Drag performer Shayna Puddin' in her first set of the night. Photo by Bryce Guadern.

Love is a Drag!

The student-run drag show group, Gagged, hosted the Valentine’s Day themed show “Love is a Drag” on Feb. 23 in the student-run Platteau art space, a well-known and loved space for artistic expression at Lewis & Clark. Coincidentally, this most recent show landed on the same date of the first drag show thrown by this organization exactly one year ago.

Love is only one of many themes the Gagged hosts mulled over, drawing from an ongoing list of ideas, and the rest was left up to interpretation by performers. Students performed to all different genres of music and explored playful, sensual, sentimental and defiant themes. Likewise, the atmosphere backstage was energetic and invigorating, with students conversing, laughing and helping each other get ready.

Poppa Cherry, known out of drag as Kat Barton ’20, performed at last year’s and the most recent anniversary show.

“When we first started, we only had drag queens, but then a few of us decided we wanted to be drag kings, and here we are!” Cherry said. “When I first did it I was absolutely mortified –– I thought people were going to be super condescending, belittle me for not knowing what drag was, for wanting to be a king instead of a queen, but when we had one of those first workshops, we all came together and it was such a great atmosphere.”

Gagged’s drag shows are a starting point in performance and gender exploration for a lot of people at LC. During intermission, audience volunteers are invited to the stage to strut their stuff and get a taste of performance for themselves in a rowdy Lip Sync For Your Life battle. Although the organization is relatively new, each show has been a resounding success from the outset.

“Last time I was performing at LC it was packed wall-to-wall, it was the first time I had done a show that was that crowded,” Prince Lavender, known as Junix Senner ’20 out of drag, said.

Shayna Puddin’, a spin-off of the Yiddish phrase ‘shayna punim,’ meaning ‘pretty face,’ known as Maya Winshell ’21 out of drag, was responsible for a large amount of the coordination efforts behind this show, along with the Queer Student Union (QSU). Gagged, in association with the QSU, emerged out of a drag community that has existed for several years in a less cohesive manner.

“I’m currently the sole leader and organizer this year, but I didn’t conceptualize the drag show on my own, that started last year,” Puddin’ said.

After being introduced to drag show meetings last year, Puddin’ joined efforts to launch the drag shows at LC, eventually coming to inherit a larger role as many organizing members graduated or moved on to different endeavors.

“It was something that a group of people who all had the same ambition with completely different levels of experience in the drag world put together,” Puddin’ said.

As the sister of a professional drag queen, Puddin’ spent her high-school years practicing makeup application and attending weekly all-ages drag shows.

“That was how I got my entry into the drag world outside of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which is more commodified, materialistic and shaped by viewership,” Puddin’ said.

As a space for queer creative expression and engagement, Gagged has gained a lot of recognition in the year that it has been up and running, and continues to evolve as new people and ideas become involved.

“A lot of change has occurred,” Puddin’ said. “The show itself has gained in popularity. It’s one of those social events on campus that I think people really love coming to because it’s non-academic, low-investment, free, and it’s not something most people get to see in the city unless they’re 21 years old. It’s by students for students,” she said, “who relate to the desire to explore gender and performance.”

Eve Side-Stealer, known as Maddie Orona Burgos ’20 out of drag, was one of multiple students who participated in a drag show for the first time on Saturday.

“As a non-binary person these opportunities are important because I feel like I can literally just do whatever I want,” Side-Stealer said, whose drag name was inspired by their favorite poet Natalie Diaz (recently featured at an LC poetry reading).

While Gagged shows have welcomed former LC students who are professional drag performers––Sue E. Psydoll, known out of drag as Zach Kavanaugh ’18, active in the Portland area, and Anne Thrax, an LC transfer student known out of drag as Laurence Seabrook, now in Los Angeles –– more guest appearances is one of their goals for the future.

Last year, a high school drag performer known as Cosmo Paulitan was featured in a performance at the Halloween show.

“It was so cool to see someone so young living that dream out, and I would love to book more young performers,” Puddin’ said. “I think it would be really cool to have the youth in the city know about this drag show and get to come to a college campus, see a really fun drag show, participate.”

Prince Lavender, who draws on experience in both the LC and the Portland drag world, performed for the second time at LC on Saturday.

“Aside from getting to play with gender and express my gender, community is the other reason why I care about and love drag so much,” Prince Lavender said. “It’s fantastic because you can just participate however you want and not just through performance.”

Puddin’ reports that although the date is not set yet, Gagged is aiming for a second drag show in late March. Gagged has informative pamphlets at the QSU table during the Student Activities Fair in the fall, and also works with the Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) and the Sexual and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center (SMYRC). For students interested in getting involved with Gagged, email mayawinshell@lclark.edu or follow the Gagged Instagram @gagged_lc.

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