On Saturday, April 13, students and community members entered the Collins Center for the Arts (CCA) wearing rainbow colors, high heels and the occasional glitter beard. The University of Maine LGBTQ Services and Wilde Stein: Queer Straight Alliance hosted their 15th annual Drag Show at which many drag queens, kings and gender-benders performed on the CCA stage in recognition of Pride Week, a five-day celebration of UMaine’s LGBTQ+ community.
The evening was hosted by Carrie the One, the drag persona of Rob Jackson, a UMaine staff associate for diversity and inclusion, and Roxxxy Andrews, a two-time contestant on the reality competition television series “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” The two hosts interacted with the crowd, transformed one audience member into drag and held short drag related competitions between introducing each performer.
Roxxxy Andrews performed two lip-syncs, which included “Me Too” by Meghan Trainor and “bloodline” by Ariana Grande, and searched the crowd for her “new straight husband.” Carrie the One spoke to the history and growth of the event, such his experience attending the event as an undergraduate student in the North Pod of the Memorial Union and now having the opportunity to host it in a 1,400 seat theater.
“For me, the drag show is all about visibility and representation,” Jackson said. “We do a lot of events over the course of a year, but none have the kind of audience and reach that the show does. It’s our best chance to make the statement that UMaine aspires to be a place that people can feel safe and encouraged to be their authentic selves, no matter what that looks like for them.”
The show began with Geo Neptune, an indigenous two-spirit person, acknowledging two often forgotten facts: that UMaine is situated on stolen Wabanaki land and that while cisgendered men are often celebrated because of their drag, people of color who identify as non-binary or queer face increased rates of violence.
The show highlighted a variety of different performances, including traditional lip-syncs to pop songs, stand up comedy, and a saxophone rendition of “Careless Whisper” by George Michael.
The oldest performer of the evening, at 105 years old, was Chiquita Bananas, the drag persona of Bananas T. Bear.
The majority of performers were UMaine students or faculty, who were chosen through an audition process which included an audition tape and information about their planned performance.
Mama Martini performed to a mashup which included songs like ABBA’s “Waterloo” and “Womanizer” by Britney Spears. The crowd cheered when Mama Martini performed drag classics, such as a wig reveal and a death drop.
“I love drag, and I think it can be such a great way to play with the idea of gender and what we think we know about masculinity, femininity, and all of the beautiful, amazing things that lie in between the two. Getting to watch my students explore that on such a huge stage is the absolute best,” Jackson said.
The mini competitions held between acts challenged the audience with Roxxxy Andrews trivia, a drag vocabulary quiz and a tongue pop competition which left the entire audience attempting to perfect the Alyssa Edwards effect. The winners were awarded tickets to the Penobscot Theatre’s production of “Fun Home.”
Before the final performances of the evening, Carrie the One returned to the stage to discuss the transgender military ban which went into effect on Friday, April 12, and how to be a supportive ally. Carrie the One noted the importance of cisgender and straight people using their privilege and power to incite social change by highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and offered a heartfelt message to the LGBTQ+ community.
“We see you. We love you. You are valid. If anyone tries to mess with you, you send them to me,” Jackson said.
To close the show, the performers and crew members gathered on the stage to dance together. As “Firework” by Katy Perry played, the performers danced with the crowd and held a banner of the trans flag.
“There aren’t a lot of queer spaces north of Portland, and we were able to create a supportive, loving, magical space for LGBTQ+ folks in our neck of the woods, and if that isn’t worth celebrating, then I don’t know what is,” Jackson said.
To learn about more events like this one, visit the UMaine LGBTQ Services facebook page or follow them on Instagram @umainelgbtq.