By Yaasmeen Piper
As a freshman, Natalie Shirley saw her first Drag Show here at ESU.
The excitement, music, dancing, and endless laughter drew her in and immediately, she knew she wanted to be a part of the performance.
“I saw one of the performances, it was a duet and I remember how funny it was and I thought I can do that through dancing,” she said. “Right there I knew I was going be a part of this next year.”
Shirley, now a junior, returns for the fifth annual performance titled “Lights, Camera Drag Show.”
The Hawthorn Hotties and the iconic duo Carolann Carolann and Sharon Ann Husbands are also making a reappearance, but this time on a new stage.
The show has moved to the Abeloff Performing Arts Center, a larger venue than the previous Keystone Room.
Even with hundreds of chairs laid out, last year’s venue was overflowing with people trying to get a glimpse of the show.
“We’ve always been kind of stuffed shoulder to shoulder so this year we will actually have a little wiggle room,” said Matthew Simmons, coordinator for LGBTQA programs.
“I’m a little nervous being in a completely new venue, but I’m excited we can certainly have more people attend if they choose to do so.”
Traditionally Simmions said the event pulls in around 500 people. With the new location that number could nearly double.
Even with the potential for a larger audience, Shirley says the number does not bring any extra getters.
“So, no. I’m not nervous. I’m just really excited. It’s more like butterflies, good butterflies,” she said.
For last year’s “American Glamor Story,” Shirley danced to Flo Rida’s “Low.” The performance provoked cheers and laughs from the audience as she danced and flipped on stage.
This year, Shirley says, the audience should expect even more.
“There is more action going on. There’s going be a lot more excitement. I don’t want to hype myself too much but definitely more excitement” she said.
Along with the Hotties and the Husbands, President Marcia Welsh made a special appearance on stage.
Though it’s not clear whether she would be at tonight’s show, Simmions said he would be surprised if she did not show up.
“[Welsh] has been there every year since it started,” he said.
“I think the students really appreciate that she’s an active part of the community and supportive of us. That is a testament to the LGBT support that we have on our campus. It’s not always rainbows and unicorns, but there is a lot of good things that go on.”
With a classic black tux and pants already picked out and a mixed music medley made, Shirley is prepared for tonight’s show.
“I am so happy I made the decision [to perform] because it gives me a chance to express myself through dancing and wearing guy clothes,” she said. “I just have so much fun with it.”
Her biggest supporter for the night, she said, is her girlfriend.
“I just want give a big thank you to my girlfriend, Breonna Conklin,” Shirley said. “She did my makeup and my beard last year and we got a lot of compliments on it and she’s always my biggest supporter.”
“Light, Camera, Drag Show,” hits Abeloff tonight, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m.
Tickets run $5 for general admission and $10 for VIP. They are available for purchase at the LGBTQA Center in Shawnee or at the door.
The Center is also selling t-shirts for $10 that read “Gay? Fine by me” and “Celebrate diversity,” all in a variety of rainbow colors.
Novus ACS, a health care facility that provides STD testing, returns with their table full of helpful information for those who choose to visit.
“Light, Camera, Drag Show” is for mature audiences only.
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