Purim Drag Show brings Jewish celebration, pride to Canopy Club

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Brigida Dockus

Drag queen Smokey Doc performs for the Purim Drag Show at the Canopy Club on Friday. Smokey Doc was one of four student performers that appeared for the show.

By Allyson Lin , Staff Writer

Last Friday, RSO LGBTJew and Illini Hillel put on a drag show to celebrate Purim, bring the community together and raise money for Uniting Pride of Champaign County. 

“Purim is a Jewish holiday commemorating the heroic acts of Queen Esther, who saved the Jewish people of ancient Persia from destruction. Traditionally, Purim is meant to be the most joyous day of the Jewish calendar, in which people are encouraged to party and dress up in costume,” said Ayelet Goldson, president of LGBTJew and coordinator of the show. 

Goldson said drag is a “loud and pompous celebration of pride, an incredibly joyous party, and involves beautiful makeup and costume.”

“For the queer Jewish community on campus,” Goldson said. “We felt the intersection of Judaism and our LGBTQ identities is perfectly exemplified in the story of Purim, and what better type of party to host in celebration than a drag show?” 

She said some of the performers are current students who they knew through the queer community on campus and LGBTJew.

The student performers were: Halo Goldrosen (The Witch King), Ian Copple (Belle Curve) and Antwaun Allen (Smokey Doc), as well as the host, Azer Matten (Fernie Sanders).

They also contacted local professional drag performers who they hired, including Nic Koch (Mielle), Milagro Cortez (Xavi Cado) and Michael Stroud (Belle De Jour), who run their own nonprofit, Out in Fox Valley, in St. Charles, Illinois.

One of the student performers, Ian Copple, who currently teaches high school math as a student teacher, performed in drag for the first time this year as “Belle Curve.” 

They said their friend Azer said their club was hosting a drag show and asked if they would perform. Copple agreed, entering the drag world with no expectations.

“I forgot to mention, this wasn’t just the first drag show I’ve performed in, it was my first drag show ever attending,” Copple said. “That blew a lot of people’s minds when I shared that throughout the night.” 

Copple mentioned that their background in education spurred their ultimate costume choice. 

“I was kind of going for schoolgirl vibes with the outfit. Thigh-high socks, a skirt and a math-related name brought the fit all together,” Copple said.

Copple said they were open to the idea but had reservations due to their lack of experience. They said their partner, Mollie, is a huge fan of the tv show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” She was excited when she learned Copple would be a queen at Azer’s event and even helped them choose a drag name and performance song. Copple originally thought that a math-themed name would be relevant and interesting to their audience. 

“One of Mollie’s friends thought of ‘Belle Curve,’ and that was the funniest possible option,” Copple said. “I actually have a tattoo of a math equation on my ribs, so when I went to Ragstock and got a long sleeve crop top that revealed the tattoo, it all fit really well together.” 

“Mollie and I were listening to ‘What the Hell’ by Avril Lavigne, and I was singing along really energetically (while also not knowing the words), and then that became my performance song,” Copple said. 

Copple raved about the incredible support and generosity they received from Azer, the organizers and the performers in various group chats when they opened up about their inexperience. 

“Their biggest advice, above all, was to have fun,” Copple said. “No matter the wardrobe malfunction, not knowing how to dance or feeling nervous in front of a crowd, everyone involved reassured me that the point was to put on a show and to have fun.” 

Copple said that they immediately felt a sense of community meeting everyone in person for the first time. They said the others assisted them in putting on their costume, bobby-pinning their wig, applying makeup and pepping them up for the show. 

“Some of the queens had way more experience than me, and they offered helpful advice for makeup, performance and shopping/planning/prep,” Copple said. “One queen said that the best drag clothes are scattered in Goodwills in the wealthier neighborhoods around Chicago. I told one of the queens that I felt awkward dancing. Their reply was, ‘When in doubt, be way sluttier. It’s a drag show!’ Their advice was both absurd and relieving.” 

Copple said they appreciated the influx of support from the audience at the show. 

“When it came showtime, I saw a sea of people waving Pride flags and wearing rainbow colors,” Copple said. “I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is an LGBTQ event.’ Aka, the most supportive audience for a first-time drag performance.” 

Copple said their favorite part was the overwhelming sense of support from the organizers, performers and audience throughout the entire process. 

“I am fortunate to have met so many wonderful queens throughout the process. I really enjoyed the green-room talk before the show and getting to know the other performers. I’m glad I got to meet who I did, and I plan to meet more amazing people in the drag shows I attend in the future,” Copple said. 

Copple said that although the experience was enlightening, their plans for the future are not centered around drag show performances. 

“It was just one of those opportunities that fell into my lap,” Copple said. “I said yes because I’m wildly open to new experiences. After the show, I was physically exhausted from standing for so long, and the night ended way after my normal high-school-teacher bedtime. But the show was so fun. I certainly have a new respect for the drag world.” 

Another performer, Halo Goldrosen, was featured for the second year in a row as “The Witch King.” 

They go to Hillel and first started with the Purim Drag Show last year when it was held virtually over Zoom. 

“My drag name is The Witch King because around the time of the show last year was the height of my Lord of the Rings hyper-fixation,” Goldrosen said. 

The Witch King is the primary Sauron’s, the antagonist’s, second in command.

Goldrosen said one of their favorite parts of the process was the costuming. This year, their ensemble was accessorized with a handmade crown. They also loved meeting the other drag queens and mingling with the crowd after the show. 

The show began with a narrator explaining the story of Purim, introducing us to the drag queens and their respective performances. The performers then danced to their chosen songs, collecting donations from the audience. 

“The best part of the experience for me was the event itself and seeing so many people celebrate the intersection of all of their identities with such joy and spirit,” Goldson said. “As someone who struggled with being in the closet for many years, such visible displays of pride are incredibly moving. It was also many people’s first big event or concert since the start of the pandemic, which added to the energy and excitement that could be felt throughout the night.” 

The show’s atmosphere was electric, beaming with unconditional love and support for the performers as well as the audience. 

“This celebration is for everyone, Jewish, queer, both or neither,” Goldrosen said. “Illini Hillel and LGBTJew host this event for the purpose of bringing together a diverse group of people to celebrate our shared and divergent identities.” 

 

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