Amateur Drag Show to defy gender expectations through cosmic themes

Kelley Czajka, Reporter


In an inter-galactic showdown, six students will compete for a chance to perform alongside professional Chicago drag stars in Rainbow Alliance’s space-themed Amateur Drag Show this weekend.

The show is a chance for students of all levels of experience to experiment with drag in a supportive environment, co-producer and Communication sophomore Ross Cohen said. The top three performers, chosen by either an audience vote or a judge panel, will proceed to Northwestern’s professional Drag Show on March 12, in which they will perform alongside professionals from the Chicago drag scene.

“We figured with the success of Star Wars right now and all the exciting things happening in the field of astronomy — water on Mars and all that, ‘The Martian’ being nominated for best picture — we figured it was relevant and cool,” Cohen said. “And gender is, after all, the final frontier.”

This year’s show will be bigger and more diverse than past years’, co-producer Yamari Lewis said. Last year, there were four amateur performers, whereas this year, there will be six, the Weinberg sophomore said. Lewis added that this year’s amateur show also predominantly features drag kings, rather than the usual dominance of drag queens.

Lewis said the production team thought this year’s theme of space could be used well for decorations and publicity. For instance, the set of the show will feature glow in the dark stars, she said.

Cohen added that the performers have the choice of whether or not to incorporate the theme in their acts.

“Some of them already have set acts that they want to do,” he said. “If they want to lip-sync a song involving space, that would be great. If they want to become a weird, gender-amorphic alien, perfect.”

Lewis said acts are usually individual and consist of lip-syncing and dancing. However, Cohen added that this year there will also be one duo performance and one performer who is considering doing slam poetry.

A lot of the students involved have not done drag before, so this is their first foray into the art form, Cohen said. Because of this, the creators of the show did not specify what acts had to include in order to allow the performers to try new things, he said.

Lewis emphasized the importance of this event for giving student drag artists a moment in the spotlight.

“Definitely not everyone at Northwestern is familiar with the downtown drag scene or shows like this at all,” Lewis said. “It’s a good opportunity for those marginalized groups to be like, ‘Hey!’ This is an opportunity to get some exposure.”

Cohen said people love the event, and last year’s drag show was well-attended and well-received. He said he hopes this year’s event will bring the NU community together, in drag, and challenge pre-existing notions of masculinity and femininity.

“I can’t wait to don drag again,” Cohen said. “I’m producing, not performing, but you know I’m going to be there in makeup and heels. I just love that this is a space where I can do something different.”

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