A Midsummer’s Night’s drag transforms campus with fantasy, charity, and unforgettable performances

Ashwin Sangareddypeta | Mercury Staff

Chi Alpha Iota transformed the SSA stage into a fantasy wonderland through the Shakespearean theme of “A Midsummer’s Night’s Drag” on Nov. 4 and Nov. 11. In the fifth annual installment of XAI’s drag show, performers made full use of the stage, dancing and weaving through the aisles.

Comets danced and lip-synched to songs like “Ignorance” by Paramore, “Confident” by Demi Lovato, “Bad” by Michael Jackson, “Criminal” by Taemin and “I’m Just Ken” by Ryan Gosling. The show also included guest performances by Novis Acapella and 200PERCENT. Tips collected during the performance were donated to charity, with 25% of proceeds given to House of Rebirth and another 25% given to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund.

Alison Spadaro, a math senior and president of XAI, said “A Midsummer’s Night’s Drag” was initially chosen to follow a fairycore theme, a fantasy aesthetic based on fairy and elf mythology. The Shakespearean theme split the performances into two acts to show the drag personas’ journeys through the fairy world in search of their identities.

“[The theme] gave our performers a space to express their characters that they’ve developed,” Spadaro said. “This idea was to put together as a loose plot to tie in a space for their personalities to shine through.”

Mechanical engineering senior Natasha Rahman’s drag persona was “Delta,” with inspiration taken from 1900s LGTBQ+ history. She said that XAI’s annual fall drag shows follow ballroom culture in creating a safe space for self-expression. “Delta” stays true to Rahman’s Pakistani culture while also allowing her to explore her masculinity through the means of a “stereotypical brown boy.”

“My name, ‘Delta,’ comes from the Greek symbol for change,” Rahman said. “It is an homage to being the change between what my culture is and being a queer individual. We can now have culture and sexuality play a role together rather than in separate playing fields.”

Katie Richard, an ATEC senior with drag persona “Willow,” said the annual drag shows enhance LGBTQ+ culture on campus by establishing traditions and remembering the history of the queer community. Neuroscience senior Tiel Livsey said their drag persona “Endomorphis”— an alien cosmic bug — shows that despite a lack of understanding from others, self-expression can work through bold and unique methods. According to Livsey, “Endomorphis” is a symbol of glamrock, self-acceptance, and the boundless potential of exploration.

“Since Endo is … from outer space, there is this sense of outsideness, but other people in that outsideness can join in too,” Livsey said.

The drag shows hosted by XAI enable the queer community to hold their ground despite recently passed Texas bills that have made LGBTQ+ self-expression difficult. One of the charities XAI supports through donations is House of Rebirth, a Dallas nonprofit that helps Black trans women with housing and other resources to ensure their safety and well-being.

“[The show] ends up spreading what drag is because a lot of people will come and say that this was their first drag show,” game design senior Vi Collins said.

Collins’ persona “Noiz” is the one of two characters in the drag show that is a human travelling through the fairy world. Noiz enters the show with an attitude of rage and angst against the world, but by the end of the show they find purpose, friendship and camaraderie.

“Because some people don’t know where drag shows are held or don’t know how to access [them,] that will be their first experience into what drag culture is, or sometimes what the LGBTQ+ community is,” Collins said. “It helps spread the sense of community within and shows off a variety of identities.”

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