‘This is really something special’: K-State’s 17th annual Drag Show set for virtual debut

Over the years, the K-State Drag Show has evolved from small bar shows to selling out McCain Auditorium. (Archive photo by Rowan Jones | Collegian Media Group)

The energy of a drag show is hard to find anywhere else, so recreating that energy for a virtual platform is no easy task. With help from the Union Program Council, Wildcat Watch and many others, Kansas State’s 17th annual Drag Show doesn’t plan on holding anything back — even from a virtual platform.

Usually taking place in February at McCain Auditorium, the K-State Drag Show had to adjust to COVID-19 restrictions for the show to go on. While performing virtual isn’t new for this year’s performers, there is no denying the importance of audience participation.

“Switching to an online platform, we’ve had to take into consideration the audience,” Brandon Haddock, LGBT Resource Center coordinator, said. “Normally, there’s a lot of back and forth with Monica Moree and the audience members, so it helps build that kind of energy and excitement that goes into it.”

After meeting with performers, organizers and talent agencies that have adjusted to virtual performances, Haddock’s team worked on creating a virtual-ready show living up to its reputation. Over the years, the K-State Drag Show has evolved from small bar shows to selling out McCain Auditorium.

“We have performers come in who have been on television, who have been in Las Vegas … and they walk out on that stage in little Manhattan, Kansas, and there’s almost 2,000 people screaming,” Haddock said.

This year’s theme is “Cosmic Rodeo,” a nod to country artists like Kacey Musgraves, Orville Peck and Lil Nas X, who’ve all made strides for equality within the genre and LGBTQ community as a whole. Anna Casner, president of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance and junior in social work, said the theme helps represent LGBTQ culture in Kansas.

“People want to pretend like queer people exist only in urban areas … but there were gay cowboys too,” Casner said. “That’s something that expands beyond any sort of geographical limitation.”

Preparing the event for an April kickoff wasn’t Haddock’s first choice, but they felt it was the best option given the circumstances. However, there are no plans to have the drag show this late in the semester ever again.

“It was decided for everybody’s benefit that we would postpone it until April,” Haddock said. “We probably will never do so again because … my initial reaction was, ‘You want to do this in April, two weeks from the end of the semester?’ But that’s okay, we’ll make it work.”

During a live performance, the show normally has several money-changers and tip-runners, swapping out large bills for smaller ones and running tips to the performers on stage. All money collected goes towards scholarships, mental health funds and other student-focused areas.

“Students hear that, audience members hear that, and they know that they’ve made a difference,” Haddock said. “The show has always gone to benefit our students.”

Casner said the drag show brings visibility to the community on campus. For students like Casner, the show is the first experience they have with a large-scale event celebrating the LGBTQ community.

“I’d never been to a Pride event. This is the first event that I’d been to [with] a bunch of people celebrating their identity and their queerness,” Casner said.

Casner — who is graduating this year — said this year’s drag show is a sign of resilience in the community, especially during the past year. She also said K-State is where she really found herself.

“This is really something special and … I’m gonna miss them all and I really want them to know that,” Casner said. “I came out my freshman year and just got to interact with this community in a way that has made me discover who I am and has welcomed me with open arms in ways that I never could have imagined.”

Those interested in attending the K-State Drag Show can visit the UPC website. While the show is free, virtual tipping through Venmo is encouraged.

My name is Jared Shuff, and I am a former editor-in-chief of the Collegian. Previously, I worked as the arts & culture editor and as a contributing writer for the news desk. I am a senior in secondary education with an emphasis in English/journalism. I grew up in Hutchinson, Kansas, and attended Hutchinson Community College before transferring to K-State in 2020.