Start your engines: drag is back at UP

Doors open at 6:45 p.m. at Buckley Center Auditorium

By Kimberly Cortez | March 28, 2023 11:30am

Drag queen Poison Waters performs in Pilot House at last year's drag show. They are returning to campus this year for another perfomance on March 31.

Media Credit: Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

Maybe you are a fan of the TV show Ru Paul’s Drag Race or a fan of Darcelle XV & Company in Downtown Portland. Either way the art of drag is coming to the UP community again.

The Gender and Sexuality Partnership (GSP) club is back to host its second ever drag show in club history on March 31, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.— a tradition they hope to continue after last year’s Pilots After Dark performance.  The show was originally planned to be on Feb. 25 but was canceled due to inclement weather in parts of Multnomah County.

Because of technical difficulties and a larger-than-expected turnout at last year’s show, this year’s show will be held in the Buckley Center Auditorium. Students and faculty will be able to get a seat the day of the show until the auditorium is at capacity, doors open at 6:45 p.m.

“Last year, we were told that we broke the fire code because too many people attended the Pilot House,” Diversity & Inclusion Director of GSP, Chivon Ou said. “We were looking for a venue on campus that would have more seating, but not so much that it'd be way too big. Buckley Auditorium is meant for performances which will help with the expression and the art of drag.”

“Every year with our drag show, we want to have a space to honor the history of the queer people that came before us,” GSP President August Stone said. “It's a really great way to support local queer people of color that are involved in the drag community.”

While the venue is different, one thing is the same: Poison Waters and friends. Performing alongside long-time friend and Drag Queen Meesha Peru, they are excited to return to UP to spread the art of drag. 

Drag Queens Pluto and Lucky, who have never performed at UP before, will also be joining in on the performance. 

“We're looking forward to coming back and bringing a new show and new energy,” Poison Waters said. “The audience was so amazing last time, so we're hoping to get that same response.”

The show is focused primarily on the performances by the Drag Queens, and will most likely not feature student performances or include any collaboration with the UP Theater department.

The show will include a variety of lip syncs and dance performances by the Drag Queens. While tipping is not necessary, it is customary. 

In a time where more states are looking to restrict drag events, Poison Waters and GSP hope to spread the importance of queer visibility on campus by highlighting Queer culture in a positive light. 

Poison Waters, who has been a Drag Queen for more than 30 years, expressed how integral drag is to the queer community at large.  

“I think it's important to just embrace the art form and share the positivity of it all,” Poison Waters said. “Highlighting such a visible aspect of the LGBTQ+ community is so important, especially for those that are members of that community. Allyship is important, too. I think drag shows foster that relationship between our community and the rest of the world.”

Even with the recent 17-page document issued by the Archdiocese of Portland calling on Catholic schools and youth programs to “not endorse gender identity theory nor enable any form of gender transition,” GSP feels that it’s more important than ever to show Queer solidarity at UP through drag.

“There's this ongoing conversation, at UP and beyond UP, of how you can balance the identities of being Queer and Catholic,” Ou said. “I think that having a drag show demonstrates, through the art, a humanity to LGBTQ+ people that we unfortunately do not see often.”

Kimberly Cortez is the Community Engagement Editor for The Beacon. They can be reached at