Manchester University
Oak Leaves

May 12, 2017

Disco Ball

Performers, Audience Have a 'Ball' at Disco Drag Show 

Ciara Knisely 

The Disco Drag Show wooed the audience on Saturday, May 6 in Wampler Auditorium with fun, upbeat and sensual performances throughout the night while raising money for the Center for Nonviolence in Fort Wayne.

An anonymous donor matched all tips given to the students in drag and professional drag queens from Fort Wayne, resulting in over $900 being raised. 

MU’s United Sexualities organizes the event every year, and students eagerly filled the small but intimate space in Wampler. Sounds of laughter, applause and jokes from the emcees between performances made for an amazing night, along with impressive routines from students and the drag queens.

MU alum Darcy Robins hosted the show under the name Isaac Williams, and three guest drag queens dazzled the audience: Kandy Warhol, who is currently Miss Fort Wayne Pride, Ellie Delight, and Dixie Licious. Wigs were lost and shoes were broken, but the malfunctions only made the night more exciting. 

The show began with a performance by Isaac Williams to “Kiss Kiss" by Chris Brown, and a disco ball lit the room in some groovy light to announce the theme. During their powerful solo performance, the audience could see the raw emotion on their face and feel it reflected in the crowd. 

The three professional drag queens ended the show with an encore together on stage. 

United Sexualities worked for months to prepare this event, inviting the drag queens, making decorations and promoting the event, according to senior Jamie Dowdy, president of United Sexualities. 

“This is traditionally the largest student-run campus event during the year,” Dowdy said. “It attracts students, alumni and faculty because it’s a really fun night toward the end of the year and it raises money for a good cause.” 

Along with the professional queens, dozens of MU students participated as well, most performing in groups.

One highlight performance was the group of juniors Clayton Marcum, Ally Roskos and Mykayla Neilson, who performed Julia Michaels' song “Issues." Marcum was the singer of the group, while Roskos and Neilson danced together in a beautiful and heartbreaking performance. 

Roskos showed pride for their performance after the show. “I love that you can change your gender and it won’t matter if people love it,” she said. “It’s a performance.”

It also took a lot of bravery to step onto the stage because of how vulnerable performers become. “At drag shows, it’s accepted to bend gender and do something different,” Roskos said. 

Marcum, who did most of the choreography for their song, also expressed how meaningful the song was for all three of them. “They were doing it as their relationship, and I was doing it as me watching them in my relationship,” he said.

In a complicated society, gender norms become common discussion topics, and drag shows can be a powerful way to explore those norms and break them down. 

Marcum and Roskos explained that, for them, the night was more than just a show. “The power that comes behind it and the support you get from everybody is pretty awesome, especially knowing that some people aren’t as comfortable with themselves,” Marcum said. “That’s the community; that’s drag. It’s empowerment, and it’s messing with society and messing with the norm, and doing it all in a fun way.” 

Similarly, junior Haley Steinhilber performed in multiple groups, including a mashup of many popular 80s hits, along with a trio performance of “Say No to This” from the musical “Hamilton,” along with Ciara Kerckhove and Tabitha Sutton.  

Steinhilber expressed her excitement over the experience. “I love the energy of the room during the show,” she said. “There is an aura of love and affirmation that lights up the room every year, and I never get tired of that.” 

Dowdy also explains a relevant aspect of drag shows in today’s society. “The whole event is a fun way to show how gender can be played with as a fun thing rather than just a strict role we need to adhere to.” 

Steinhilber agreed. “It accentuates feminine and masculine stereotypes that are prominent in our culture—by drawing attention to the idea that we are all in a way, ‘performing’ our genders,” she said. 

Marcum said: “Because everyone is so accepting in that moment, people will open up let those emotions come forward. So, it’s a healthy outlet.”