Kings Seek to Entertain, Educate in Performance
by Kari Wethington
is not the only ripe season for drag in Oberlin. Monday night in
Wilder Main students and professionals alike will participate in
Packing Heat: A Drag King Performance. The name may
draw a parallel with Drag Ball, but the organizers say Packing Heat
will go a step farther by focusing on politics as well as entertainment.
This is not Drag Ball, thats for sure, sophomore
Christie Sprowles said. Sprowles organized the event along with
senior Alison Cotterill and junior Erin Fleck and spent the last
few weeks securing financial support from various campus groups.
It was not actually all that difficult to come up with sufficient
funds, Sprowles said. I think that the campus realized
how important an event like this is.
Though Oberlin is famous for its annual celebration of debauchery,
Drag Ball, the event usually focuses on drag queens, and not kings.
Drag kings are largely underrepresented and those who are
represented are rarely taken seriously, Sprowles said. This
event was put together in order to create a space where drag kings
can feel comfortable exploring and expressing their gender queer-ness.
Monday nights performance will include eight or nine student
drag king pieces and eight by Pat Riarch, Ray Cruiter and Dréd,
professional drag kings that are visiting campus especially for
the event. Pat Riarch and Ray Cruiter work with Feed the Fire Productions
(of which poet Alix Olson, who visited Oberlin in the spring, is
also a part) in New York City, performed at Drag Ball last year
and are famous for their priest and altar boy piece, which they
may perform Monday night. Dréd, also from New York, is also
a well-known drag performer and has been an extra on television
shows including Sex and the City, Ricky Lake
and Maury Povich.
When Pat Riarch and Ray Cruiter performed earlier this year at Drag
Ball, Fleck joined them on stage in a minor role. I played
a pregnant woman in one of their pieces it was a very minor
role, Fleck said. But, it was important because I got
on stage and I realized that this drag thing was something I could
do, too. It made it a lot less intimidating because Pat and Ray
were so calm and excited about it.
Sprowles, Cotterill and Fleck also performed two weeks ago in Columbus,
Ohio, for the International Drag King Extravaganza; they will perform
that piece again on Monday night, as well as newer pieces. Eight
other students will peform, as well, and their pieces will bring
in a good mix of politics and fun, tons of poking fun at different
masculinities, Cotterill said.
There are lots of people who have a lot to say, Sprowles
said. Drag is so cool cause it means something different
to everyone and it leaves so much room for everyone to express that
meaning. I am really excited to see the different acts. We should
be getting a lot of different messages.
In addition to the drag pieces, Pat Riarch, Ray Cruiter and Dréd
will lead an open discussion panel where issues related to drag
and queer identity can be addressed. I hope the panel will
open up a dialogue on larger issues of gender and racial identity
beyond just performance, Cotterill said.
Because of the rarity of these types of events on campus, the organizers
are confident that it will be successful. There will be plenty
of people there to ask questions, Fleck said. I hope
that we get to talk about the intersections of the trans and drag
the performance aspect of Packing Heat is similar to Drag Ball,
there are key differences, the organizers point out. There
are some big differences: Drag Ball is primarily a party; Packing
Heat is a performance, Cotterill said.
Theres no alcohol or focus on alcohol. Packing Heat
includes a panel to discuss politics as well. Drag Ball focuses
on drag queens. Were focusing on kings. And Drag Ball, I think,
caters to a straight audience whereas we hope to slant it better
towards the queer and PoC communities.
Heat is more about a show, a performance, and less about it being
a party, Fleck said. The audience will be seated and
the performers will get proper respect, because drag can be used
for more than just a party.
Packing Heat begins on Monday at 4:30 p.m. with the panel discussion,
followed by the drag performances at 8 p.m. The performance is $3
and takes place in Wilder Main; the panel is free and takes place
in Wilder 101.