Professor, father, drag queen: Patrick Holt is a man of many identities.
When the costume designer is not leading classroom lectures for students of the School of Theatre, Film and Television, Holt can be found performing to sold-out crowds under the guise of Tempest DuJour.
Strutting across the stage in bouffant wigs and rhinestone-sequenced dresses, Tempest DuJour epitomizes unapologetic gaudiness.
Holt describes Tempest as the “crazy aunt” who inevitably draws attention to herself at a cocktail party. At a towering height of 6 feet 6 inches, Holt develops a brass, captivating stage presence that matches the campy spectacles found on an episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
“It’s the chance for me to make my own rules,” Holt said. When the suppressing bureaucracy of college academia puts Holt in a rut, he said that Tempest DuJour becomes his escape.
Due to Holt’s staggering height, he must rely on his sewing skills to construct the elaborate wigs and dresses needed for his routine. This past summer, Holt added 15 new dresses to Tempest DuJour’s flashy wardrobe.
Originally a character in a short documentary for a film festival, Tempest DuJour has transformed into a beloved staple for Tucson’s drag community. Headlining the Retro Game Show Night at Hotel Congress for the last three years, Holt’s host routine consists of a sassy and playful antagonism with the audience.
“It’s like assuming an identity,” Holt said. “Nobody who does drag wants to be a girl.”
Rather, Holt explained that men who perform in drag are usually trying to celebrate womanhood.
The character’s fiery wit and cheeky humor creates an eruptive storm of sauciness that appropriately fits a name like Tempest, which Holt said he based off the William Shakespeare play of the same name. The DuJour part of the name is rooted more in the tawdry culture of Holt’s Southern roots. Holt said that he wanted to find a French word that may sound fancy to someone from the Deep South. So, the classic condiment spread had the perfect flair.
As the child of a conservative family in North Carolina, Holt said that becoming a drag queen circumvents the outlandish behavior that was not permitted in his family home. Holt, as a young consumer of 1970s pop culture, found early inspiration for Tempest in comedians such as Phyllis Diller and Milton Berle.
After earning his graduate degree from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Holt ventured to New York City to work under the guidance of Paul Tazewell, the costume designer for shows like “The Color Purple.”
The hustle-and-bustle of the Big Apple soon grew tiresome for Holt. So, the designer sought out some stability in the academic world. Holt accepted an associate professor position at the UA in 2002, and he has been teaching courses in costume and makeup design ever since.
Holt said that he’s completely transparent about his double life as Tempest DuJour with his colleagues and students. A small flyer advertising one of Tempest’s upcoming shows even hangs outside his office.
As a faculty member of the School of Theatre, Film and Television, Holt is expected to serve as the costume designer for a number of plays in the Arizona Repertory Theatre’s annual season.
“He’s got a willingness to explore the uniqueness in every play,” said Peter Beudert, a distinguished professor and scenic designer for the School of Theatre, Film and Television. Beudert said that he was impressed by Holt’s artistry when they worked together on a production of solemn New England drama “The Cider House Rules.” The beauty of Holt’s subtle designs was enamoring, according to Beudert.
A frequent spectator of the Arizona Repertory Theatre may be able to detect some of Tempest DuJour’s character in some of its productions. For instance, when the scandalous musical “Nine” was staged two seasons ago, it would be hard not to guess where Holt got the inspiration for the chorus’ sparkly, pink headdresses.
Holt doesn’t seem phased by having his drag queen character mingle with his professional and personal life. As a father of two young children, Holt said that they see his transformation into Tempest as completely normal. He even allows his kids to play with his elaborate makeup spread as he’s getting ready for a show.
“I’m really lucky to have all this balance in my life,” Holt said.
Holt will return to hosting the Retro Game Show Night at Hotel Congress on Sept. 20. The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets are $8.
—Follow Kevin C. Reagan @KevinReaganUA