Mother So Queer

A Queer History of Wake Forest University


Drew Droege

Interview and transcription by Keegan Patrick on February 17th, 2012 via telephone.

Transcript of Interview:

Keegan Patrick: How are you doing today?

Drew Droege: I’m doing alright, I just finished work so this is perfect timing.

Patrick: Perfect. Thank you for being able to do this so quickly.

Droege: Absolutely, thank you for contacting me.

Patrick: First of all, I’m Keegan. I’m a sophomore at Wake Forest and I absolutely love it here. Basically Dr. Mazaris has instructed us to talk about how your time was at Wake and a little bit of your background – where you come from. And just to kinda catch up and see what you’re doing now.

Droege: Okay, great. Well, I also loved Wake. I had such a good time there. I was there from 1995 to 1999. And I was a Theatre major and an English minor. So I was really active in the Theatre department and I still am. I actually went back in the fall [2011] and taught an improv class at Wake. That’s where I met Angela and we talked a little bit about your project and all this other kind of stuff too. So yeah, I’m an actor and comedian in Los Angeles. So I totally uhm went from an undergrad theatre student to a full-time actor. So it’s been cool. Laughs.

Patrick: Where are you from originally?

Droege: I’m from Lincolnton, North Carolina. It’s just outside of Charlotte.

Patrick: And you live in LA now. What took you to LA – obviously pursuing an acting career?

Droege: It was between LA and New York. And I wanted to go out and study at the Groundlings, which is a sketch comedy and improv theatre out here. And that was sorta a goal of mine. And so I ended up studying there and went through and I performed there for a few years and now I’m teaching there. And I go back and perform sometimes. That’s sorta what’s kept me in LA for the last twelve years.

Patrick: How would you describe your sexual orientation?

Droege: Uhh… gay.

Patrick: Okay, and were there defining moments during your time at Wake Forest in regards to your identity?

Droege: Yes, and no. I would say that it was definitely… the theatre department was very open and accepting. But on the other hand, almost nobody was out. But there are quite a few people who are now living as gay, you know out in the world. But when we were there at Wake, we were all kinda not really much of anything. And uhm, and we all… I think there was a certain safety in that. There were only about three or four “out” gay friends of ours in the department. And, then you know it was a much quieter variety of that. I talked to Angela about this, like it wasn’t like we felt repressed or oppressed in order to not be able to come out as much as it was just not really talked about. Things have changed a lot, and it was never seen as anything that was wrong or weird or ostracizing as much as it was that we were just sort of … didn’t identify as anything.

Patrick: It was just an unspoken type thing.

Droege: Right.

Patrick: What were some of your favorite memories at Wake? Obviously you were involved in the Drama Department. Did you have a favorite…

Droege: There were so many that were great. My Freshman year, a bunch of us were cast in a musical called Big River which is a musical of Huckleberry Finn and it was probably a thirty person cast or something. And a lot of us were freshmen, so it was such a bonding experience our first semester. We also had a lot of theme parties. And we had a house, I guess my junior year and we would throw always throw like white trash theme parties and you know we did – god, there were so many that we did – there’s one that we did called The Festival of Dionysus. We all dressed up like Greeks and we would be stupid and get drunk and make out with each other. Super fun. And so I definitely remember the theme parties. And all the inside jokes – the fact that I can call a certain number of people and just have those moments.

Patrick: Those conversations that no one else would even understand?

Droege: Right. Exactly.

Patrick: Would you say there was a defining moment where you came out? Or a coming-out sort of narrative?

Droege: Mine was so uneventful. I never really… It was almost like right after college I just really… you know. I went to Kentucky and did Summer Camp Theatre in Kentucky and it was just really understood that I was gay. So I never really came out. I never really sat people down and said that. It was always something, I feel very lucky, that was never really a big deal for me. Personally, it’s a huge part of who I am. It’s not really something that I was tortured about. And I’ve also never really hidden it. It’s not really like, you know, uhm, it was just uhm

Patrick: It was just part of who you were, and people loved you for who you were.

Droege: Right. Exactly.

Patrick: Are you close with your family?

Droege: Yes. Very much so.

Patrick: Just like a Southern family?

Droege: Yes, we’re a very southern family. And we don’t really talk that much about it. But I never felt ashamed and there was never really any awkwardness. It did help that both my parents were in the furniture and design business. We always grew up around a lot of gay people. It was never really seen as anything bad or something that we should hide or anything. So, with that I was really lucky that my family was supportive and really close.

Patrick: Were there any difficult times that people treated you differently or didn’t accept you?

Droege: Definitely before Wake. In high school and junior high, in a small town in the South… there were man, horrible moments. Like seventh grade was the worst. I think for everybody, for whatever reason?

Patrick: I think it just is that way. It’s an awkward time.

Droege: It’s rough in the dollhouse. I mean everybody sorta goes through that. So, you know, But by the time I got to Wake, it didn’t ever really feel that difficult. I felt like I was always around peers and it helps being around – I don’t know how to say this nicely – you know, educated people that are at least open-minded and interested in how other people think differently. I mean that really helps. And definitely living in LA, it’s great. It’s not like a big deal at all. And uhm, I’m just so lucky generationally, for all the room that we have to grow and things that we have to do for equality and all that. You know it’s so much easier than a generation or two or more ago. It hasn’t felt hard. I mean I can’t imagine being straight. You know what I mean. I wouldn’t want to.

Patrick: Has it just always been part of your identity? Never really any other way? You just always knew that that was who you were?

Droege: Well yeah, you know I never really assigned it to sexuality as much as uhm as point of view. Like what you find funny, what you want to talk about, and who you’re naturally gravitated towards as friends, what movies you like, and all that stuff. I mean there’s so much more that being gay is than just who you sleep with. There’s just much more in everything in every aspect of it. I was way more tuned into that way before I was tuned into the sex part of it. Which, you know, I figured out a little bit in college. But, it was like, uhm, not something as comfortable.

Patrick: Could you have ever seen a class like this being offered during your time here?

Droege: No, that’s very new. That’s something that in just 15 years has changed a lot. I don’t think I would have been surprised. I don’t think it would have been shocking. I just don’t know how many people would have taken it, though. Because, you know I think we had this sort of collective, because we were scared of that side of ourselves, we sort of masked it with “Oh, we’re above that. We don’t need to talk about that.” And so, we would you know laugh about “Oh God, people and their issues.” It’s so funny to think back about how I was so above it because I was scared of it. I mean I don’t think that I would have taken the class. But now, I would love to take it. It would be really interesting. I think it says a lot just for the times, and for people’s maturity. Like as a straight woman, that you would be interested to take the class, I think it’s really cool.

Patrick: Right, and it was honestly, it made me disappointed when some of my friends questioned why I was taking this class.

Droege: Wow.

Patrick: It was interesting. I mean we’ve made such strides, but then also, a lot of people are still so close-minded. Did you ever get involved with the gay community of Winston-Salem? Were there ever events you would go to off of campus?

Droege: No, we didn’t. I really didn’t. Uhm, aside from theatre things, where there happened to be a lot of gay people there. But never a strictly gay thing, no.

Patrick: Did you have other gay friends who maybe had different experiences at other colleges while you were at Wake?

Droege: I’d say that other schools were a lot more experimental from what I hear. It was very much more of a… it wasn’t really an issue. I had friends that – the second – they would come out their freshman year. Or, experiment. Or whatever it meant. So. But the people that were out at Wake, were really loud and proud and out there. Like they all were, they were really bold and brave. But, they were certain personalities. The rest of us were just a little bit more subtle about who we were in general. We just never really felt any need to do that. What’s so funny is you realize that you are who you are.

Patrick: You are who you are. You don’t have to shout it from a mountaintop. But if you want to, you can?

Droege: Exactly. If you want to you can. You don’t have to hide or pretend to be straight. Just in the same way you don’t have to pretend to be really out there and flamboyant and over the top either. If it’s not true to you then it’s not true to you.

Patrick: What happened right after you graduated from Wake?

Droege: Well, I went to Kentucky and did summer stock theatre there. And then I went to LA that fall, like right around Labor Day. Uhm, then just living in a big city, and even in Kentucky… you know, when I was 22 it was like everybody knew. So I never really had to tell anybody. You know people would ask or whatever. So, it became more like moving to a new place, it was… Not that I couldn’t say it at Wake. It was just easier when you moved to a new place, it’s like changing your name or whatever.

Patrick: Right, cause you’re in a new place, new person, new city. Were you involved in any other organizations besides Theatre at Wake Forest?

Droege: Yes, I was in… I did several things. I did something called Coffee House. But I don’t even know what it would be called today. Maybe Student Union or something?

Patrick: Oh, yeah.

Droege: And it was the ‘90’s, we called everything Coffeehouse. I also wrote for the Old Gold and Black, as well.

Patrick: And then you said that you’re also a comedian, has humor always been something that’s been a part of your character?

Droege: Oh, for sure.

Patrick: How did professors treat you here? Did you find any mentors?

Droege: Well, I definitely felt like Dr. Gendrich, in the Theatre Department, really helped me my senior year. She was the first, she really like – I mean I had a lot of great teachers in the theatre department – but, she got me. She understood the sort of dark and bizarre point of views that I liked and wanted to explore. She totally got me, just like right away. She knew who I was. We’ve become really good friends over the years. And that’s who I went back and taught with and stayed with her. She’s definitely someone I would consider to be a mentor and a great coach. Not only in class, but in life. She’s awesome.

Patrick: And what was her name again?

Droege: Cynthia Gendrich.

Patrick: Would you give any advice to any current Wake students who consider themselves to be of the LBGTQ community? Or any things you wish you would have done differently?

Droege: Uhm, yeah I think… I wish I wouldn’t have been so superior to who I was. Like, I think I was. I think I would tell people to give themselves a break and uh, just be honest and allow yourself to fail and be a mess. Because that’s what makes you interesting. Being perfect is boring. And I was always worried about being perfect. And you know, that’s a lot easier to say than to do. And that’s the thing we all work on all the time. And your “flaws” are what make up your personality and make you unique and they’re not the things to hid as much as the things to celebrate and understand about yourself.

Patrick: Would you encourage college students to label themselves more?

Droege: I would encourage them to be comfortable with however they want to live and not that they have to be labeled. It really doesn’t mean anything other than how you define it in your own perception/perspective. It’s just like saying your race or religion or whatever. It doesn’t really define your personality. It’s a big part of who you are. But it can mean a lot of different things.

Patrick: How would you describe your religious identity?

Droege: I don’t know. That’s a great question. I’m not involved in any uhm… I would say I consider myself spiritual more than religious.

Patrick: Does your family have a religious background?

Droege: Yes, my family grew up Presbyterian. Protestant.

Patrick: Were you involved at church when you were young?

Droege: I was. I was really involved in youth group. We went to church every Sunday and everything. And uh, it’s just not really something that’s in my identity anymore. I’m not completely anti-Church. I certainly believe in God. But you know, I also… I don’t really have much connection with church per say – organized religion. I don’t really have much interest.

Patrick: How have people who have considered themselves to be really religious treated you your whole life?

Droege: Some of the greatest people that I’ve known have considered themselves Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or whatever. So, I’ve been treated very well by anyone who have been all over the place. My belief is that anyone who is truly a believer will be nothing but wonderful. There are definitely the fundamentalists that are hateful people. But I don’t really know very many of those people. But I didn’t really grow up around that – I don’t really associate myself with any of that. So, those things have never really directly affected me. But I think those people are ridiculous. I mean I don’t have respect for someone who’s gonna be screaming at me that I’m gonna go to hell. I find that ridiculous, so I don’t even acknowledge it. Uhm, so my friends that have stayed spiritual, they’re very respectful. And I respect them for their beliefs.

Patrick: Do you support a certain political group or party?

Droege: Yeah, I’m very liberal. You know, I guess Democrat. I’m to the left or Democrat.

Patrick: In terms of pop culture, are there any things that you’ve connected with in terms of being gay?

Droege: Growing up in the 90’s, in high school and stuff, I was a big fan of John Waters. Uhm, and his films. They’re very, very gay in their sensibilities and before I even knew what that was, I just found them so funny. And I totally got them, and I thought they were just the wittiest satire mixed with American family values. I always loved Carol Burnett and really big and over the top stuff like that. You know, and so, definitely I would include those in my pop culture references.

Patrick: Do you have a favorite actor or actress? One that you loved?

Droege: Yeah a lot.

Patrick: I’m sure tons.

Droege: Yeah, I could name someone and say I totally get why they… But uhm, I would say that you know uhm I… I can think of everybody from … I could name three, but that’s just so obvious. I don’t even know.

Patrick: Is there anything that you would like to mention or discuss that I haven’t talked about?

Droege: No, I don’t think so. I think you’re good. Feel free to call me or email me if you think of any.

Patrick: Why did you decide to come to Wake Forest?

Droege: There were a couple of things. I wanted to stay close to home. I wanted to go to a small liberal arts school. And, I went to visit it – stayed the weekend there – and just fell in love with it. I also looked at Davidson, and Chapel Hill, and Furman. Those were sort of my schools that I was into. And I made the decision to go to Wake after I spent the weekend there and it was just the environment that I wanted.

Patrick: Do you have any siblings?

Droege: I do, I have a younger brother. He’s two and a half years younger.

Patrick: Okay, well I think that’s about it.

Droege: And if you have anything else that you think of, feel free to call me or shoot me an email.

Patrick: Well, thank you so much for talking with me Mr. Droege.

Droege: Thanks so much, it was nice to talk to you Keegan.

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