2022 Drag Show: A Creative Celebration of Queer Expression

Cheered on by a high-energy crowd and their thunderous applause, performers Miss Andry (Karsten Rynearson ’22) and Norma Bates (Dorian Park Wang ’23) took to the stage for a flashy, dynamic rendition of “Sweetest Pie” by Dua Lipa and Megan Thee Stallion at the annual Drag Show. With a total of seven performances, the event consisted of lip-syncing, voguing—a stylized dance that originated from ballroom scenes—and bold fashion and makeup statements that celebrated the creativity of Andover’s drag community.

“Drag is about having fun. The point of drag is to express yourself and to enjoy it, and to live in your creativity in front of an audience…It’s obviously a powerful arena to express the artificiality of gender as we know it, to experiment, and to create different conceptions of ourselves…We [also] just had a really wonderful sort of ‘family’ vibe happening and it’s also just great to be in community with other people who are similarly expressive about their identity,” said Rynearson.

From pop to electronic dance music, the performances of the Drag Show were influenced by and centered around a range of different musical genres for distinct expressions of queer identity. Jaylen Daley ’25, taking part in the show as King Queen Curly, notably derived inspiration for his performance from “Vogue for Team Rocket” by Xerapth, a piece reinterpreting the iconic theme of Pokémon’s villainous trio as a modern house dance-style track. According to Daley, choosing this upbeat tune helped him explore his creativity in free style dancing and voguing.

“I think my favorite part was finding music. I’m surprised I wasn’t super indecisive about everything, but looking for ‘vogue’ on SoundCloud gave me some gold. The song I played only had a couple thousand streams and I could’ve easily chose[n] some with hundreds of thousands or millions, but I just love listening to [the] music in general…I [had] to do everything on the fly. It worked out, though. I have a lot of experience free-styling,” said Daley.

This year’s event also highlighted nonbinary drag performers. Because drag shows often feature binary cross-dressing, performer Cristina Donovan ’24—otherwise known as Mx. Match—who is nonbinary, noted that were times where stylizing an outfit for ‘the opposite gender’ posed a challenge. However, through designing a mix of feminine and masculine clothing for their performance of “Androgyny” by Garbage, they found a way to discard the gender binary while still celebrating themself through drag.

“Dancing to ‘Androgyny’ with a mindset of gender duality felt true to me. I wanted to tell people that their expectations of me do not define what I can or can’t wear and call drag…I hope my performance changes people’s ideas of the limitations of drag and the restrictions of the gender binary. I want to inspires other genderqueer people and let them know they can do drag however they want to too,” said Donovan.

However, the event was not only a form of empowerment for the performers; many audience members felt empowered simply by being able to gather as a community and collectively support an expression of queer identities. According to audience member Cathy Ma ’25, her first experience with the drag show not only exceeded her expectations in terms of production quality, but also made her feel welcome within the community that had gathered to celebrate through drag.

“It was very uplifting to be in that safe place with others who shared similar identities and interests as myself, and to shut out everything else that was happening in the world to appreciate the performers and this community that we are part of. In those moments, I was truly comfortable with myself and I didn’t really think much about the way that I was being perceived,” and Ma.

Aware of the impact that they would have on audiences, many performers wanted to specifically leave the younger viewers with a distinct, celebratory approach to dealing with identity. Specifically, performer Rynearson highlighted that he wants to help vicariously empower the broader queer community on campus by evoking creative and bold expression that captures identity issues in a way that makes less emotionally difficult to deal with.

“[For] the first show there were a lot of young kids there, a lot of freshmen, and I’d like the younger queer and even [non-]queer kids on campus to know that you can express your identity however you want to do it. The only limit is your imagination and your creativity…I think that people see identity as a very scary, stressful, [and] at times traumatic topic. But, I think that drag is about celebration of identity, in a way, it’s about reveling. If one person in that audience felt as they watched me a little bit more motivated to try to revel in their identity a little bit more I think I did my job,” said Rynearson.