Audio & Video: Behind the scenes of Mason's 2013 Drag Show

Connect2Mason Enteratinment Editor Helena Okolicsanyi sat down with Mason's 2013 Drag Show producer Alex Gant along with two student performers (photo by John Irwin).
Connect2Mason Enteratinment Editor Helena Okolicsanyi sat down with Mason's 2013 Drag Show producer Alex Gant along with two student performers (photo by John Irwin).

Did you attend this year's Pride Week Drag show? Connect2Mason Enteratinment Editor Helena Okolicsanyi recently sat down with the show's producer Alex Gant along with two student performers to give an insider's look into what goes on behind the scenes of putting on this large, campus-wide event. [Video at bottom of page.]

For one day in April, the campus at George Mason University turns into a stage.

Drag kings and queens perform at Mason as part of the annual Pride Week Drag show. The event concludes a week’s worth of festivities dedicated to highlighting the LGBTQ community both at Mason and elsewhere.

Dressing in drag varies from performer to performer. However, it usually includes an individual dressing and performing as the opposite of their gender identity. Dressing in drag includes extreme costumes and makeup alongside a performance to music in front of an audience. 

Yet, while audiences watch the performers come up on stage, a lot goes into putting on this annual campus event, just behind the scenes.

So what happens backstage?

“So there's just a whole bunch of craziness going on in the dressing room," said Gant the show’s producer. This year’s drag show will mark Gant’s fifth time producing the show, yet the craziness backstage doesn’t seem to change from year to year.

“All of the performers are tucked in one room, changing clothes and frantically doing makeup, their hair, they're, you know, practicing, rehearsing in the back, trying to pump each other up, and get everything ready to go."

In the midst of the craziness, Mason’s drag show also includes not only professional performers, but also students. In the past, the drag show was a way to bring professional performers to campus. It is only recently that Mason students have been a part of the drag show and this opportunity is now one of the essential components of the event.

“It's a different kind of show when the students are there. There are a lot of fellow students that come that want to see their fellow students perform and so then there's that element and they can recognize other people or people are invited by their friends.”

Mason student, JP Hetwege was one of this year's student performers (photo by John Irwin).

Mason students such as Jay Banks and JP Hetwege are two student performers who will be performing at this year’s show.

Banks has performed in the drag show since 2010. For Banks, performing in drag is a way of expressing a different part of themselves.

"It’s not who I am. I am a completely different person when I am in drag," Banks said. "It’s the time to express different pieces of myself and express them fully."

Student performer JP Hetwege sees the drag performances in a similar way.

"People who know me in everyday life say that, 'The second you step on stage you’re completely different and the second you step off stage you’re you again. Drag gives an outlet to not be themselves, in a good way I take it as an opportunity to be whomever I want to be."

The drag show at Mason is a bookend to a series of events that showcases the diversity of Mason students within the LGBTQ community. Ranked as one of the safest campuses for LGBTQ college students, Mason has every right to boast about its safe environment.

Yet, there is only so much the campus can do in order to ensure Mason is a safe space. For example, there are few gender neutral bathrooms on campus, posing an issue for some transgender students.

Through the outreach of the LGBTQ office and more awareness, Mason has done what it can to make a safe space for its LGBTQ students and staff as Hetwege notes.

"I think Mason has done what it can, but from my perspective there’s only so much you can do because you can’t change how people think and how they act."

The drag show is part of making Mason’s campus an accepting space. Drag, in recent years, has become more accepted. While not directly associated with the LGBTQ community, it has enhanced the community’s acceptance in mainstream culture.

Part of that is through the Logo channel show "RuPauls’ Drag Race," a reality competition where drag kings and queens* compete to become "America’s next Drag superstar."

"It’s becoming a little more mainstream for people," said Gant. "You know, ten, fifteen years ago, if you had said 'drag show' people would have probably thought the car racing."

Mason’s drag show hopes to entertain and familiarize people with the art of drag. Even if in everyday life people make fun of drag, all of that goes away when performers, like Hetwege, step up on stage.

"I get to be a rockstar for those three and a half minutes. And that’s like…that’s awesome," Hetwege said.

When they are performing, they are in the spotlight: they are god. There’s no one in that room but them and everything freezes around them.

And it’s those minutes that make all the hard work, rehearsing and sleepless nights worth it.

Video by Nathan Garduno.

*Correction for April 9, 2013: RuPaul's Drag Race only includes drag queens in this reality competition, not drag queens and kings as the audio indicates.

No votes yet
Student Media Group: