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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 14, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 37
Rugby is a drag - Which takes more balls?
Section One
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Rugby is a drag - Which takes more balls?

by Gaysha Starr - Special to the SGN

The differences between a rugby player and a drag queen are quite obvious. Some would say they are at the opposite ends of the masculine-feminine scale.

But which activity takes more (ahem) balls?

On Sunday, September 9, at Neighbours Nightclub, Seattle's own Quake Rugby team got a chance to experience both being athletes and queens by trading in their striped jerseys for sequin dresses, and their cleats for high heels, to hit the stage and perform at the first-ever 'Rugby is a Drag' fundraiser for both the Quake and Washington United for Marriage, the campaign to Approve Referendum 74.

Quake 2012 MVP team member Tru Halliwell came up with the concept. Having spent time performing with The Imperial Sovereign Court of Seattle as a former Mr. Gay Seattle, he appreciates drag queens and our uncanny ability to raise money and entertain audiences at the same time. During a fundraising meeting a couple of years ago he suggested a drag show starring Quake team members, but the idea never seemed to gel until March of this year.

You would assume that getting a bunch of rugby players to participate in drag would be a problem, but at least a dozen of them had a great sense of humor and thought it would be fun. The biggest dilemma was locking in the date for the show.

Tru had to coordinate around team and individual schedules as well as available dates on Neighbours' events calendar. The date kept being pushed back until, at the July photo shoot for the now-famous promo poster of the players with rugby shorts and high heels, the group decided on the Sunday after Labor Day.

A SERIOUS APPROACH 'We were all very clear with the type of show we wanted to produce so we approached the show like any practice or game - 'practice makes perfect,' Halliwell told me. 'We decided all upbeat numbers - no ballads - and a mix of both solo numbers and production numbers.'

In between their jobs, other commitments, and rugby practice, the 12 'Bristas' - short for 'rugby brothers and drag queen sisters' - bought their own costuming, asked seasoned queens to put them in drag, and most importantly learned their words, choreographed their numbers, and practiced walking in their heels.

On the day of the event, they all met at Neighbours as early as 4 p.m. and, with the help of experienced drag personalities including Queen of the Seas Olivia Lagarce, Miss Gay Seattle Donna Tella Howe, Empress Nina Maxwell, Ursula Major, Regine Dynasty, and Anita Lota Slong, the players got very in touch with their feminine side.

Donna Tella 'painted' George Froehle and Jason Stephany, transforming them into Tukwila Jackson and D'gnity, respectively. 'I sat Jason and George on each side of me and just rotated back and forth. It was so much fun to see their excitement as they would take turns looking in the mirrors.' Donna Tella also helped backstage, dressing them, calming their nerves, and encouraging them. 'The love and energy in the room was overwhelming and I was jumping for joy watching my two queens on stage,' she said.

As host for the event, I was able to bring each queen on stage and banter with her, asking which was more difficult: rugby or drag? Most of them admitted it was drag, but I think if you put a team of us drag queens on a rugby field we wouldn't know what to do - much less be able to score a touchdown (or a goal, or whatever it is you are supposed to do when playing rugby).

The 300-plus people in attendance were a mix of friends, family, and fans of the Quake. There was a lot of cheering, tipping, photo-taking, singing, and dancing during the 13 numbers. From the opener, En Vogue's 'Free Your Mind,' through numbers by the Scissor Sisters, Tina Turner, Whitney, Destiny's Child, Vanity 6, Jennifer Hudson, and more, to the finale, Abba's 'Waterloo,' the show moved fast. Between the door admission, an auction and raffle, and tips donated by the entertainers, 'Rugby is a Drag' raised over $3,000 in two hours - $1,000 of which went to our state's marriage equality campaign. There is already talk of bringing the event back next summer.

Team member Kirk Hanson, now known as Whiskie Rivers, summed up why 'Rugby is a Drag' was such a success, both financially and for the Quake's public relations. 'It brought together so many different groups. The relationships that were fostered or reinforced truly are spectacular. From getting all the support of our fan base, friends, colleagues, and the drag communities, it all worked to build our standing in the community. We truly are an inclusive team and this event proved that.'

The Quake kicks off the fall season at home against Kitsap on September 15. For a complete schedule and other info on the team, visit www.quakerugby.org.

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