Sidonia Dudval sashays across the stage in her black chiffon, V-neck dress, bright red shoes with jeweled heels glistening in the spotlight and a frizzed out mane of hair. She demands attention from her audience.
She rules the stage and the backstage. She sits behind the curtain obsessively scanning the schedule of Rochester Girls Inc. dancers and performance times while rifling through her bags trying to find the right lipstick or perfect necklace for her next performance of the evening.
At the end of the night, as the lights fade, she takes off her seven layers of makeup, her teased wig and her light blue bejeweled gown and returns to black-rimmed glasses, curly brown hair, and graphic tees; back into the man behind the mask.
Sidonia Dudval is the alter ego of Darren Wendt, a demure 39-year-old graphic designer at Mayo Clinic.
By day he is just an average male, by night a temptress of sorts, expressing his inner femininity. Cinderella of the drag world, he masquerades as the sassy and seductive Sidonia Dudval, his glamour limited to four songs before he returns to the quiet man behind the glasses, a person the Wicked Moose Bar and Grill scene has never seen.
“It’s a huge switch,” said Wendt.
The drag queen world has an array of sexualities and genders. Transsexuals, transgenders, gays, lesbians and heterosexuals participate in drag expression. Some dress up, others just dance. Dancing drag is an illustrious movement and one that is often misconstrued as being solely for the gay community, but drag queening is merely a form of expression, exaggerating a particular persona.
“The cross dressing for us is more than the entertaining, it is an artistic expression,” said Wendt.
Wendt’s life partner, Richard Konen, a hair stylist and photographer, unlike Wendt, performs as male.
“I tried drag once and that was enough,” Konen said.
For Wendt, and many other drag queens, however, drag is addicting -- an adrenaline rush; but it is also much more. It has become an outlet for them to become the person inside they don’t get to be in real life.
“It’s a way for me to show my dramatic side,” said Savannah Skye, a transgender member of the drag world who wishes to be referred to as her stage name for fear of job repercussions.
And that is exactly what Dudval is for Wendt.
Since 1998, Wendt has been a faithful member and producer of Rochester Girls Inc., a group of regularly performing drag queens at the Wicked Moose Bar and Grill. After a double-dare to attempt a performance in a drag beauty contest brought Wendt a first-place prize, he was hooked.
“It’s the adrenaline, being on stage, it’s the little entourage that follows you, it’s the glamour, it’s just everything that follows kind of a pseudo-fame,” said Wendt. “It’s just fun.”
But organizing the Rochester Girls Inc. events is no easy task, and one that requires his assertive side.
Wendt and Konen handle the logistics of the event from dancers, times, performance slots, marketing, etc., but Dudval manages the show. She is not afraid to pounce on unprepared performers and tell them when their “paint,” or makeup, needs some work.
“Sidonia is extremely extroverted and in your face; a bitch in heels,” Konen said. “Thank God he goes back to Darren.”
Wendt’s day job is filled with polite smiles and light chatter with people trying to get their job done, a world where Dudval is kept under wraps.
“Everyday life I separate Sid and Darren because I go to work as Darren,” said Wendt.
But Wendt’s desire for the attention never stops burning, and Dudval is his outlet.
“It’s not Darren; it is my stage name, my presence. It is two different people to me, complete opposites of each other,” said Wendt. “I will go out and about in town as Sid because I like the attention.”
Many others in the drag community find the need to separate stage presence and offstage life. Drag is merely a channel for their expressive nature.
“You know, you really can put on a mask and be that other person that you really can’t be,” said Kelby Rushton, known as Saltanna Peppa on stage. “Once you put that makeup and costume on, you don’t have to hide.”
But the glitz and glam is too much for Wendt to handle full-time. The part of him that wants to cozy up with his greyhounds and Konen and watch “Under the Tuscan Sun” reminds him why Dudval is not permanent.
“Right now I’m just happy being me,” said Wendt.
Video by: Robert Christiano
Rochester Girls Inc. is a group of lip-syncing performers, mostly in drag, who host fundraisers for various local organizations. They are sole proprietorship and nearly half of all proceeds go to groups such as Minnesota Greyhound Rescue, Aids Walk, Paws & Claws and Channel One, Inc. The group originated in 1995 and has been performing in local establishments, specifically the Wicked Moose Bar and Grill, and occasionally other venues.