me what to do onstage.”

Champlin said this benefit was successful not only for the center, but for her own comedic performance.

“Sometimes I can be uptight, [but] I definitely hit the zone and had some improvisational material come out from jokes that I already had,” she said. “They [LGBTQ center] definitely made money and to make money at a benefit that makes people feel good is really the best way to go.”