As part of the Pride Theater Festival, Bellevue students put on BC’s first Drag Show/Gay Cabaret on May 29 at the Carlson Theater. The “Drag-Cab,” as it was affectionately called by the cast and crew, is a part of how the Bellevue College Theater Arts program has honored the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots this quarter.
Tammis Doyle first set the stage for a shared LGBT+ themed event with other drama programs in the area. Unfortunately, coordination fell through, and the curtains closed on her dreams of a regional, LGBT+ focused event. However, when a script fails, great directors improvise, and the Pride Theater Festival was born.
Resplendent in his rainbow tie-dye t-shirt and with a pair of roller skates draped around his neck, Asher O’Briant stood in the lobby a few hours before the “Drag-Cab” show. Later, he would channel Tim Curry in those skates while performing “Sweet Transvestite.” When asked about why he performed, O’Briant said, “Putting on drag and being feminine is very fun for me, and I think it’s a good way to show off the feminine side without identifying with, you know, anything.”
Drag has been used by many people to explore their identities, but its roots are performative. Jono Vaughn, a BC professor, said, “Most people who do drag are not trans…They identify as the gender they were born, but they wear drag, in a sense, to perform a gender.” Drag provides a safe place where people might openly express who they are for the first time, and to be proud of who they are without judgement from those around them.
The individual and group performances of the “Drag-Cab” were outstanding. The musical numbers were as enjoyable as the drag performances were exciting. Danny Lacker’s opening solo performance of “I Am What I Am” wasn’t just good, he showed every member of the audience that pride means more than a parade. His voice carried his pride in himself, and all of those who would be on stage with him, deep into the breasts of those watching. His powerful emotion lifted the audience to the rafters and they weren’t put down until the final bows.
Every performer who followed had an infectious attitude that was a joy to behold. Sean Glynn performed “What More Can I Say” from the play “Falsettos” to raucous applause while Levy “Lovey Menn” Menn filled his beard with glitter, bumped “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavigne through the Carlson speakers and danced away with a member of the audience. Kelsey Crane and Jadyn Muralt flexed their pipes in an incredible rendition of ‘Dance With You” from the Tony-nominated “The Prom.”
The “Cab-Drag” is BC’s first drag show, and also the first time some of the actors themselves have experienced drag. Gareth Freese, who sang “Best Worst Mistake” beautifully as a duo with Michael Lacker, said his first experience with drag was “absolutely delightful.” After the show, he said, “To have a celebration of people’s identity and sexuality, in a lot of different forms, whether it’s dance, singing, or dressing in drag…that’s just very cool.”
As every new act entered the stage, it was clear that they were vulnerable, yet passionate and willing to expose themselves, leaping from their shells into full perception. Mrs. Doyle recounted about how her students drove her to bring the pride festival to BC in the first place: “They walk through the world with a pride and bravery that is inspiring to me.”