All the campus is a stage

Hamline’s Spectrum hosted their annual drag show on April Fool’s Day, but the performances were no joke. From singing to burlesque, the queens of the night left jaws on the floor and gender binaries in the bin.

Cathryn Salis, Sports Editor

Sophomore Katie Mikesell under the stage name The Bimbo Priestess performed their first burlesque routine to the song “Feeling
Good,” using a lesbian pride flag fan as a prop. (Jacob ‘Coby’Aloi)

Drag has been an important part of theatrical and LGBTQ+ spaces since the 19th century, but has never been more celebrated and embraced than it is today. Hamline’s LGBTQ+ affinity organization, Spectrum, hosted their annual Amateur Drag and Cabaret Show on April 1, spotlighting four talented performers from Hamline’s undergraduate student body. 

Senior Kade Steiner, senior Bridget Benson, junior Essence Boe as The Mistress and sophomore Katie Mikesell as The Bimbo Priestess all took to the stage to showcase their talents that are closely related to the drag scene.

The president of Spectrum, sophomore Kimia Kowsari, emceed for the night and helped the audience understand the rules of drag shows. One of the most important rules is that the audience shows their appreciation by tipping the performers. Performing in any capacity is draining and drag is not financially forgiving, as such, audience members are asked to partake in the tipping etiquette of drag shows. Venmo was an option for tipping to encourage everyone in attendance to pay the performers. 

Kowsari helped to put on  and host the show, providing attendees with coloring pages, pronoun pins and many opportunities to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community. There was a “not safe for work” ring toss and free condoms provided by the Sexuality and Gender Diversities Program (SGDP) at Hamline. 

“I don’t know about you, but in my high school, this wasn’t really done, but I think that uncomfortability…I feel like it’s important. Everything good came out of people starting to feel uncomfortable about things,” Kowsari said. 

The open conversation about sexuality that is afforded through spaces such as Spectrum and SGDP has been influential on the health and safety of young LGBTQ+ folk in the past few decades. 

“As a gay person of color, it’s nice to talk about the disparities and the issues with the community [for] BIPOC [members]…I’m able to use my work at SGDP and Spectrum simultaneously and make the community better for us specifically,” Kowsari said. 

Junior Essence Boe under the stage name The Mistress sang the song “One Dance” and captivated the audience with their stage presence. (Jacob ‘Coby’Aloi)

The performers for the night were of the same mind as Kowsari and saw the performance as a way to own their power and autonomy of body and mind. 

“I think Spectrum and the existence of it is really about making us feel good and feel like a part of the community without being hidden and that can happen on a lot of other college campuses, where anyone who is identifying differently is really hidden away,” Boe said. “As a Black woman, I really just want to feel special and there’s definitely a power to that.”

Boe, known on stage as The Mistress, gave a live vocal performance of  “One Dance.” They were the third act of the night, followed by Mikesell in their debut burlesque performance. 

“Burlesque is not just about sex. It’s about empowerment and feeling sexy,” Mikesell said. “There is an aspect of it that is liking feeling desired by your audience, but it’s not just about that. It’s about acceptance of self and acceptance of body image and feeling beautiful and feeling sexy, but not only in a sexual way.”

The first two performances of the night were singing acts. Steiner warmed up the audience with ease with their guitar-accompanied rendition of “American Pie.” Benson followed with the theatrical number “Changing My Major” from the Tony Award-winning musical “Fun Home.” 

“[Fun Home] really paved the way for more musicals about queer identities, particularily AFAB [assigned female at birth] people…and giving people a little bit more insight into the queer stories that are told onstage through musical theatre and how important it is to support queer stories, queer identies and bodies on stage,” Benson said. “It can be fun, it can be comedic and it can be heartwarming, it doesn’t just have to be the sad stuff.”

Senior Bridget Benson captured audience member’s hearts
with her performance of “Changing my Major” from the
musical “Fun Home.” (Jacob ‘Coby’Aloi)

The show attracted a variety of audience members, all of whom were the intended target for the educational and exciting activities and performances. For many attendees, this was the first drag show they had been to. No matter their experience in the world of drag, all were welcome to enjoy and learn. 

“I hope some people come in here and they’re a little uneasy about things because they’re new to this or they just don’t understand. By the end of the night, maybe they’ll feel a little more comfortable, because gay people aren’t gonna go away, specifically on Hamline[‘s] campus, so might as well get into it now, figure some things out, learn some more,” Kowsari said. 

Engaging in the performer’s work and attending shows is one of the best ways to show support. Following Boe’s cosplay account, reignfrog on instagram, is an example of a simple way to become active in supporting their craft and art.

“This is really about empowering our bodies. Empowering our voices. Making us feel powerful,” Boe said. “I just feel so good being up on stage like this.”