The Memorial Union transformed from meeting place and eatery to an elaborate runway surrounded by people waiting to be wowed by professional and student drag queens and kings alike for the University of Maine Drag Show on Saturday night, which concluded Pride Week.
As seats were taken and the area surrounding the runway became standing room only, music filled the air as the lights lowered to welcome professional drag queen Des O’Deria, who emceed the majority of the show.
She quickly had the crowd laughing and the energy running high as she cracked jokes and asked provocative questions.
“Pride Week is a celebration of our differences, as well as our similarities,” said Kelsey Flynn, fourth-year secondary education student and treasurer of Wilde Stein, who later performed as drag king Papa New Guinea.
One of the more memorable performances was that of professional queen Violencia, who has been featured in the UMaine Drag Show in previous years. She stepped out from behind the curtain with an elaborate ’60s hairdo, holding a wide piece of fabric in front of her as “Good Morning Baltimore” from the musical “Hairspray” began to play.
When the vocals of the song began, Violencia dropped the cloth and strutted down the runway in refined schoolgirl attire, reminiscent of Tracy Turnblad herself. A can of hairspray acted as a perfect prop for the plucky performance.
A series of student performances opened the three-hour show, including an exciting piece featuring Charleston Snapdragon McFisticuffs, known to most as Lindsey Miller, a fourth-year environmental and ecological sciences student and vice president of Wilde Stein.
Miller sported artistically applied facial hair and a furry horned hat, and was accompanied by the mysterious performer Sex Robot.
“I’ve been obsessed with drag queens since my first show,” she said. “It takes an incredible amount of charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to get up on a stage as the opposite sex and perform in front of hundreds of people. I have a lot of fun as my drag persona and I do things that my normal female self wouldn’t, including dancing in a Speedo with a cucumber in it in front of my peers.”
The show took on a serious tone when Des O’Deria asked the crowd if they or any of their friends had ever suffered bullying, or known anyone who committed suicide as a result of being bullied.
“Never feel like you are alone, because you are not,” she said.
Des O’Deria then invited the crowd to sing along to the following song, “Hallelujah,” and to think about those who were affected by bullying. The crowd fell quiet as the song played and Bex Hickman, coordinator of GLBT services, and Michael Carillo, who performed that night as Barbara Straightman, silently held the pride flag for all to see on stage.
Looking like a majestic butterfly in pink tulle wings that spanned over the audience’s heads, UMaine student performer Amanda Fondle took to the stage singing Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway.”
Fondle later explained with a hint of sadness that it was her ninth and final show at UMaine, and it is tradition for retiring queens to perform “Breakaway” as their last number.
Des O’Deria broke out of her emcee role for a few numbers, including Cher’s “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me,” for which she wore a sparkly black dress and easily brought the attitude of her host persona to her solo performance.
Student performer Carpe Damn wore a saucy gray and black outfit to complement a sharply coiffed black bob, performing with a police officer accomplice as well as alone to such tracks as Madonna’s “Die Another Day.” Damn was clearly comfortable onstage and delighted the eager audience.
Ivy League O’Deria threatened to steal the show with a captivating performance to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” as she tossed necklaces to the crowd, as well as during a gravity-defying, physically demanding act which she performed entirely en pointe to Rihanna’s “Umbrella.”
Violencia returned to the stage with Laila McQueen to perform an unforgettable act that began with a familiar voiceover, pulled from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” Fans of the cult classic quickly recognized the rendition of “Sweet Transvestite” and cheers and applause soon erupted throughout the room.
Miller said she was pleased with this year’s attendance.
“The turnout was fantastic, especially the diversity,” she said. “A vast spectrum of people, from members of the GLBT community to fraternity brothers, was in attendance. It’s always a great way to cap off Pride Week.
“It was fantastic this year, full of love and support from the UMaine community, especially in the wake of the pro-life protesters on Monday and Tuesday who [had] posters up about the ‘gay gene’ within 100 feet of the pride flag.”