On the night of Friday, April 12, the May Room will be full of glitter, lights, and royalty. The Spring Drag Show, hosted by UR Pride Network, will feature student drag queens and kings as well as those from the greater Rochester area.
Early forms of traditional drag began to appear in the late 1800s but did not become widespread until after the Gay Rights Movement in 1969. Drag shows did not arrive on college campuses until much later, but they have since become a common event at most campuses, including Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and St. John Fisher College.
This event has a long history at UR and has become a biannual event.
“The show has been going on as long as Pride can remember,” president of Pride Network and sophomore Clint Cantwell said. “It’s been in the budget for years. Drag itself is the cornerstone of gay culture.”
This year’s spring show plans to be bigger and better than ever with more student performers, including the first ever performer from the Eastman School of Music, junior Keenan McKoy. Samantha Vega, a local drag queen who frequently performs at Tilt Nightclub, will host the event. She is a graduate of RIT and, “is more than happy to help all of us at UR,” Cantwell said. “She’s always so excited to help a student do drag.”
The performers plan to not only strut their stuff on stage but also interact with audience members.
“People will be able to interact with the performers. I know I’m planning on coming out and talking to people in the audience before the show,” said freshman and publicity representative for Pride Network Shawn Bihler.
The show has gotten more and more popular in recent years.
“In the past, the show hasn’t been as interactive,” Cantwell said. “This year in the spring and the fall, we have themes, we have people in costume, we have ‘candy whores” throwing candy at the audience,” said Cantwell.
U of R’s drag show is small in comparison to other college campuses mostly because of Pride
Networks smaller budget. When asked about possible sources of funding, Cantwell responded, “I know there are some scholarships available [for events] but it’s hard to link a theme like responsibility to a drag show.” Cantwell believes, as one might expect, that the administration isn’t truly aware of the high cost of bringing a famous drag queen to an event.
According to Cantwell, St. Johns Fisher College is able to offer their show for free because of their larger budget. RIT has many gay pride groups on campus and therefore is able to host a larger event. But compared to other colleges, U of R Pride group is proud to say we have one of the largest number of student performers of any other college in the area.
One might expect this show to come up against controversy but that’s not the case at U of R. “The only thing we are up against is other events going on around campus. Sometimes people would prefer to go to them because they don’t know what a drag show is or how much fun it is. Personally, I think it’s more fun than some of the acapella shows can be because it’s more interactive and more personal,” said Cantwell. “Most people have been supportive because it’s a pretty liberal campus.”
An event like this is extremely important in diversifying campus and creating an awareness of gay pride. “I think it’s important to campus because it gives you a better understanding of what the gay culture and drag culture and how they interact,” said Bihler.
There are many preconceived notations about what the show is really about. “This show can be a lot more than just a night of sex jokes and people dancing around,” said Cantwell. He believes that it is a night to encourage self-confidence and beauty in all students, gay and straight. He tells stories about being dressed up in drag and being complimented by obviously self-conscious students. In drag, Cantwell is able to remind them how beautiful they are themselves.
When asked about plans for future years, Cantwell hopes to see the show get even bigger. “Maybe get two queens?” he said with a smile.
Both Cantwell and Bihler also hope that future years will draw an even bigger crowd and possibly bring the colleges together for one big show. They also hope to expand the show to all parts of the student population. “I’d like to see more students get involved, including more straight students,” said Cantwell. “It would be amazing to see a YellowJacket [singer] dress up in drag or even a football player.”
Sanguinetti is a member of the class of 2015