As students gathered outside of the Marshall Student Center Ballroom on Wednesday night, many said they were unclear about what they were about to see.
A woman wearing a mustache and men’s clothes provided an example as she handed students fake dollar bills at the entrance.
While the students took their seats, the performers prepared themselves behind the scenes.
Sitting in a blue dress and red wig, Matthew Dixon, a mass communications senior and historian for P.R.I.D.E., said he was excited to perform in drag for the first time.
“I have a new respect for women now, because I’m wearing this long hair all up in my face,” he said.
Minutes later, when Dixon stepped into the spotlight to the opening chord of ‘Just Give Me a Reason’ by P!nk, the crowd cheered and clapped.
Dixon lip-synced the song, eyes closed while thrashing to the music. He often left the stage to collect fake money from the audience.
“It was awesome, the crowd’s energy puts you in the mood,” he said.
Nevedha Duraimurugan, a sophomore double majoring in psychology and business management, waited while Dixon performed and said she was “a little” nervous about following his performance.
“I’ve always been kind of bi-gendered – like I had a male side and a female side,” she said. “So it’s really great to express it in a safe environment.”
Duraimurugan performed to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” from the Disney film “Mulan.”
Cynthia Rosario, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering and the vice president of internal affairs of P.R.I.D.E. Alliance, said her performance was a cathartic learning experience.
“Originally, I didn’t want to do it,” she said “But after doing it I feel great, it’s a lot of fun. I’m really tired, though.”
In addition to newcomers, some professionals were present.
The crowd favorite was Spikey Van Dykey, a male gender-bending performer, whose striptease was met with the loudest reaction from the crowd.
After taking off his tuxedo blazer and unbuttoning his shirt, Van Dyke started to gyrate on stage.
To the elation of the audience, he jumped off the stage and twerked on the laps of students. He consequently collected copious amounts of fake dollars in the band of his underwear.
Rhamah Norris, a junior majoring in integrated animal biology and the emcee of the event, thanked the audience while wearing a beard drawn on with makeup.
“The reason we have this drag show is to bring gender play into the spotlight,” she said. “We can play with gender – we can make it a performing art. We can step out of our gender roles and make ourselves do something that we didn’t think we would.”