Lower Brooks was alive last Saturday with the sound of music, cheers, and “Slay!” as audience members enjoyed a night of drag performances by fellow USM students. Since the Fall of 2021, Residential Assistant (RA) Bryan Spaulding has led the brigade of introducing drag and all of its forms to the USM community through hosting monthly drag shows, and hosting as his drag persona, Letta Dicken.
A casting call was put out to the Gorham campus following the start of the semester for “A Drag Extravaganza: Welcome Home Huskies”. On the advertisement, drag was emphasized as being “for anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.” Spaulding’s outreach attracted a variety of both new and returning performers, including the likes of Carmelita Baraz, BDE, Raye Nessance, Ner Vous, and Hex Vixion.
BDE, making a return to the Drag Extravaganza stage, introduced the evening’s host: “She’s the current reigning, first place winner of the Royal Majesty Drag Show! She’s our residential drag queen! It’s Letta Dicken!”
Letta Dicken, clad in a bejeweled, bubblegum pink dress and her signature blonde hair, was met with applause and cheers from the audience as she took the stage. After greeting the audience, Dicken took the time to educate the audience of proper drag show etiquette. She told the audience to cheer, clap, and proclaim “Werk!”, or “Slay, queen!” as opposed to touching the performers, which helped to set safe boundaries between performers and audience members as to how they can also be involved.
It became clear that there was a diverse range of performances as the night went on. BDE had a firm grip on the audience with their impressive vocal range and soul, encompassing their first performance around smashing the patriarchy, and helping to close the show with an inventive and uproarious performance of “Dead Girl Walking” from the off-Broadway musical, Heathers. Newcomer Raye Nessance took to the dance floor, and busted a move across each of their performances, garnering a lot of applause and cheers through their charismatic charm and movement. Carmelita Baranz made their drag debut through multiple performances of Patsy Cline’s finest, and connecting with the audience through their sensual and captivating performance style. Hex Vixion and Ner Vous each shined on stage through their individual performance styles, engaging the audience through dancing and feeling the vibe of their songs. Finally, in true Dicken fashion, the night’s host drew the audience in with moving throughout Lower Brooks across their various numbers. Hannah Hart ‘22, otherwise known as Anita Dick, returned to the Drag Extravaganza stage after graduating in the spring to assist their drag mother in performing “Popular” from Wicked the Broadway Musical, and bringing the enchanting story to life. Letta Dicken closed the evening with a passionate rendition of “I Am Who I Am” before beckoning the audience farewell.
“There is only a sliver of drag we’re seeing tonight,” Letta Dicken proclaimed. “I urge you to explore and research! There are drag queens, drag kings, drag it’s, drag things…there is so much more out there!” Dicken also urged audience members to consider taking part in the next Halloween-themed drag extravaganza, marking that it will be the one year anniversary since the event’s start on campus.
When asked about why they chose to keep performing in the drag shows from last year, Lizzy Fogg as BDE stated that they felt performing in drag was a very fun and freeing experience for them. “I don’t have to worry about what precedents I’ve set in the past for myself, and being able to come on stage and have a completely different personality that is still me, but just a part of me that I don’t show off very often.”
After watching the drag shows last year, Carmelita Baraz stated that she chose to start performing in them due to the fun-looking nature of the events. “I’ve always been into fun makeup, messing around and trying to look different…all summer long I’ve been ramping myself up trying to get my best look put together in my mind.”
Spaulding as Letta Dicken stated that the importance of the drag shows was to bring the USM population together, as well as to help foster the queer community on campus. “It also makes students feel seen and heard. It’s art. It’s a way to express who we are, and some people don’t have that chance outside of this. So making sure students are feeling seen and heard, and that they’re being represented within the community here is really important.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the drag extravaganzas, and how you can get involved, contact Bryan Spaulding [email protected].