“A Night of a Thousand Petals: A Drag Show” was held in Benson University Center on Feb. 12 and was hosted by the Student Union, Spectrum and the university’s theater-service organization, the Anthony Aston Players. The show featured a handful of locally-based drag artists performing both individual and group dances and routines.
Everyone knows the expression “cash is king,” but Anjelica Dust made it abundantly clear that Venmo is fit for a queen.
“F**k yeah, I take Venmo!” said Dust, a drag queen from Greensboro, N.C., and the evening’s host, answering a question about the viability of tipping the performer via the mobile payment service popular with college students.
Dust’s frank response drew laughs from the crowd and effectively broke the ice. Many students in the crowd had never been to a drag show before and didn’t know what to expect, but Dust’s quick wit and innate stage presence seemed to quell any uneasiness the audience may have had.
“I’ve never been to a drag show, or really ever seen an actual drag queen before,” said sophomore Zack Hogan. “I didn’t expect the queens to be so funny or interact with the audience as much as they did.”
Throughout the show, Dust was joined on stage by fellow drag queens Onya Mann, Mrz. Carter, Stacy Layne Matthews and Tia Chanella. While most of the performers, like Dust and Mann, are primarily local acts, Matthews has made a name for herself nationally after competing on the third season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a reality television series that pits drag queens against each other in a pageant-like competition.
The popularity of “Drag Race” has accompanied increasing tolerance of different forms of gender expression and identity. While drag queens have long faced discrimination and misconceptions regarding their craft, there is clear evidence that the conversation around drag is changing, and the art is gaining greater mainstream appeal around the country. In September, the inaugural New York City DragCon attracted nearly 40,000 people.
The show on campus did not see nearly as many attendees, but it certainly wasn’t empty. Students and staff filled the seats before the show as dance music played over the speakers, barely audible over the bubbling conversation in the crowd. Most of those in attendance were students, and the group was a strikingly eclectic mix of all shapes, sizes and colors.
A number of bold souls marched to the front seats flanking the stage and runway, quickly filling the area that would receive much of the performers’ attention, while others sought anonymity in the dimmer back rows.
Many of the faculty and staff members loitered in the back of the room, but two faculty members sitting up front eventually found themselves licking icing off of cupcakes “real dirty” and dancing provocatively at the behest of the ever-enthusiastic Dust.
“C’mon, y’all, I want to see you get nasty!” she said.
They happily obliged, and one of them performed a split that made Dust shriek with excitement.
The performers’ routines were as diverse as the crowd. Mann suggestively straddled some visibly thrilled crowd members to a Britney Spears song. Matthews expertly lip synced a Rihanna anthem that had the entire crowd clapping in unison. Chanella finished her dance and, panting and sweating, asked where she could find “a party in the dorms.”
There weren’t nearly as many rose petals as advertised, but just enough littered the runway to add an air of beauty and elegance that juxtaposed the often risqué product on stage. The crowd wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
“My friend had to go early but there was no way I was leaving,” said senior Anna Quinn. “I want to go to a drag show in Miami next.”