Drag Show entertains, challenges audience

MALE PERFORMERS DANCE and sing while wearing wigs and dresses to promote thought and debate about the stereotypes we associate with each gender. The performers forced the audience to reconsider the preconceptions they might have had while also keeping the mood light throughout the evening.

On Friday, November 22, the Rensselaer Pride Alliance held the Fall Charity Drag Show: Hope II. While most of the performers were not RPI students, the show brought in many students and members of the Rensselaer community. Proceeds from the show went to the Albany Damien Center.

At the drag show, one student and several local community members danced to songs.

All of them were drag queens—while the gender assigned to them at birth was male, they were wearing clothes and make-up generally associated with females. They wore dresses and exaggerated ladylike movements during their dances. Drag shows are not just to entertain, but to stretch people’s ideas of gender and sexuality.

Prizes were also given away in between dances. Penny Larceny, who announced performers and gave out prizes, made the audience laugh and even brought them to the edge of their comfort zone with the way she gave out prizes. Some of the prizes were meant to represent human anatomy, which brought both laughter and shock to the audience.

Songs the performers danced to included “Happy Days/Get Happy,” “Bourbon Street” (the only RPI student in the show, with the stage name Sandra Change, danced to this song), and “I will Go With You.” They tried to walk and act like women in the songs, sometimes in a very stereotypical way. Some of the dances were meant to be very revealing, again challenging people’s notions of what is appropriate and bringing them to question social norms.

To me, it was hilarious to see how the drag queens interpreted female movements and the female body. It also made me think about the different ways people tend to move based on their gender, and why those movement types exist.

Larceny and some of the other drag queens brought up male students onto the stage for prizes. The students had to take some of their clothes off and suck lollipops while the drag queens cracked jokes and objectified them.

The male students seemed very embarrassed. It was interesting to me to see the metaphor for what many women experience each day—objectification—exhibited in public like that. It was slightly discomforting, but part of the learning experience that a drag show is. I have been to previous drag shows, and enjoyed each one, though the lack of RPI students in this most recent one was sad to me. The first one I went to really shocked me—usually, people don’t talk about these sorts of things in public! Other ones, once I knew what to expect, have been a fun experience in a very open environment challenging dominant cultural norms. Perhaps others who attend will also think about gender and sexuality, as well as how the cultural construct of gender affect our everyday lives.

RPA holds a drag show every semester. I would recommend going to the next one, both for entertainment and to expand your mind. If you would like to watch this past one, it is available on the RPI TV site at http://rpitv.org/productions/631-rpa-charity-drag-show-fall-2013/.