I am a Vermont Artist: Katniss Everqueer
A beyond body-positive burlesque dancer making space for Vermont’s fat performers. A bedazzled, fairy-winged drag queen spreading literacy to kids across the state. A seasoned community organizer helping Vermont arts organizations become more inclusive. These are the many faces of Katniss Everqueer, also known as Kat Redniss, a star of both the Burlington late-night scene and the public library circuit whose career took off in 2018 when she won first place and Audience Favorite in Green Mountain Cabaret’s Newcomers Show. Since that strong debut, Katniss has performed in a variety of festivals and with award-winning acts, and she was anything but slowed by the pandemic. Her digital content was featured by the Glasgow Burlesque Festival in 2020, and in 2021 her digital duet with fellow Vermont drag artist Emoji Nightmare was nominated for “Best Ensemble” in the Hollywood Burlesque Film Festival.
Katniss and Emoji co-produce two annual shows aimed at increasing fat representation on Vermont stages, My Chubby Valentine and Beached Whales, next expected in February and August 2023 respectively. The pair also tour the state as the Vermont chapter of Drag Story Hour, a global nonprofit bringing inclusive storytelling to children through the art of drag.
In her burlesque and drag, two performing art forms that celebrate and exaggerate the body and gender, Katniss Everqueer is known for breaking down barriers so that others can join in the celebration and play. Working outside of these art forms, as Kat Redniss, Kat is just as dedicated to transforming spaces through inclusivity, accessibility, and creativity. She has been the director of communications and development for Inclusive Arts Vermont since 2020, and before that she was the Flynn Center’s youth programming manager and accessibility coordinator. Whether in the office, on stage, or at story hour, whether as Katniss Everqueer or Kat Redniss, the pattern emerges clear: She is a formidable, fat, fabulous advocate.
Katniss shared her thoughts on being a Vermont artist.
How has living as an artist in Vermont affected your creative process?
Vermont’s creative community has an intimacy and a boldness. It honors and appreciates, for the most part, wild and wonderful creative choices. Vermont was where I first explored burlesque and drag. I’d always been a theater performer, but burlesque pushed my creative boundaries; in truth, burlesque kicked walls down, bulldozed so many preconceived notions of what art was and could be. I also felt less relegated to certain roles. As a fat and queer performing artist, Vermont burlesque and drag gives me the opportunity to define who I am for myself, through my own gaze, not through stereotypical expectations of who I should be.
I’ve never known a community as embracing, loving, encouraging, and supportive as Vermont burlesque and drag. To collaborate with, create with, witness artistic and personal discoveries of my fellow performers is an ultimate joy. These folks are my creative family. Our reciprocal investment in each other as creative beings is unmatched and beautiful.
What is something about your art that has changed over time?
As I’ve developed my burlesque identity, I’ve leaned even more deeply into centering fatness and queerness. When I am onstage, my body is always going to be perceived differently than someone who exists in a thinner, smaller body. I’ve chosen to embrace this and use my existence in the scene as an imperative: fat performers deserve space, respect, representation. I cannot tell you how many times I perform and have other fat folks come up to me and tell me how their self-worth shifts seeing someone in my body being celebrated onstage. I choose fat characters to lift up, fat cliches to tear down or reclaim. I am working hard to move so far beyond body positivity. I am committed to presenting art that is unapologetically queer and liberating for folks in fat bodies.
Over the pandemic, I worked with one of my best friends and creative partners, Emoji Nightmare, to produce virtual shows that centered fat burlesque and drag performers. We were able to highlight Vermont’s fat performers, and bring fat powerhouses from out of state to increase fat representation for Vermont audiences. We now produce two annual shows with this focus, My Chubby Valentine and Beached Whales. These are gorgeous nights that showcase bodies like oceans, rolls, stretchmarks, thick legs, double chins, and the beauty and power in these bodies.
The other major evolution that’s happened recently is my exploration of drag and the opportunity to travel within state and beyond with Emoji as part of Drag Story Hour. At one event, this amazing kid leaned over to me and told me he thought I was a fairy come to life from his backyard fairy garden. He then leaned over and whispered, “Are you magic?” I cannot fully express the joy and honor of being a larger than life fairy gaymother for these amazing audiences. We get to bring imagination, sparkle, inclusion, representation, empathy, compassion, and so much fun to audiences. The events highlight the importance of kindness and respect, of glitter and make believe, of acceptance of all individuals and families. I’m so grateful to Emoji and Nikki Champagne for founding the Vermont chapter of Drag Story Hour, and so glad to be able to share some of this magic through stories, song, art, and connection.
What is your vision for the next several years?
One of the big dreams I have is for a New England Drag and Burlesque Festival that celebrates the alternative, the comedic, the weird, the wild, the wonderful, that is expansive in what it presents and that centers performers who are underrepresented on stage. I imagine BIPOC Brunch and Fat Friday Night! There are brilliant New England performers and producers that I’d love to collaborate with and dream with. I’d also love for there to be a strong focus on accessibility at the festival, and in the broader performance communities, for performers of course, but also for audiences and for tech and crew professionals. So many of the venues we work in aren’t accessible, and rarely are there any access features at events. I’d love to explore ways to make the entire experience of burlesque and drag more accessible to all involved.
And to continue on the access thread, I’d love to explore ways to make Drag Story Hour even more inclusive by incorporating more access features like verbal description, sensory elements, and maybe even creating a model that’s completely designed as an interactive sensory-friendly experience for autistic kids and kids with sensory sensitivities.
Follow Katniss on Instagram.
Follow Drag Story Hour on Instagram.
Follow Green Mountain Cabaret on Instagram.
Listen to Katniss and others discuss Vermont drag and burlesque on Vermont Edition.
Read about Drag Story Hour in the Waterbury Roundabout.
The I am a Vermont Artist series explores how artists’ creative expressions reflect their experiences of ethnicity, gender identity, religion, disability, or age. Covering all artistic disciplines, and a range of backgrounds—from New Americans to the state’s first residents—we hope to amplify voices that deepen our understanding of what it means to be a Vermont artist.