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Stepping into drag and onto the stage

Western gives warm welcome to Royal Gambit Drag Club

Ash Germino takes a moment to look into the crowd during the Royal Gambits Drag Clubs first ever drag show. Germino, who goes by Axe Andros while on stage, founded the club this year in hopes of creating a space for artists to explore drag. // Photo courtesy of Paola Falcon 

Editor’s note: The Front’s city life editor, Sol Vandeman, is vice president of The Royal Gambit Drag Club. Vandeman did not play a role in editing this story.

Welcomed by a packed Underground Coffee House, Western Washington University’s Royal Gambit Drag Club kicked off their first-ever drag show with The Monster Mash: A Devilish Night of Drag. 

The night of Oct. 29 consisted of nine performers taking turns lip-syncing to songs while performing pre-planned pantomimes and dancing. The queens, kings and monarchs were all met with an exuberant crowd that they said surpassed all expectations.

“Saturday went honestly amazing. It went better than we ever could have hoped,” Royal Gambit Drag Club Founder Ash Germino said. “We filled up to capacity, which was 100 people, before the show even started.”

With a crowd larger than expected, the club had to start turning people away. However, performer Elliot Sherin said the overflowing venue only added to the energy of the night.

“There were people lining up in the halls,” Sherin said. “It was really cool to see everybody supporting us and that really brought a lot of excitement.”

Performances like these are exactly why the Royal Gambit Drag Club was created. Germino founded the club last spring after they performed at the Western Drag Show.

“I was freaking out before the show,” Germino said, referring to the drag show Western’s Queer Resource Center held last spring. “But when I went out on stage and felt the energy of the crowd and how they cheered so loud when I came out, it was incredible.”

At that moment, Germino knew they wanted to experience that feeling every day. They loved being up on stage and wanted to find a space to perform again. However, they quickly found that there wasn’t an easily accessible one. Once Germino found out Western had never had a drag club before, they decided they would be the one to start it. 

With the goal of creating a place for people to explore drag, Germino and Vice President Sol Vandeman began working on making the Royal Gambit Drag Club accessible to all.

“Drag is a hard thing to get into, and it seems really scary to start it,” Germino said. “I wanted to give that opportunity to people because I love drag, and I love being on stage and people deserve to have that.” 

Official Royal Gambit Drag Club meetings started this fall, and they hope to have monthly shows if time allows. The shows serve as a place for performers of all levels to come together and do what they love.

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Michael Sherwood points to the camera during their performance to the song “This Hell” by Rina Sawayama. Sherwood took to the stage for the first time in drag as Addy HD. // Photo courtesy of Paola Falcon

For first-year Michael Sherwood, the Monster Mash was their first drag performance. Sherwood, or Addy HD while on stage, said that the lead-up to their performance was a collaborative effort. Club members helped them with makeup, hair and performance tips.

“I was lucky enough to have people in the club help me nail down the performance I wanted to do,” Sherwood said.

In the end, Sherwood said they let themselves be taken over by the crowd's energy and enthusiasm.

“I mean it when I say that those four minutes of my song were the best moments of my life,” Sherwood said. “It was so fun. I’m definitely going to continue to do shows.”

The Monster Mash was also Sherin’s first full-drag performance. Drawn in by the community and performers, Sherin took the stage as the drag queen Bam Boozeled.

Sherin has been performing in theater and dance productions since they were a kid, but they found a love for drag and the opportunities it allows for non-binary gender expression. 

“It’s fun to be a part of a community of similar people who love with all their hearts and perform with all of their hearts,” Sherin said. “Drag is creative self-expression. It is doing what you feel when you feel and going for it regardless of what people think.”

With their first show behind them and many more to come, The Royal Gambit Drag Club hopes to continue creating a space for all artists to take the center stage, Germino said.

“We don’t just have queens,” Germino said. “Drag is for queens, kings, monarchs and everyone else.”

For more scenes of the Royal Gambit Drag Show, click here.

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