By Zoe Bernardi, Staff Writer
The first drag show to take place in Gorham in over 10 years took over Lower Brooks last Wednesday. The stage lit up with blue, green and purple lights. The audience sat in darkness waiting for student performers to take to the stage.
Backstage, three USM students were getting ready for their debut on the stage, Deborah V. Egan, Strawberry Alarm Clock and Penny Très Cion. All three had never performed at a drag show before, but were intrigued by the art form and the way it allows gender expression. Each performance is done individually, either by karaoke style, a dance or singing.
Sarah Holmes, the Assistant Dean of Students and Deputy Title IX Coordinator at USM is one of the main reasons the show happened. Holmes, along with, David Lewis, Anila Karunakar and others were the head organizers.
This event acted as a prelude to the annual drag show USM hosts in March, the “Royal Majesty Drag Show,” hosted by regional and famous drag queens and kings.
The show has been going on for almost twenty years. What makes USM’s event different from other drag shows is that more than one winner can win the grand prize, since there are different categories, like queen and king, as well as first, second and third places.
The show on Wednesday was important to Holmes because she felt that it would be easier and a safer environment for students to try drag in a smaller setting directly on the Gorham campus.
The larger show will be at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland this year. Holmes hoped that the show brought more excitement to students about drag and allow them to learn more about the art form and community, as well as encourage more students to get involved.
However, this is not the first drag show that has been put on at the Gorham campus. About ten years ago was the last Mr/Mrs drag show. It was apart of a Spring Fling event, but was put on in a more humorous light, and not as a way to show or express the real importance of drag, Holmes said.
Holmes shared that drag is so important as it is increasing in vibrance, that the community is growing and that drag is more exciting than it was before. She explained that drag has been becoming more known and popular due to RuPaul’s drag race, which is a television competition show where drag queens can compete for prizes and title.
Drag allows people to be fluid with gender and play with the way they want to express themselves to their audience. Holmes stated that “there is a strong emphasis on performing with a diverse spread, to share the importance of exaggerated gender.”
The Gorham show was proposed by staff at USM with the help from intercultural student engagement club. At last years “Royal Majesty” drag show, no USM students performed.
One drag queen that performed for the first time last week is a junior at USM who is double majoring in music performance and math.
On stage, he goes by Deborah V Egan, Deborah being a common nickname for them. The last name Egan comes from the artist who song was performed by Deborah. The “V” was used before Egan to create the word “vegan” as a joke when said out loud. Deborah sang the song “Habits” a cover song by Susan Egan by the artist Tove Lo.
Deborah said she was nervous to perform, however, being on stage was not an issue, since she frequently sang solo and has been in theater shows and musicals. She said that she has wanted to try drag for a long time now and was thrilled when USM decided to put on a show.
She was exposed to drag at a young age, “at first I thought it was weird, I was very weirded out.” However once learning more she enjoyed the idea of it breaking the boundaries of gender.
The song choice was due to the retro and old time sound of the cover song by Susan Egan, since Deborah has a lower voice, plus it matched her old soul. She said that the inspiration for her hair and makeup came from watching makeup tutorials. “I looked to Asian queens like Asia O’Hara,” Deborah said.
Another performer, Penny Très Cion, is a junior at USM studying sociology.
Penny did half karoke and half voguing for her performance, a popular drag dance routine. The song of choice was “Let’s Have A Kiki.” A kiki is a popular drag show after party, filled with queens and kings and various other party activities.
Penny said they’ve also wanted to try drag for a while. She was exposed to drag in high school and was intrigued ever since. Penny chose not to sing like Deborah, she said that “it left more room for me to perform.”
Similar to Deborah, Penny also watched makeup tutorials, but since she was in theater both in high school and at USM, she already had experience with stage makeup.
Penny decided to keep the beard she had as an aspect of the makeup. Instead of shaving for the show, she looked up photos about how to do makeup with a beard for reference.
After the show, all three queens were awarded with flowers and swarmed with fans, people asking for pictures and autographs. All of them said they planned on attending the Royal Majesty Drag Show in March.
After their performance, Penny and Deborah were grinning from ear to ear. Penny said that it was “insanely fun” and that she had a performance high. Deborah said she was “just living for it.”
Since both are involved in theater, they said that this performance did not feel any different from the previous times they were on stage. However, at the same time it was a completely different performance because the audience also played a role.
Advice that Deborah and Penny would give to those who are interested in doing drag or trying it out is not to “get too hung up on the drag races on TV. Don’t compare what you have to them.”
Penny quoted something that drag queen Valentina often said, “live your fantasy.”