DRAGstravaganza

by FAITH BENNETT
If you have never been to a drag show, monthly event DRAGstravaganza is the best possible first time. After recently celebrating the show’s one year anniversary and switching venues, DRAGstravaganza now has more to unleash than ever. Newly appointed show director Alex Palmer (also known as alter ego Bizarrika Lestrange) recently spoke with EU about the impact of, and the reason for, “Jacksonville’s Premier Gender-Flip Revue.”
DRAGstravaganza was started over a year ago by friends Matthew Birmingham (Urethra Franklin) and Carl Cochrane (Twinki). They wanted to create a drag show to appeal to the underground and indie music scene that they were both plugged in to. Palmer was then asked to start directing the show “to make it more cohesive, and make it more of a show.” He picks out a playlist to run by the girls, along with conceptual ideas and suggested choreography. One thing that gives the show so much value is that it showcases a different form of expression than even other drag shows. “As a gay man, I’ve found I’m too femme for some men,” Palmer begins, and then says he’s also far from “Glamour Girl” drag. “I love living in the in-between. I love a good pageant drag or glamour girl drag. If you’re out of the house in women’s clothes, congratulations. But we wanted to showcase another side of drag.”
In regard to the venue change from Downtown to Riverside neighborhood bar the Norm, Palmer concludes that it is just a better fit. “Basically we did our run at TSI, but parking downtown is an issue for a six-and-a-half-foot-tall bearded drag queen.” The Norm, on the other hand, is in a more convenient location for the type of show being put on. The show will still be 18-and-up since, as Palmer says, “We have a fair share of Xs on hand at the show.” It will also still be affordably priced at only $5. “The Norm is more chill and relaxed,” he says of the bar, which offers beer and wine instead of liquor to the 21-and-up crowd present. “There’s a lot of up-and-coming talent there. Basically we’re at your neighborhood bar because we’re your neighborhood queens.”
The 18-and-up regulation is crucial. It allows for earlier exposure to a means of self-expression. It is an easy event at which to be comfortable and confident. Gay, straight, male or female, DRAGstravaganza provides an environment free of judgement. Palmer suggests attendees come dressed up or in costume. “Be yourself. Do what ever the heck you wanna do because no one’s gonna judge you.” Glitter and sequins are abundant, but far from mandatory. People come in everything from cutoff jeans and band shirts to six-inch stilettos.
This coming month, DRAGstravaganza will have a 60s cabaret burlesque theme. While that does go in a more classic direction, it still promises to be unique. “This month is a throwback, but with a modern twist. There will be a lot of brass, a lot of horns- also Duffy and Adele. We’re really gonna go there.” Palmer, who makes all the costumes for Bizarrika, and often creates clothing for the other girls as well, assures that there will be cohesive costumes for the show. The girls in question, of course, include Urethra, Twinki and Bizarrika, but also Miss Keisha Kandi, the impressive young Jennie Choo, dramatic Nostalgia, and the night’s MC, Isis. They will be doing ensemble numbers as well as solo performances.
After this month, DRAGstravaganza will return to featuring performances from Bizarrika and the Glitterators (Glitterators refers to Palmer’s Yamaha PSR E403) and rap performances from the likes of Twinki. However, even without a theme or synth or rap performance, DRAGstravaganza is always a good time. Whether you are a queen yourself, a bored teenager, a nightlife aficionado, a photographer or anything else, it would be hard to leave without ever smiling- very hard. DRAGstravaganza is every first Friday at the Norm, starting 10:30, and it’s one of the most unique and joyous monthly events the city has to offer the underground.

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