The phrase “drag show” likely inspires visions of performers strutting around a grand stage doused in glitter and shimmering under the swirl of multicolored spotlights, a vision that may not translate neatly to a small auditorium in a community college.
Scorning the idea that drag should only be enjoyed in a big city ballroom or in an armchair pointed at a television, the queens of the Binghamton area, alongside students who doubled as junior queens for the evening, exploded the Angelo Zuccolo Little Theatre at Broome Community College (BCC) in a flurry of sequins, dollar bills and mid-century groove hits on Oct. 18 for “A Night of Drag.”
The performance benefited the BC Center, a childcare center accessible to the students and staff of BCC. Tables at the event draped in rainbow hues were manned by volunteers from the student body and the Binghamton Pride Coalition, a group founded in 2005 to facilitate a more open and visible space for those who identify as part of the LGBTQ community.
The Coalition often works with the drag community for various benefits and events. The group was contacted about the opportunity to table at the event and promoted the drag show on their Facebook page, which is how Lauren, ‘10, a former dancer who attended the show, was introduced to the event.
This was not Lauren’s first time being entertained by the dramatic flair that can only be captured by a drag queen in a heavy wig and even heavier heels, and she said she appreciates the “chance for people to express themselves in a different way.”
Lauren noted that “A Night of Drag” contrasted with previously seen drag shows in that the “younger generation” of student performers were “redefining drag” in terms of their music and dress preferences. In fact, the contrast between the experienced and student performers was stark. The professional queens stuck to a heavily disco-inspired set, dancing in fluffy wigs and chunky platform boots to classics like Peaches & Herb’s “Shake Your Groove Thing” and Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls,” while the student queens stomped around to emo-punk anthems in leather, chains and, for performer Rusty Lock, a fully painted skeleton visage.
For Lock, a BCC student and a newcomer to the drag community, the event was an opportunity to showcase her talents in front of a crowd that included family and friends. Chris Waters, an administrator for the Coalition, said the mission of the organization, as well as the Binghamton drag community, is to provide any person with a few spare bills and a hankering for the theatrics with an opportunity to see a drag show firsthand.
“The drag community has really made drag more mainstream, holding shows at all different kinds of venues,” Waters wrote in an email.
According to Waters, Pride Palooza, the annual event that is central to the work of the Coalition, brings tons of people to Downtown Binghamton, helping economic development. He said that drag is also instrumental in local fundraisers.
“The drag community itself has done so much for the community raising thousands and thousands of dollars for organizations and people,” he wrote.
The city is responding as the drag community gains momentum in the size and enthusiasm of its local fan base. The 2019 Pride Palooza event was sponsored by the City of Binghamton. Lauren also pointed out the same trend in the “A Night of Drag” event itself, praising the college for “putting on an event that is so progressive.”
“We are very fortunate as we have been very well accepted, and Broome County and the city of Binghamton has really embraced the community,” Waters wrote.