Former Penobscot Theatre actor among drag queens that performed with Katy Perry on SNL

Eagle-eyed fans of performances at the Penobscot Theatre Company may have noticed a former actor with the company among the crowd of drag queens that performed with pop star Katy Perry on “Saturday Night Live” last weekend.

Jesse Havea has been seen in several PTC productions, including “A Christmas Carol” in 2009, “Forever Plaid” in 2010 and “Cinderella” in 2013. His mother and stepfather formerly lived in Dover-Foxcroft, where Havea lived for a time; his family now lives in Cumberland.

Havea, who performs under the drag persona Brita Filter, can be seen dancing with Perry during her performance of her new single “Swish Swish,” decked out in a shimmering, deep green dress. In fact, you can see Brita Filter in the screenshot that accompanies the below YouTube video — but we recommend watching the whole thing, to get the full, fierce experience.

Havea said he and a number of other New York City drag queens auditioned for the guest spot on Tuesday morning, and he was among the first cast, right on the spot.

“It was an intense process, and the performance changed every five minutes,” said Havea. “We had a 16 hour rehearsal on Wednesday. It was a super intense week. Katy was totally in charge of her artistic vision… they really wanted to see the New York drag and ballroom scene. They wanted us.”


Havea has been performing in the New York drag scene for the past three and a half years, though he credits his performance in PTC’s “Cinderella” — he played one of the evil stepsisters, with Bangor performers Ben Layman and Dominick Varney, all in drag — as being one of the catalysts that got him to move to the city and start his drag career. He’s now a full time drag performer.

L-R Ben Layman, Dominick Varney and Jesse Havea, in PTC’s “Cinderella.” Photo copyright Magnus Stark.

“‘Cinderella’ was the first time I ever did drag. I took the role knowing it would be great practice to go to NYC and be a drag queen. It really opened the door for me,” said Havea. “And it goes even further than that, because I was at the after party for the show at Zen, across the street from the theater, and I met a girl named Brita, and it just clicked that I’d call myself Brita Filter. And that’s stuck. So that really kind of started it all.”


Emily Burnham

About Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native, UMaine graduate, proud Bangorian and a writer for the Bangor Daily News, where she's worked since 2004. She reports on everything from local bands to local food to all the cool things going on in the Greater Bangor area. In her quest for stories, she's seen countless concerts and plays, been lobster fishing, interviewed celebrities, hung out with water buffalo and played in a ukulele orchestra. She's interested in everything that happens in Maine.