The UC Theatre hosts drag show
By Rashee Taneja, Staff Writer
Valentine’s Day is an over-the-top celebration of romance, so why not celebrate it with over-the-top performances of Bay Areas drag queens, and what love means to them? Chocolates, roses, candies, and romantic dinners set the tradition. Starting a new tradition, the UC Theatre in Berkeley hosted “Valentine’s a Drag,” a drag show to honor the holiday, on Feb. 19, 2020. The show was for all ages, genders, broken hearts, and couples alike to enjoy the romantic season with lovely drag queens.
If you didn’t know, drag is a form of performance art based around fashion and gender. Through transformative makeup and fashion, you can become the character of your dreams. With its origins in the LGBT community, drag shows combine dancing, singing, acting and more. It’s vivacious, comedic, and has created a feel for the audience to jump in and enjoy their time with the people performing.
This was the UC Theatre’s very first non-profit drag event put together by four of the theater’s interns: Naomi Harrison-Clay, Cheryl Cushing, Arianne Brione, and Isiah Upshaw. Upshaw had an informational booth set up for people interested in joining the internship.
For drag performer Elizabeth Winters, preparing for a performance is very challenging: deciding what makeup to apply, outfit to wear, which song to play, and arranging the choreography. Her preparation paid off–her opening performance wooed the crowd and enchanted them with her dance. She dressed in a long-sleeve orange bodysuit, dancing along each row gracefully. It may look simple to the eyes of the audience, but not for Winters.
She said every aspect is choreographed: “The anticipation. The hips, the makeup, [making] sure your wig’s on right, and everything is perfect.”
She said knowing that the crowd felt her every vibe made her more confident in each step, and she encouraged the audience to move along with her. As the performance closed, the audience died down until the next performer came on.
After Elizabeth Winters, the host played a raffle game with the audience. The raffle is interrupted by the appearance of a tall, slender figure, with long black hair, dressed in a red bodysuit, wearing a white long sleeve cape. She introduced herself to the audience as Poison Oakland, a young woman born, raised, and married to the city. Poison Oakland yelled out “Love!”–reminiscent of RuPaul, famous drag queen of the popular show, RuPaul’s Drag Race–and began dancing to “Love Fool,” by The Cardigans. The audience was mesmerized by her moves, and couples began dancing with each other. Each leap or jump made the crowd more excited, desiring more.
For Poison Oakland, dancing has always meant everything.
“When I get cheers and tips, it makes me want to perform as best I can so I can wow everyone in the room,” she said. Poison Oakland said she has always dreamed of dancing and performing, and now it’s her passion.
After Poison Oakland, the lights dimmed and began flashing red in the background as Phoebe Cakes began a somber song with an invisible violin and a sad expression on her face. Cakes dragged the crowd through heartbreak before she gradually changed the mood and burst into the next song. She brought two back-up dancers on stage to participate in the act. Their act brought a comedic feel while seducing the audience with their dancing skills.
The room transitioned from light to dark, and a woman crept out from the red curtains swaying with her long pink hair. The headliner Mala made her appearance to cheers from the audience. Mala had the longest performance, and she said preparing took a total of four hours. She changed her clothes, wigs, music, choreography in between each song. For Mala, connecting to the audience is something that matters the most.
“I really like breaking the fourth wall, like when I’m performing I just have to communicate the song to them,” Mala said. Being able to connect with the crowd through her performance is something that drives her to perform the best she possibly can.
Love has no gender or color to it, and “Valentine’s a Drag” helped the audience lean into the over-the-top performativity and opulence of the holiday. Performers brought heartbreak, seduction, and connection. In the words of RuPaul, “Everybody says love!”