As 5:30 p.m. draws closer, the meeting room at Safari Pearl Comics begins to fill. The room is tucked in between shelves of comic books, costumes and board games, and many attendees stop to browse for a few minutes before taking their seats around the table for the fall semester Drag 101 class.
A table covered in shoes, wigs and other costume pieces sits at the front of the room, receiving many admiring glances from people walking in. The proud owner of the costumes is Aquasha DeLusty, a drag queen who has been with TabiKat Productions, the host of Drag 101, for 15 years.
“I knew it would fill up,” DeLusty said, as the number of attendees grew beyond the tally expected from TabiKat’s Facebook event.
At 5:30 p.m. sharp the door to the comic shop was locked — the first test for interested drag performers is being on time to Drag 101.
“It’s like a job,” DeLusty explained. “It’s a really fun job, but you have to show up on time.”
The majority of the attendees were college students, but TabiKat members are used to working with a younger crowd. TabiKat founder and Safari Pearl owner Kathy Sprague emphasized she wants her production company to be a positive experience for the local LGBTQA community.
“We know that the shows have an impact,” Sprague said.
Her eyes filled with tears as she recalled the story of a young man who grew up in an oppressive household and “never dared to attend the drag shows.”
She said the man had later written a letter to thank her for the community she helped build on the Palouse. Knowing the drag shows were there and the community existed had helped him to overcome suicidal thoughts while closeted in high school, he wrote.
Sprague said she wants her production company to continue to build that invaluable community, starting with the newest Drag 101 attendees. She said healthful living and mutual support are cornerstones of TabiKat Productions, and all Sprague’s performers are expected to give back to others as they find their places.
“Think about where this community has come from, and where it’s going,” Sprague said to the Drag 101 class. “Then think about how you’re going to get us there.”
In addition to supporting the LGBTQA community, Sprague said she expects upstanding citizenship out of her cast. Because they perform shows for all ages around the community, TabiKat performers are held to a specific standard.
“There are some drag scenes where performers will sabotage and steal from each other,” Sprague said. “You don’t get to perform with TabiKat if you do that sort of thing.”
The supportive environment among the performers was exemplified in the team present to help teach Drag 101. Even with the evening’s focus on rules and guidelines, anecdotes and jokes kept the atmosphere light and the room full of laughter.
Though the vast majority of attendees had never performed in drag before, DeLusty said she expects that nearly everyone in attendance will try at least one show. DeLusty encouraged the group to start by working at a drag bingo event before jumping onstage. The all-ages bingo nights, coordinated by DeLusty, are held on the second Monday of each month at One World Cafe.
This month’s drag bingo will take place Sept. 18. Cards will go on sale at 6:30 p.m. for $1 each. The next TabiKat drag performance is Sept. 23 at the 1912 Center in downtown Moscow. Tickets are available in advance for $7 at Safari Pearl, or for $8 when the doors open at 9 p.m.
Beth Hoots can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org