Section: Arts

Horn Gallery drag show celebrates queer joy and identity

Horn Gallery drag show celebrates queer joy and identity

Performers embraced queer joy. | COURTESY OF ARI RUSTAD

“We are in for a fruitful evening,” emcee Naya Jayaram ’26 announced in a deadpan voice, in character as “George W. Butch.” The crowd erupted into cheers. They huddled around a runway in the middle of Horn Gallery on Friday night, drawn by the allure of the fashionable pizzazz, riotous queer music and gender anarchy that drag shows often promise. 

The show ran a taut half hour, each act thrilling in its own way. The performances served drag in its most classic recipe: campy choreography, lip-sync-for-your-life vitality and fun theatrics. “Doreen O’ Lectra and the Coochie Boppers,” led by Lucas Dunst ’24, took the stage first, cloaked in trench coats and strutting to the thumping beat of “Sodom & Gomorrah” by Dorian Electra, a queer hyperpop icon. The performance kicked off with a bang when the performers took off their coats to reveal their costumes — Dunst in a self-described “Irish rococo e-girl” two-piece bodycon dress and their two backup dancers, Sarah Bahm ’24 and Theodore Schwamm ’24, in shorts and white tees telegraphing “I <3 Sodomy.”

The second act, performed by Mara Thomas ’27 as an illegally blonde “Iel Woods” in a pink dress and pink feather boa, was less choreographed but no less fun. Lipsyncing their heart out to “Super Graphic Ultra Modern Girl” by recent pop sensation Chappell Roan, “Iel Woods” was a flirtatious hit with the audience. Next up, glitter and confetti filled the air as Jordie Cornfield ’27, or “The Uncanny Valley Girl,” electrified the room with her rendition of “World Class Sinner / I’m A Freak” by Lily Rose-Depp.

Maya Sherlick ’27 and Jane Barnard ’27, as “The Duke of Tasteings” and “Queen Starlette,” elevated the performance with a storytelling aspect, enchanting the audience with a lovers’ tiff between the Queen and King of Hearts from “Alice in Wonderland.” “I was the King who was being controlled by the Queen and we tried to reflect that in our dance. We wanted to make it look like the King was slowly losing his control of himself and his world throughout the routine,” Barnard wrote in an email to the Collegian. Horn Gallery’s very own Arts Director Kendall Sommers ’26 also joined in on the fun as “Dr. Dollface,”  performing a hypnotic routine packed with twists and turns. Last but not least, Ella Newgarden ’25 and Calvin Brahm ’24 as “Gay Liza Minnelli” and “IntergalacDICK” brought the show to an exuberant ending with a cabaret-style act. 

Judging by the dazzling panache of the performers, it might come as a surprise that the majority of them were drag first-timers. In an interview with the Collegian, Sommers said that while one or two people signed up with everything prepared — outfit, concept and dance routine — most of them came in never having done drag before. The Horn team had their backs: They hosted dance workshops and provided stylists and makeup artists for performers to work with. “It’s like you can ask for as much help as you want, and it’s really great to see people utilize that in different ways,” Sommers said. 

The emotional payoff of experimenting with new territory was memorable for the performers. “There was a huge crowd and I’d never danced on stage before. During the performance I felt kind of weightless,” Dunst wrote in an email to the Collegian. “After, I felt so joyous. Everyone loved the performance, and it felt so great to share something fun with other queer people on campus!”

For some performers, the exhilarating feeling also came from testing the boundaries of gender. “I have wanted to do drag for a while as a way to express my complicated emotions toward gender,” Sherlick wrote in an email to the Collegian. Thomas echoed a similar sentiment: “Femininity can sometimes be hard as a non-binary person.” Their decision to lean into femininity through the choice of performing in a dress to a song with Chappell’s refrain, “Girl like me” was a process of trial and error. “I was a little bit nervous, like, is this gonna make me feel dysphoric? I put on nail polish, and that’s just a no for me. I had to take it off immediately,” they said. Ultimately, drag provided Thomas with not just a venue of expression, but also a physical space filled with people that they entrust to embrace their exploration: “I think because I was leaning into a character, [that] let me have fun with stuff that I hated [as a teenager]. It was also a space where I felt like I could do [drag] and not get misgendered … I had a lot of friends there that I knew.”

The show was a successful roaring celebration of style, creativity and queerness. Sommers reflected gratefully and hinted at the possibility of a future show: “I am emotional about how the audience embraced our team so fully and I cannot wait to get to do it again in the fall,” they wrote. For people who are impatient to join in the fun of performing or simply supporting drag performers, Trans Book Club is also hosting a Drag Night on May 4, per an email sent to its dis-list.

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