Celebrating Queer Expression and Agency: GSA and ’24 Producers Put on Annual Drag Show

Sebastian Cynn ’24 sings “Poor Unfortunate Souls” for his drag performance.

“Don’t underestimate the importance of body language,” Ursula-lita, played by Sebastian Cynn ’24, belted as the track of The Little Mermaid’s “Poor Unfortunate Souls” emanated through the Theater Classroom. Lights cast Cynn and his gown in a purple glow, reminiscent of Ursula’s underwater lair. As both a performer and producer in last week’s Drag Show, Cynn discussed messages behind these performances.

“We wanted to convey the message that… drag is something that’s important, that drag is something that’s fun, that drag is something that should be protected and shouldn’t be criminalized, that shouldn’t be stigmatized. It is a performance medium, and it is a way for people to express themselves, and that’s so important and shouldn’t be criminalized in Florida,” said Cynn.

Andover’s Gender Sexuality Association (GSA) and the Class of 2024 Producers collaborated to bring this year’s Drag Show to life. The preparation process entailed securing song rights, running cues and lights at tech rehearsal, and more. GSA board member and performer Cristina Donovan ’24 reflected on their overall experience, as well as the community’s supportive environment.

“I practiced my song a lot, and sang it in the shower, so I would know it really well. And, I just hyped myself up, and right before, convinced myself it would be okay… I feel like a lot of people don’t get drag, but it’s very fun to be in, and also to celebrate, and have here at school. So, it’s exciting for me, and it’s nice to know there are other people out here who are making me inspired to be like, I could do that,” said Donovan.

Audience member Darla Moody ’24 enjoyed seeing the individuality of each performer in the Drag Show. Additionally, they emphasized the accessibility of this opportunity, with other drag shows often leaning towards those with more experience performing.

“[My favorite part of the show was] seeing every performer’s individual concept and the flavor that they leaned into, because they all made so much sense, and it’s great seeing someone up there and just being like, ‘Yes, that is you to the max’… I think some of the last drag shows had people with a lot more drag experience, so it’s cool seeing how they kind of paved the way for people who haven’t really gotten up in full drag before,” said Moody.

Occuring every year, drag shows have been a longstanding tradition at Andover. Cynn explained how current anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation and political sentiment underscored the importance of having such events and spaces for queer representation on campus.

“The drag show is a tradition at PA, and it’s gone back a long while. It’s just a yearly event that happened pre-pandemic and last year after the pandemic. Especially in the light of anti-trans legislation, anti-drag legislation, we thought it was more important than ever to keep that tradition going. To keep showing that there are opportunities for drag performances at Andover and for performances of non-gender nature,” said Cynn.

GSA Co-Head Max Berkenblit ’24 also discussed the anti-queer political environment in America. Thus, opportunities like the Drag Show symbolized not only a celebration of queer identity, but a reaffirmation of agency, humanity, and power within LGBTQIA+ communities.

“It’s so important especially right now, I mean, West Texas A&M University just banned a drag show because of anti-queer laws that are going around… As these laws are being enacted, as anti-trans healthcare bills are being enacted, it’s important to have celebrations of queerness, like drag, on Andover’s campus to remind ourselves that we’re still here and we’re still fighting, even as all of this is going on around us,” said Berkenblit.

Overall, the Drag Show emphasized individuality over any common theme. Jessica Li ’24, the other Co-Head of GSA, synthesized this event as an open, fun space for performers to express creative freedom in drag acts.

“I think for one, it is important because it is a celebration of joy, drag is a queer form of joy and celebration, and happiness, and fun… I think, for me personally, I didn’t necessarily have a cohesive theme in mind for this show because the performers kind of bring in their own themes, it’s more of a space that we host to allow people to express their creativity and have fun with their drag acts,” said Li.