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Gay Straight Alliance hosts drag show

March 12, 2020

The UW-River Falls Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) hosted a drag show, a running tradition for almost two decades, in the University Center on March 7.

A drag show is a form of art and entertainment where various performers dress up and sing, dance or lip sync to a song.

“Drag is very encompassing and anybody can do it as long as you’re comfortable. A lot of it is creating a persona. A lot of that persona is how people would like to see themselves, or it’s just an entirely different person from themselves,” said Bear Martin, co-chair of the GSA.

Drag show
A performer in the drag show collects tips, which the Gay Straight Alliance plans to invest into future programming. (Photo by Andrew Iverson)

Sara Meyer is the university conference coordinator. She said the first event like this began in about 2004. Some years the drag show takes place in fall and spring, however this year it only took place in the spring.

Community members as well as past and present students were able to sign up to be part of the event. Performers were able to choose a song and routine to go with it. The day before the show, the stage was set up and those involved were given a few hours to practice, according to Martin.

Martin said the UWRF drag show featured two drag queens and one drag king who regularly perform in the twin cities, and performed at UWRF in the past. The drag queens were Carmen Love and Tawnya Tootsieroll, and the drag king was Ty Tores.

Outside of the routine itself, getting ready can take several hours. According to Martin, “I’ve seen professional queens come in at about 3:30 in the afternoon, and it takes them until about 6:30 to be fully ready in makeup, dress and there’s a lot that goes into it.”

This is one of the only drag shows in the area, accoring to the Gender and Sexaulity Outreach Coordinator Nathan Riel-Elness.

“Besides the professional shows that happen in the cities, Eau Claire is the next closest school to have one,” said Riel-Elness.

Each year since about 2011, GSA has donated the proceeds to the St. Croix Valley Sexual Assault Repsonse Team (SART). Due to recent changes, GSA was only able to donate the proceeds from the intermission. Martin said this would be between $200 to $400.

SART uses the donations to support an annual community event that provide a space for sexual assult survivors and allies to gather to learn about sexual violence, as well as the healing processes.

“This partnership is important to SART because the UWRF Drag show is all about consent and that is a value we support and actively teach in the community. Consent is so very important to understand and help in the stop of sexual assault,” said Annelise Hughes, the SART advocacy and community outreach coordinator.

This year, funding for the drag show came from the office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB). The show costs about $1,000 to put on.

Riel-Elness said DIB had some funds dedicated to helping student organizations plan programs, offering an alternative to single event funding. Due to rules in the UW-System, student organizations receiving single event funding can not donate the proceeds.

“It’s always been really important to GSA to do fundraising for SART, so with our office helping fund the event, they’re able to still make a charitable contribution,” said Riel-Elness.

Martin said the drag show is a somewhat family friendly way to spend a night. He said: “That representation here helps people know what’s going on and gives them a new form of art. I think it’s fun, it’s relatable at times and it brings the campus together.”

GSA has plans to reinvest the tips from the night to fund future shows.