Interview: Kiki Ball-Change Mines Her Southern Roots in HOE DOWN! at Joe's Pub

In the 9/4 show, Kiki sings country favorites from Shania Twain to Dolly Parton and gives anecdotes of her Southern upbringing

By: Jun. 03, 2024
Interview: Kiki Ball-Change Mines Her Southern Roots in HOE DOWN! at Joe's Pub
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Drag queen Kiki Ball-Change is returning to Joe's Pub on September 4th with an all-new country cabaret, Hoe Down! Ball-Change will sing country favorites from Shania Twain to Dolly Parton in between "entertaining anecdotes of her Southern upbringing in the Bible Belt of the Florida panhandle." In Kiki's signature style, you can expect "uproarious parodies, bawdy innuendos, and a good ol', honky tonk band."

We spoke about the upcoming show and how Ball-Change mined her Southern upbringing for this latest show. Read our conversation below.

How would you describe Hoe Down!?

A stunningly beautiful, unapologetically bawdy, absolutely effervescent drag queen, Kiki Ball-Change tells stories of her upbringing in the Florida panhandle, while tying it all together with raunchy parodies and masterful mashups of old and new country songs. 

Where did the inspiration come from to turn stories about your upbringing into a solo show?

I grew up doing musical theatre, and that's where so much of my drag inspiration comes from. I've been doing drag for almost seven years and this will be my ninth cabaret in the city. Cabarets are a wonderful way that I can blend the two loves of my life, without worrying about if a drunk patron is going to give me a dollar to perform Dua Lipa or not. 

When I took a step back a few years ago from performing in bars so much, I looked to the drag legends of the 1990's, like Varla Jean Merman, Dina Martina, and my drag mother Coco Peru, who created their own solo shows and are still performing/touring their solo shows around the world. They set the standard for drag cabarets. I am majorly inspired by Coco's shows, because they are not only hilarious, but they always have so much heart in them. She makes it personal. She lets the audience see her not as a drag queen but as a human being. Someone who has lived life, experienced ups and downs, then opens it all up to a room full of complete strangers.

Hoe Down! at its heart is my love letter to the queer people, like me, who grew up in a conservative, Southern/country town. They either took the route I took and moved to a bigger city or have stuck around their hometowns and are contributing to the queer landscape there. Regardless of what route one takes, the South has a way of sticking with you... your accent, your manners, your affinity for fried foods. None of it has left me. For a long time, I was embarrassed to be from the South, because of the politics and the general backwards thinking that is often associated with it. Lately, I've been more vocal about where I'm from because it's important to show that there are a lot of people living in or from the South that don't want anything to do with that kind of thinking or governing. Queer, diverse, progressive people are working to make the South a better place, despite the forces that are against us. My show pokes fun at the conservatives and backwoods stereotypes, but then celebrates the experiences, history, and people that deserve to be seen and celebrated.

What was the process of writing the show and putting the song list together like?

Deciding on songs has mostly been really nostalgic. Some of my best childhood memories are riding in the car with my dad while he played the country radio station. There's a whole segment of the show dedicated to that. 

However, it has been a little difficult writing the script. A lot of my stories of growing up in the South as a flamboyant gay boy involve hardship, so it's been a challenge to turn that on its ear, make it relatable, while also adding some humor. I definitely don't want the show to be a cliché "It Gets Better" kind of show, so there's a lot more stories about the hijinks I got up to, the food I ate, and the men I loved.

What are you most looking forward to about this show?

Connecting with the audience. I think anyone from anywhere can enjoy this show, but it's really meant to tell other queer Southern people like me, who whisper the small town they're from with a tinge of shame, that we can all relate and that they aren't alone. That you are actually what made that place better. That you are the example to kids like you, yearning to be free from restrictive laws, conservative media, religious communities that make them feel wrong for existing. 

How do you feel about the political situation in Florida around LGBT rights right now? Do you touch on that in the show at all?

Oh, I absolutely touch on that in the show. 

I'm horrified with what is happening in Florida and around the country right now. I left Florida when it was still a swing state! Since I've been gone, my hometown has been represented in Congress by Matt Gaetz and the state has been led by Ron DeSantis as governor. The attacks by religious zealots and rightwing conservatives on women, trans people, queer people, Black people, immigrants, education, and more have been devastating to see. I know so many people with families, friends, jobs - strong roots in Florida and the South. They can't just gather their things and leave. Many people have no choice but to stay, and those are the people my show is for. The people that strive to make their town, region, and state better because it is their home.

You’re performing this show in Provincetown and Fire Island ahead of the New York show at Joe’s Pub. How much refinement and editing do you typically do between performances of the same show?

For the most part, the songs and overall script are set for the entire run, but each audience is different, and much of my shows rely on banter back and forth with them, so every show is fresh and keeps me on my toes. However, this is the first time I've debuted a show elsewhere, before NYC, so it'll be interesting to see what differs for this process.

I'll also be taking this show to other cities after New York, like I did with my previous cabaret Funny Gworl. I'm particularly excited to perform it in my hometown later this year.

What’s coming up next for you?

I'm currently in rehearsals for La Cage aux Folles at Barrington Stage Company, starring RuPaul's Drag Race's Alexis Michelle (Alex Michaels). It's my first musical in six years, so I'm beaming with excitement every day I'm here. We open June 16 and run through July 6. After that, it's crunch time for preparing Hoe Down!. Meanwhile, I'm planning more performances of my duo cabaret with my best friend Castrata: An Octave Apart, rehearsing a new scripted musical with my friend Selma Nilla, and have my regular weekly shows every Sunday at Vers and every Tuesday at Pieces when I'm back in mid-July.


You can buy tickets to the Joe's Pub show on their website here.

Find out more info about Kiki and what she’s up to on her website or Instagram




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