By Staff Writer Eric Sousa.
I can say with confidence that, up to this point in my life, I have never seen a drag queen dressed as Hillary Clinton accept dollar bills on a stage to a musical rendition of her campaign speech. After last Thursday, at the Annual UMass Dartmouth Drag Show, I can no longer claim that same innocence.
Having never been to a drag show before, I was unsure what to expect out of the occasion. All I knew was everybody who had gone last year was ecstatic about attending again. So, ever-willing to try new things, I attended. I am supremely happy I did. After all, it was a benefit for the LGBT Youth Symposium. So with no idea of what to expect, I entered the auditorium.
The crowd’s energy was electric, unlike anything I had experienced at a UMass event thus far. It was packed. By the time the show started, there were people already content with standing in the back instead of hunting for the sparse free seats in the establishment. When the curtains opened, the clamoring crowd fell silent.
Complete Destruction sauntered to the stage in full drag, dressed as a wicked witch. Well-worded, with clipping tones and clearly well-accepted banter, they started the performances off with introductions.
Complete Destruction was not alone in their performance. Other talented drag queens shared the spotlight at this fundraiser, each bringing their own unique spin to the culture. Their detailed costumes were designed to unsettle and inspire. Each act went at its own pace, without feeling redundant or re-used.
Ninny Nothin did a routine as Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, albeit with dance moves Dorothy would have struggled to do. Pulp appeared on stage with devil horns and a beard full of rich, red glitter. “Paint it Black” was a featured song for a horror drag routine, slow and somber. Their diverse performances did not disappoint the crowd, seeming only to further pique their interest.
However, the most unique element of the show had to be the crowd’s willingness to shower the stage in donation dollars. They would either toss their money on their stage or approach the performers, handing dollar bills up to them as they continued their routines. People’s reactions to getting even a second of specific attention from these performers left them ecstatic and glowing as they ran back to their seats.
In a world of straight-laced performances and condescending attitudes towards non-binary attitudes, it was truly a breath of fresh air to see a troop of people casually obliterate the eggshells folks normally walk on. Hosted by UMass Alumni and drag-culture extraordinaire, Complete Destruction, the event kicked off with a bang.
Complete Destruction’s commentary was on point as well; after the Clinton Routine, she commented on our, “Tangerine Mussolini of a President,” critiquing our current political environment. Politics aside, they brought a sense of acceptance to the wilderness of self-exploration.
When a tech worker came out on stage to collect money, Destruction said, “Oh, why isn’t he cute… wait, I shouldn’t use assuming genders. Maybe he’s actually a thousand snakes in a skin suit. Wouldn’t that be embarrassing?”
These dry-comedy comments on such a foreign subject matter to the vanilla public were intensified by the fact that they were being said by a drag queen currently dressed as the Phantom of the Opera. However, the sentiments expressed throughout the show deserve to be revisited. Destruction fired gem after gem, such as, “Everyone is entitled to their own sexuality, they tried telling us that binary systems worked, and, well-,” quick gesture to a horror drag queen dressed as a seductive Beetlejuice- “Look how that turned out.”
The positive accepting energy and response to well-meaning shouts from the crowd, all helped the show move along at an enjoyable and memorable speed. The crowd was calling for encore when it came to an end; but if it was up to them I doubt the show would’ve ended before midnight.
Jamie Doyle, tech worker for the show and Dartmouth Sophomore, stated they were just as animated off stage as they were on stage. “Complete Destruction and the other performers were friendly, hilarious, and overall a great crowd to work with. They stayed hyped up the entire time backstage,” he said with a grin.
The Drag Show worked hard to take people’s sense of normalcy and rip it to shreds on the stage. There were multiple acts that caused the audience to respond with shock and awe, and often with dollar bills being thrown at the stage. Their on-stage dialogue was suggestive, sultry, and profoundly well-worded. It was risqué. It was artistic. It was profoundly unique. It was the perfect example of what can happen when we take people’s weirdness and make a culture of acceptance around it.
In a post-show interview, I caught a few rushed words with Complete Destruction before they were swept away by other fans. As an Alumni, they were happy to return to their stomping grounds. Pleasant, cordial, and ever in character, they stated their love for this. “It’s always a little terrifying to be on stage, but its worth it.” As I was leaving, I overheard her respond to a fan’s clamoring with a quick repose, “Thank you so much, I think inspiring a true moment of WTF is the best review we could ask for.”
Complete Destruction and the assorted insanity of a cast that followed most certainly gave UMass Dartmouth enough WTF moments to hold us over until next year.
As the illustrious Pulp said when somebody asked for some words of wisdom, “Live. Laugh… Lube.” If that doesn’t summarize the show succinctly, I’m not sure what could.
If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, I highly suggest coming next year to see how wrong you really are.
PHOTO COURTESY: ERIC SOUSA