CSUEB embraces drag in 5th annual show
February 1, 2017
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Laughter and make-up powder filled the dressing room at Cal State East Bay’s University Theater as drag queens prepared their finishing looks and began to get into character in preparation for an evening of big wigs, singing, lip syncing, dancing, jokes, props and audience participation.
Co-hosts Scarlett Letters and Laundra Tyme hosted the fifth annual event, put on Jan. 27 by the university’s Diversity and Inclusion Student Center. As students and staff filed into the theater for the show, music by RuPaul and other upbeat pop ballads played, setting the tone for a night of drag entertainment
Soon the music faded out, lights switched off and a single spotlight lit up the stage. The crowd erupted as Tyme came out in a light green pantsuit and performed her lip syncing rendition of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of my Heart.” As she swayed across the stage with outstretched arms, it was as if time rewound and everyone was watching a show from the 1960s.
Tyme’s 1960s aesthetic is one of her signature looks. She described her style as “a cool mom, power beige, the absence of color.” But there’s a deeper reason why Tyme and many other drag performers chose to stay vintage in their routines. The 1960s and 1970s were a revolutionary time for the art of drag and the queens apart of the movement.
According to the website HashtagDrag, the visibility of drag queens increased alongside that of LGBT communities in the late 1960s. By one estimate cited in the seminal book on early drag queen culture, “Mother Camp,” the United States was home to about 500 regularly performing drag queens by July 1966.
Performers often choose routines cultivating vintage themes so the audience can get a taste of drag roots, especially if in a setting where there are newcomers who haven’t seen a drag show before.
“I’m definitely doing old school drag, with some old standards, especially disco,” performer Vivvyanne Forevermore! said.
Suppositori Spelling was the first to jump into the audience mid-performance. She hair flipped, lip synched, stood on the seats and surprised the audience by running out of the theater at one point.
Another long time returning performer, Honey Mahogany, expressed the sultry and sexy side of drag. While her performance was more of a monologue, that did not stop her from doing a chair dance that left the crowd mesmerized.
Vain Hein took the stage riding in on a pink toddler car while holding a naked male doll. As green hues spilled over the stage and techno pop blasted, Vain Hein did a contemporary piece. She teased and licked her doll while rolling around the stage and shaking her big pink wig to the music.
No one act was like the other, and each drag queen had their own individual look. The majority of the queens at the Jan. 27 performance got their start at Stud-SF, a gay bar in San Francisco with specific drag nights, and have now performed all over San Francisco, the Bay Area and even as far as the UK.
“We have a real theater now,” Honey Mahogany said. Laundra Tyme continued, “It used to just be a conference room kind of thing.”
A few days after the inauguration on Jan. 20, Trump administration officials removed LGBTQ content from federal websites. When asked about the recent actions, the queens had a good laugh. “Personally, it lights a fire into my ass,” Vain Hein said. “As an artist who writes and produces my own music, it just makes me want to be weirder and keep doing more work. It’s my way of expressing and pushing against everything that was pushed against me my entire life.”