IF YOU GO
What: “Fundraising is a Drag!”
Where: The Calvin Center; 755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and June 11 and 12.
Reservations: Call 330-507-2358.
755 Mahoning Ave., Youngstown
By MILAN PAURICH
Taking a break from tradition, the seventh annual “Fundraising is a Drag!” will move to a new location this year — the Calvin Center on Mahoning Avenue.
Also different is the number of opportunities charitably-inclined theater buffs will get to catch the show.
“June is a very busy month,” “Fundraising” impresario Robert Dennick Joki explained in a recent interview. “Besides vacations and graduation parties, there are also new shows at the Oakland [Center for the Arts] and the Victorian Players. We’ve scheduled four performances so that more people will have a chance to see it.”
According to Joki, “Fundraising is a Drag!” serves a variety of purposes. “Our first goal, of course, is to entertain,” he said. “Secondly, we’re committed to raising money for worthy causes. And lastly, we want to promote drag as an art form.” Among the numerous institutions and charities who have benefitted from Joki’s fundraising efforts in the past are Toys for Tots, Angels for Animals, Violet’s Cupboard, MDA, Pride Youngstown, YSUnity and the Ursuline Mother House.
“In order to raise awareness, we’ve been accepting questions online for the past two months. We’ll be answering those questions over the course of the evening[s]. Everything from ‘What exactly is a drag queen?’ to ‘Why do drag queens love Judy Garland?’ And even, ‘Do you think America is ready for a drag president?,’ Joki said with a chuckle.
On a more serious note, Joki hopes to dispel some common misconceptions about drag. “Performing in drag is not necessarily about sexuality, gender or even politics,” he explained. “Drag is about creating a caricature and putting on outlandish costumes — it’s really a kind of performance art.”
Unlike traditional drag shows where lip synching is the norm, all of the performers in “Fundraising is a Drag!” will be doing their own singing. “There’s also sketch comedy with parodies of popular music and culture, and the show is interactive, too,” Joki said. “Each night, one lucky audience member will be transformed into a drag ‘superstar.’ We’ll also be having silent auctions prior to every performance at 7 p.m. featuring local artwork, gift certificates from area businesses and various drag- related items.”
“Fundraising is a Drag!” marks the first official production of Joki’s new Rust Belt Theater Company. Per Joki’s mission statement, Rust Belt will be “dedicated to producing challenging, alternative, experimental live theater, empowering artists and promoting social change in the greater Youngstown area.”