Drag show highlights student performers

An Editor’s Note explaining the term “drag” was sent out in May 1975 in response to a news article in The Reporter about an unusual kind of campus performance. 

Jim Chalgren, director of the campus LGBT center in the 1970s, saw the Ms. Mankato Drag Race as a “right of expression.” It has since evolved into the well-known and continuous Gender Bender drag show on campus. It is a living example of Chalgren’s vision for promoting student freedom of expression. 

The next drag show is 7 p.m. Friday in the CSU Ballroom. Zeke Sorenson, the director of the LGBT Center, said this event is only for student performers and organizers. Sorenson said they were simply there to help advise the students and get them what they needed. They decided to do this because of student interest and conflicting schedules with Drag Me With A Spoon, another drag group that performs regularly  on campus. Sorenson said they didn’t want to cancel the show, so they created a student drag show.  

“The idea of just having a show focused on students to give students the opportunity to take leadership roles and help plan it has a lot of benefits for the students,” said Sorenson. “I liked the idea of having a show focusing on students, and my hope is that this creates a new tradition that the fall show will be professional drag queens, and then the spring show, from here on out, we’ll always be student-focused.” 

Students could sign up at the beginning of April. They either emailed Sorenson or filled out a form using the poster’s QR code. This past Sunday, there was a workshop where students learned to do drag makeup and got performance tips. 

Sorenson said they learned a lot from this process. 

“I learned about drag myself. I go to shows. But getting to see the kind of students with more experience than me talk about some of those makeup tutorials and performance tips and learn a little bit about that side of it,” said Sorenson. “When students have a passion for something, they tend to rise to the occasion and excel. It’s been cool to see the students who have been planning it with the performers and all the work and time that they’ve been putting into this.” 

Sorenson said one thing about this drag show is while it is free for admittance, tipping is appreciated. 

“That’s a big part of drag culture. For those that have never been to a drag show, it’s always customary to tip performers, even if it’s just a $1 bill, to show your appreciation for the performances,” said Sorenson. “While these are student performers, students can always use a little extra cash too, so I told them that we would allow audience members to tip.” 

Sorenson said attending drag shows can help dispel myths about drag, as there is a lot of misinformation about drag shows. 

“They can see that it’s not what has necessarily been talked about or focused on in conversations or rhetoric surrounding drag shows,” Sorenson said. “Also, if it’s something they’ve never experienced, it’s always good for students to experience things that are outside of their comfort zones but are also outside of their own personal experiences, helps broaden their horizons.”

Header photo: ​​Drag show on campus.  Wanda Gag, Hellen Heaven, Luna Muse, Hunky Dory and Luscious Rose from left to right. (Courtesy Zeke Sorenson)

Write to Lauren Viska at

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.