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Young performers flourish at Royal Gambit Drag Club

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Photo by Paola Falcon
Photo by Paola Falcon

Have you ever considered trying drag? Perhaps you've been given the opportunity, but you're not old enough to perform at the local venue, or you know nothing about makeup and choreography. Students at Western Washington University have found a solution to these dilemmas: the Royal Gambit Drag Club.

Axe Andros — Photo by Henry Hagan  

"[Ash Germino] really wanted to create a space for under-21 drag artists, because in Bellingham there really aren't a lot of opportunities for any ... from the ages of 18 to 20, because a lot of drag is in bars or 21+ spaces," WWU senior Sol Vandeman (aka Sage Valentine) said.

The Royal Gambit Drag Club is student-run, with an estimated total membership of 150. It puts on performances twice a quarter on campus. It was founded by WWU graduate Germino (aka Axe Andros) with the help of Vandeman in 2022.

So far, the club has been a massive success, with each performance selling out quickly.

Since many of the members are new to drag, there is an emphasis on outside-the-box thinking to help performers come up with their personas or spruce up their preexisting ones. One of the ways they promote creativity is by having a set theme for each show that the participants must work with.

"It's a great way for newer drag artists to try different things," Vandeman said. "For example, back in when the club first started..., we had a Halloween show and then a country shows, and so that gave... the newer artists [an opportunity] to try out maybe more of a country theme or try out a more of a spooky or Halloween thing...

Sage Valentine — Photo by Naythan Ramos  

"[A theme is] a great way ... for our drag artists to explore different music genres or styles of drag, and ... even for the people who are more established, like myself. It helps me go outside the box sometimes and show the newer artists that even when you've been doing drag for like four or five years, you can still try new things."

Members are also given the opportunity to learn more about wigs, choreography, and the most challenging part for most newbies: makeup. The strategy for this is to provide feedback when people ask for it, as well as having meetings dedicated to certain aspects of performing.

Not all members are performers either. Since only 14 to 15 people can participate in each show, there is an emphasis on helping with the events in other ways.

"We're very big on the technical aspect of the shows," Vandeman said. "So, we have quite a few people who do tech for our shows, whether that'd be collecting tips, picking up props between the numbers, helping us backstage, helping with decorating the place... So, we have a lot of people who want to do drag, want to learn more about drag, or even want to just do tech."

Overall, Vandeman emphasized that the club is a fantastic place to not only learn about drag but to make lifelong friends.

The Royal Gambit Drag Club plans to have its next production in early February. Shows are 18+ and cost $1. For more information, follow @wwudragclub on Instagram