Photo: Madison Krob
Author: Madison Krob
In honor of LBGTQIA+ History Month, Student Activities brought back a well-received event from last year – Drag Queen Bingo. On Friday, October 21, students packed into the Carriage House, eager to watch performances and play bingo with local drag queens. Student Affairs provided snacks and drinks for the attendees, along with prizes. Gift cards, adult coloring books, decorative pillows and other miscellaneous items were provided for the winners.
The performers, Michael Mayberry as Sonia May-Bottom, Michael Devitt as Miley Michaels, and Andrew Mehler as Boston Michaels, came out in different pairs, taking turns calling out bingo numbers and doing various lip-sync numbers in-between games. Despite some technical difficulties with the CD player, Boston Michaels opened with a mashup from “Addams Family Values.”
Afterwards, the bingo games continued, full of jokes and elaborate costume changes. Sonia May-Bottom performed a high-energy lip-sync to Florence and the Machine. After a few more bingo games and prizes, the final turn was a cover-all game for an Amazon gift card, won by first-year Political Science major Katie McClelland.
The event was enjoyed by students, both fans of drag and those who were not exposed to the Pittsburgh drag scene. First-year Exercise Science and Biology major Kayla Klett reflected on her experience, referencing how her hometown in Michigan had the same event, saying “back home this is a huge thing, as in you have to reserve your spot months in advance. I always wanted to go and had a lot of fun.”
Drag Queen Bingo was also successful for Bon Cavinder, sophomore transfer student. Bon has been organizing a drag show event at Chatham, open to anyone looking to experience the art form. When asked about how drag is impacting the Chatham campus, Bon responded, “I thought that this was great, especially because a lot of bars in Pittsburgh don’t allow underage people.”
Bon continued, mentioning how important it is for younger audiences to understand and infuse with drag culture. “Having a couple drag queens come to play bingo and perform shows people what they really can do and what kind of people they are. It exposes them to it, and gets them excited to see college-night drag shows.”
The night was also reviewed by one of the performers themselves, Sonia May-Bottom. When asked why Drag Queen Bingo is relevant and why the performers continue to come back to Chatham, Sonia replied, “The last time we did this it was amazing. We had a lot of fun, it was a great time, and we didn’t know if it was going to happen again. And then they called us again, we were so all about it.” Sonia joked about the song malfunctions they had throughout the show, saying, “We had a great time, despite the technical difficulties!” Sonia then mentioned how promoting these events on Chatham’s campus is important, saying, “You get to expose them to something different – even if they’d seen it before. No drag queen is the same; everyone has different aesthetics. And for people who haven’t seen it, it’s a gender mind bend, if you will.”
As for what is in store for Chatham students and the surrounding drag scene in Pittsburgh, Sonia recommended several events for those who may not be 21 but still would like to see performances from local drag queens. Sonia replied, “If you are 18 to 20, every first Thursday at Cruze Bar, they do an 18 plus event for performers in that age group. It’s specifically limited to drag artists that age who are just trying to put their toe in [to drag].” Sonia continued, suggesting other events, “There are bars in West Virginia and Ohio that are mostly 18 plus on most of the open nights. Other bars in Pittsburgh, like Blue Moon and P-Town are 21 plus. That’s the issue, we don’t have a lot of places that differentiate between 18 and 21. But, seven days a week, you can find something drag related in the area.”
From the performances to the bingo, it was certain that the students who showed up enjoyed themselves, and possibly left with a new view on drag itself. In a city famous for its Drag Queens – specifically Sharon Needles and Alaska 5000, winners of Ru Paul’s Drag Race seasons four and All Stars two, respectively – drag is a big part of the underground Pittsburgh entertainment scene. Events like Drag Queen Bingo at Chatham University are reflective of that, and ultimately, open doors for new art forms at campus.