August 30, 2004

RuPaul Drags 'em In

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Students swarmed Barton Hall for a chance to see cross-dressing performance artist RuPaul at the Welcome Weekend-sponsored “Gender Blender” drag show last Thursday. The show, funded by the Student Activity Fund, featured a host of other drag queens from Syracuse and Elmira as well.

The drag queens from the surrounding area performed for the first two hours of the show, singing, dancing and doing sketch comedy routines.

The performers alternately dressed up as a Marine, Karen from Will and Grace and, in one scene that drew mixed reactions from the mostly freshman audience, a pregnant Catholic nun singing, “I’m keeping my baby.”

The host, Anita Mann, polled the audience to see how many knew what the definition of a drag queen was. Seeing few hands, Mann explained that a “drag queen was a man with way too much fashion sense for one body.”

The queens performed for about two hours, too long for many in the audience. “It was entertaining at first, but I thought RuPaul was supposed to be here,” said Daniel Joseph Bickley ’08. “It’s taking too long for her to get here.”

As a result, Bickley ended up leaving about halfway through the performance. It was his first drag show.

Marco Benvenuti grad agreed. “The first part was a little too long,” he said. He suggested that it be shortened to an hour, especially considering all the first-time viewers present.

He also would have preferred a more glamarous set up then Barton Hall’s martial atmosphere. Overall though, he said he enjoyed the performances, bearing in mind standards vary greatly between Ithaca and Las Vegas. “I guess for what you get around here it was pretty good,” Benvenuti noted.

Recurring sound problems also plagued the show, though the performers quick, caustic wit managed to smooth over what could have otherwise been an awkward stage silence.

Those who did stay around until RuPaul performed were treated to a rendition of “Ice Ice Baby,” as well as several songs from the upcoming album Redhot.

“The theme for tonight is drag and all that,” RuPaul told the audience, after introducing herself as the University’s new “Dean of Fierce.”

“I want to leave you with something else to remember: you’re born naked, and all the rest is drag,” she said. She added that, “You guys are going to change this country this November, so please vote.”

For many, including Benvenuti, the highlight of the show was at the end, when RuPaul invited the other performers up on stage to perform “Supermodel” with her.

The show was a part of Welcome Weekend’s second year of programming, and was also sponsored Haven, Cornell University Programming Board, CUTonight and the Office of the Dean of Students.

Archived article by Michael Morisy
Sun Senior Writer