Tucking away the MaineCards that gained them free admission, University of Maine students spilled into a packed Hauck Auditorium on Saturday night, struggling to find vacant seats to the 14th annual drag show. The show served as the culmination of Pride Week, a five-day celebration of the LGBTQ community on campus.
Hosts for the night, Portland-based drag performers Step Mother and Cherry Lemonade, lost their luggage on the 20-minute flight from Portland to Bangor. Yet they still turned the party with looks carefully cultivated at the Bangor Goodwill.
The April 21 event was so popular that some latecomers were turned down at the door of Hauck Auditorium, which reached its capacity of 518 people.
Technically, the show was a drag competition for students, but the performances didn’t have a competitive air. No one was trying to prove anything; it was just young performers having fun, trying a new art form — many for the first time — and celebrating queer culture. There were drag kings as well as queens, some in heavy makeup and wigs with others sporting only eyeliner. One queen performed stand-up comedy while others tested the limits of how many death drops they could nail without injury. Bananas the Bear made a guest appearance in his most sensual gig to date. Most performances included lip syncs to songs popular with drag performers — Beyonce, Cardi B, Lady Gaga — or tracks released by stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race, including Alyssa Edwards, Aja, Alaska Thunderf and Gia Gunn, whose catchphrase “stun” was borrowed liberally throughout the show.
The show, which ran from 7:30 p.m. to almost 10:30 p.m., was interspersed with performances by the hosts, who have made careers as professional drag queens. In one song, Step Mother played a parody of a burnt-out mother, gleefully tossing baby dolls into the audience, and in the next, a woman scorned, wishing ill upon her husband’s mistress. Cherry Lemonade sang live, delivering a perfectly-belted cover of Celine Dion’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now.”
Cherry Lemonade and Step Mother closed the show with a game of Drag Roulette, where contestants took the stage one by one to perform to a randomized song, before crowning winners in three categories: best group, best king and best queen.
“I went into it blind and didn’t really know what it was all about, so I think that was great in terms of not having biases prior to the performances,” third-year student Kai La Spina said. “I think it’s a really fun community that gives a lot to members of the LGBT community, and I’ll definitely attend next year’s performance.”
It was clear throughout the performance that the energy in the auditorium was unique, a safe bubble where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and members of the UMaine community could watch and partake in an art form catered to them. “I felt so connected to the LGBT community,” Kristopher Dow, a secondary education student, said.
“The audience and performers were so welcoming,” first-year student Kortney French said. “No matter how you identified, you belonged there. It was a safe and fun night for a diverse minority that needed it most.”