On Thursday night, sophomore Ben Burwell promenaded about the Taylor Lounge stage to a song number from the French opera “Carmen,” sporting a red sundress, full eyeliner and handcuffs while sophomore Rebecca Gonshak lip synced back in response, suited up and mustachioed. But no one seemed surprised.
Every year, Knox’s Common Ground club puts on a drag show. And so, on the evening of Feb. 22, the Taylor Lounge was host to the show’s nine participants and some 20-plus audience members.
According to Gonshak, Common Ground’s president, the show offers an opportunity for expression to any and all interested Knox students, a “fun way to just make fun of the idea of gender.”
“It’s important to show that people are here, on stage, that they’re comfortable with what they’re doing and that it should be, you know, accepted,” sophomore and Common Ground treasurer Anna Karwowska said.
Gonshak saw the event as emphasizing the fluid nature of gender, asserting that people should not be confined to gender roles solely on the basis of their biological sex.
“You know, if a man wants to wear a dress or a woman wants to wear a tie and suspenders — or if someone doesn’t feel like a man or a woman, or if they like elements of both and want to bring them together … then that’s fine,” she said.
Indeed, costumes ranged from sundresses to baggy, low-riding jeans, from eyeliner to fake goatees — and even a combination thereof.
Preceding each year’s show, Common Ground offers a drag workshop, where Knox students are taught the basics of drag: nail painting, makeup, walking in heels, masculine or feminine body language, chest binding, tying ties, etc.
This year offered second-time performer senior Stephanie Charvat* the opportunity to portray their “favorite character of all time”— Castiel from “Supernatural” — in a skit for which Charvat wrote a script, made props and rehearsed with two other performers.
Charvat’s skit portrayed Castiel’s expression of love for another “Supernatural” character, Dean.
“When we’re breaking gender rules, why not break some of the sexuality rules as well?” they said.
Freshman Alanna Toomey, who acted alongside Charvat, decided to get involved because “it’s something different that I hadn’t tried before.”
Toomey also wished to explore an interest in female-to-male drag, “in how you would drag as a guy, since it is [already] acceptable for girls to wear … clothing that’s not so expressly feminine.”
Freshman Anna Clifford,who danced and lip-synced to Mackelmore’s “Thrift Shop” with freshman Kiara Honeysucker, is a longtime fan of RuPaul and had attended a drag workshop at a conference several weeks prior.
“I just think everyone is really fabulous — there’s an interesting exploration going on,” Clifford said.
The show’s minor mishaps and less-than-fluid act changes were met with good-natured laughter from the audience.
Audience member freshman Ariyana Smith appreciated the performers’ enthusiasm and felt that “it’s just really nice that people can come here and have fun and be who they are, be somebody who they’re not, or whatever they want to do.”
Sophomore Mary Kate Murray thought that “the people were fun, they were creative with what they were doing … [it was] awkward in a good way.”
Overall, Gonshak felt that the show was a “lighthearted, goofy” success.
*Charvat uses gender-neutral pronouns.