THE NUCLEAR FAMILY: IN THE MIDDLE OF

JOY WESTKAEMPER
(they/them)
instagram.com/jennynuclear
tiktok.com/@jennynuclear
mwestkaemper17@gmail.com

My mother tried to make a small path through the wake. She brought beauty into that house in every way that she could; she worked at joy, and she made livable moments, spaces, and places in the midst of all that was unlivable there.”
— Christina Sharpe, “Beauty is a Method”

The Nuclear Family: in the middle of...” is a story following the lives of Rhys, Margo, Lizard, and Tyler Nuclear. This cast of characters comprises your not-so-typical nuclear family model. In their gaudy, campy world, each character is in a period of transition as they grieve the loss of sister and mother, Ty Nuclear. Ty was the heart of the family, and with her gone, the remaining family members are scrambling to keep it together. Through each of their grieving processes, the family’s power structures shift as they learn how to properly care for one another. Similar to Christina Sharpe’s “Beauty is a Method”, the Nuclears cope through bringing beauty into their home and through self-expression.

Using the artform of drag, we, the cast, developed these characters through archetypes– the angsty teenager, the wine aunt, the dramatic tween– that relate to our individual and shared experiences in both our blood and chosen families. The project is a celebration of communal living, as it would not have been possible without the shared resources, time, and brain power of our household. Special thank you to Kat Nash, Neve Coppersmith, and Margaret Clisham for bringing the Nuclear family to life!