Luther College Chips

Drag Me To Hell

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All performers in the second annual Luther Drag Show joined Karl Nycklemoe (‘18) onstage at the end of his routine.

All performers in the second annual Luther Drag Show joined Karl Nycklemoe (‘18) onstage at the end of his routine.

Piper Wood (‘21) | Chips

Piper Wood (‘21) | Chips

All performers in the second annual Luther Drag Show joined Karl Nycklemoe (‘18) onstage at the end of his routine.

Piper Wood, Staff Writer

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Students filled the Center for the Arts for Luther’s second annual drag show, “Drag Me to Hell,” presented by Luther PRIDE on Friday, April 27.

Vice President of PRIDE Matthew Espey (‘19) hosted the show and  facilitated auditions, rehearsals, and the final production of the show. Espey was excited to see the hard work pay off for the performers.

“I love it,” Espey said. “It’s such a great experience. We are a student-run organization, so we have to do everything between homework, outside commitments, meetings, and class. Finding an opportunity for everyone to come together and rehearse has been quite difficult. It’s been hard, but it’s been worth it. We had a great show and everyone was very invested in it.”

Friday’s production consisted of kings and queens in full drag lip-syncing and dancing to music for the audience. In true drag style, performers encouraged audience members to interact with them cheering, dancing, and tipping the royalty.

Piper Wood (’20) | Chips
Matthew Espey (‘19)

“Drag is fun,” Espey said. “It’s funny, it engages with the audience, [and] it’s performative. It’s the best way to engage the community in coming together to refuse to abide by the gendered rules that society has placed on us.”

The performers included first-time drag kings and queens, as well as veteran performers. Madeline “Muff Daddy” Skjervold (‘19) performed for a second year at the drag show. This year Skjervold lip-synced to NSYNC’s “I Want you Back” and “Bye, Bye, Bye” with a group and had a solo performance of Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up).”

For Skjervold, the drag show is an opportunity for visibility of the queer community and a personal outlet for self-expression.

Piper Wood (’20) | Chips
Noah Manke (’20)

“My dancing style and the look I go for tends to be more like Panic! At The Disco and Fall Out Boy,” Skjervold said. “Those are the angsty bands I listened to when I was younger. Even though the character that I play is not myself, it is an extreme assertion of part of my identity. I remember when I first saw drag performances. It gave me a lot of confidence and I felt really inspired, and I want to keep doing that or the people that this does really matter to; I want to be that person for others.”

Skjervold rehearsed choreography for the group NSYNC performance and created her own dance for the Fall Out Boy routine, but ultimately improvised most of the solo.

“My dance was a looser structure, because I feel most comfortable improvising,” Skjervold said. “I did a lot of my own individual dance work to build my dance vocabulary.”

Following the recent hate incident that targeted the drag show and the LGBTQ community at Luther, Espey was concerned for performers’ sense of safety but ultimately used the incident as motivation to produce an even better performance.

Piper Wood (’20) | Chips
Julia Simpson (’20)

“[The people who did the hate crime] put a fire underneath us to do an even better job, to make fun of gender norms even more, to keep going and do more productive work,” Espey said. “I’m very proud of everyone involved in the show. I was afraid we would have people drop out, and I saw it as my duty to contact people and say, ‘Hey, you are loved, you are accepted, you are wanted on this stage and if you are comfortable doing this, I implore you [to] please share your skill.’”

New performer Karl Nycklemoe (‘18) as Charlene “Chuck” Fey performed to Britney Spears’s “Toxic” and Kesha’s “Rainbow” and drew character inspiration from fellow drag queens. Nycklemoe adjusted the performance in response to the hate incident, and changed songs to Kesha’s “Rainbow” at the last minute.

“I changed to ‘Rainbow’ because it is much more politically charged,” Nycklemoe said. “It very much emphasizes solidarity and it emphasizes a strength beyond how we see ourselves. It was basically my counter message to the hateful message and hate incident that happened.”

Piper Wood (’20) | Chips
Julia Simpson (‘20), Morgan Seemann (‘20), Shai Shay (‘20), Sarah Jennings (‘20), and Madeline Skjervold (‘19)

Nycklemoe saw the drag show as an opportunity to express his acceptance and appreciation for his fellow performers and atendees.

“Drag is not an art form in only one format; it’s taking societal norms, it’s taking what is assumed and it’s flipping it and making it fun,” Nycklemoe said. “So the purpose is love. If I get ‘dragged to hell’ helping people embrace who they are and to see things differently in order to feel more love and inclusion, than that’s just the way it’s going to be.”

Piper Wood (’20) | Chips
Nam Nguyen (’19)

The show plans to continue next year and Espey promises that the show will have even more momentum.

“We are going to make it even bigger, badder, more ghastly next year,” Espey said. “Come and support us. Be vocal and be openly loving toward the LGBTQ community because it’s something that we need in this current time and always. Show respect and love toward those individuals just as you would want shown to you.”

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