On Saturday, Aug. 28 at 9 p.m., Rosse Hall was filled with a kind of anticipation that had seemed dormant since the start of the pandemic. “Kickin’ it with the Queens,” a drag show hosted by the Office of Student Engagement and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI), was about to begin. Within reduced capacity guidelines, every possible seat was filled.
Before the Columbus-based performers took the stage, slides with facts and trivia about the culture and history of drag were projected onto a large screen. These slides included key reminders, such as the fact that performing in drag is not the same as being transgender. This ensured audience members had a clear understanding of the fun that was about to unfold.
“Kickin’ it with the Queens” isn’t the first time drag queens have graced the Rosse stage. Back in 2019, former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Nina West headlined an event to usher in the new academic year. One of the drag queens from the 2019 show, Cherry Poppins, served as the emcee for this year’s performances.
“I love coming to Kenyon,” Cherry Poppins said at the start of the show. “You match my energy.”
Cherry Poppins was arguably the star of the night. Her lip-syncing performances, costume and wig changes, and interactions with the crowd produced vigorous cheers at every turn. She also invited audience volunteers to the stage for an opportunity to make the best orgasm sound — an endeavor that seems like it would be awkward, but was mostly just fun and hilarious thanks to the comfortable atmosphere she fostered.
The other performers also did a great job. Unlike the 2019 event, “Kickin’ it with the Queens” also included two drag kings — Logan Jaymes St. James and Riley Poppyseed — who each brought the house down with their swagger and humor. Drag queen Eris Gray’s use of props was quite amusing, and she stayed cool and professional despite some technical difficulties during her set.
ODEI Associate Director Timothy Bussey said it was rewarding to bring back a night of drag to campus after so long.
“I’m so grateful that we were able to safely organize this event for our campus community, and I’m equally thankful for the students who shared how much this program meant to them,” Bussey said.