At it’s most basic form, a drag show is a group of gay men who lip-sync to music’s iconic performers, expressing these melodies through dance and a glamorous opposite gender appearance. Shows like these are a spectacle to take in and brings delight to all. Dragoween may essentially be a drag show, but it certainly is not like any you have ever experienced.
Dragoween is a fundraiser for the Austin Roundup, a local organization that helps the LGBT community who are overcoming an alcohol addiction. Austin Fusion was able to sit down with the “Dream Team” collaborators for this year’s show– Mandy Jay Goerger (head choreographer), Omar Vasquez (director) and Steve Ryan (assistant director and costumer)– to discuss the undertaking of a show who’s theme is A Night of 1000 Madonnas, and how this event has and will help the community.
Dragoween began 13 years ago a as small drag show in a church basement. Each year the show grows, and continues to involve and change into something much more. Dragoween not only features drag queen performances, but they also put just as much attention to the drag king performers, who are women who dress in opposite gender costumes, the only show in Austin to pay equal attention to both groups of performers.
This year’s A Night of 1000 Madonnas will consist of dancers and drag queens and kings, but will also include accompanying performances by iSK8 Entertainment (skate jammers), Brass Overies (pole dancers), a martial arts routined dance number, all surrounded by a multi-media element.
The show this year has 60 featured dancers, the largest cast in history. This is due to the fact that there are no auditions. “ [We have] an open casting call,” Ryan says. “If you want to be a part of the show, we will find a place for you.”
“Some of the people in the show have never been trained, or on stage,” Goerger says. “We have people who are the absolute adult beginners, we have semi-professionals and we have everyone in-between them. No matter what the skill level, everyone is invited.”
The open-door policy that Dragoween believes in is one of the reasons the event has grown considerably in the last few years, the other being, as Vasquez put it, is because the, “people who were a part of it in the past come back and bring more people with them.” The event becomes a family, one that performers want to continue to be a part of and share with those close to them.
With an ample cast, a theme that revolves around Madonna is a perfect fit. Madonna has had a 30-year career, full of reinventions, and it wasn’t hard for Vasquez to find a cohesive line throughout her songs to incorporate all the performers.
“There are so many different looks to Madonna’s career, that in my little brain I thought it would make an amazing show, Vasquez says. “When we started planning and blueprinting this year’s show, the challenge then became how do you consolidate one woman’s career into an hour and a half show, there is so much to choose from.”
Ryan elaborates, “It was challenging to get as much as we could in there and represent each stage of her career. Everyone has a personal connection with the different things that Madonna has done.”
Goerger studied up on Madonna’s videos, and between her and the other four choreographers (Mike Loya, Brandy Sommer, Annie Watts, and Meghan Bowman) they added their own elements of style into each performance.
Dragoween will definitely be a unique and fantastic show to attend this year, but the thing that is not lost on Goerger, Vasquez and Ryan is the organization they are fundrasing for. All the proceeds from the show will go toward the ATX Roundup Conference, also in it’s 13th year, that will be held in February of 2013.
Vasquez is open about his struggles with addiction. “As a person in recovery to be able to share this creative aspect with the LGBT recovery community, is really rewarding,” he says. “It’s amazing when at every rehearsal we see this come to fruition and to know that everyone involved is doing this for this one cause. The Roundup itself is an amazing conference, and it’s one of the most amazing experiences every year.”
The beauty about these events is while it is geared towards the LGBT community, it has grown to include the whole Austin community. October is Anti-Bullying Month, and Dragoween alongside with The Roundup are making their contributions to future generations. In a time when the statistics of suicides and addictions in the LGBT community continue to rise, it’s wonderful to know there are people who are trying to make a difference.
“All of our volunteers have come together to put on the show, but the ticket buyers also contribute to the cause and community,” Goerger says. “I personally think some of our videos should be put on the website for the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign. We are living proof that if you can make it through high school, we have a place for you in the show.”
The “Dream Team” has learned a lot from each other and their performers throughout the years. They have seen people conquer their stage fright to be a featured performer, witnessing first hand how therapy through creativity can help so many different types of people. Steve adds, “Watching the light come on in someones eye’s when they get it, and they put on the production, it’s an amazing experience.”
If you’re looking for something uniquely Austin, you should attend Dragoween. This won’t be like any other event during the Halloween craziness of the city, but most importantly this event will make a difference in the community. We shouldn’t look to highlight our differences, but embrace them and find a way to heal.
“I think we want to save the world one drag show at a time,” Goerger says.
Dragoween: A Night of 1,000 Madonnas
RL Davis Auditorium at the Texas School for the Deaf
Saturday October 27 at 9:30 pm
Please go here for tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/257931
Dragoween would like to thank all their wonderful sponsors like The W Hotel, Galaxy Dance Studios and Black Orchard Salon for their time and services, and of course their amazing voluneers, who without them this would not be possible.
Written by Lisa Mejia (Lisa@austinfusionmagazine.com)
Photos by Phillip Leach Photography