During a laser-light show at the Museum of Science planetarium, a drag queen named “Coleslaw” strutted and lip-synched through a new kind of immersive variety show aimed at an adult, late-night crowd.
“Let’s do a contest,” said Ian Diver, the show’s co-producer, who performs as Coleslaw. “Who’s louder? This side or that side?” The audience cheered in response. “Oh, shut up. That’s pathetic. And the winner is me!”
This summer, drag queens and drag kings are taking over the Charles Hayden Planetarium every second Thursday of the month. During the day, the planetarium still holds traditional space science shows on the solar system, NASA missions, and the night sky. But now, in addition to the musical laser-light shows the museum has hosted for years, drag performances will also be on the bill.
“This summer, we’re exploring theater, drag, live music, and doing some sci-fi space film screenings all in the dome,” said James Wetzel, co-producer of adult programming at the Museum of Science.
“It just hit me that we could do a drag show in a planetarium in a way that has never been done before using the technology and the way the venue is set up.”
The first drag show at the museum was actually a year and a half ago. It was a surprise pop-up performance after the premiere of the “Lady Gaga Experience.” As the audience left the music show inside the planetarium, they found a stage set up in the atrium with a “drag tribute” to Lady Gaga.
Diver, a local multimedia artist, said he considers drag to be one of the most immersive types of performance. Using the light show as a backdrop, Diver’s character was joined by three fellow drag queens named Qya Cristal, Violencia Exclamation Point, and Pristine Christine.
“There’s no fourth wall, there’s no barrier between the performer and the audience,” said Wetzel. “The room is really set-up for that as well. It’s a 360 [degree] space with audience at all sides. There’s nowhere for the audience to hide, in the best way possible.”
People’s eyes were glued to the performers’ every move. Some in the crowd cheered. Others threw dollar bills.
“My main drive is to make people smile,” Diver said. “I look at it like being a clown. Drag queens should focus on making people happy and bringing people together, making a sense of community, making people feel safe, making people feel accepted.”
On July 12, drag kings from the local performance troupe Slaughterhouse Society will perform dressed up as rock stars like David Bowie, Prince, and Marilyn Manson.
“It was a different way of seeing a drag show but it felt fitting,” said Sabrina Dorsainvil, 27, of Jamaica Plain, after seeing a recent drag performance at the planetarium. “Everyone once in a while I reminded myself to look up at the laser light show, especially when queens were out of my line of vision.”
Marcia Sturtevant, 70, arrived with five daughters and one granddaughter. They were there to celebrate a birthday. This was not Sturtevant’s first drag show.
“It was very good,” she said. “Key West is out of this world, but this was very good.”
Sturtevant’s granddaughter, Katie Morrison, 29, said it was less raunchy than she was used to. Meanwhile, Sturtevant’s daughter, Lori Sturtevant, said she had never seen a drag show in her life. It left her speechless.
“I’m never speechless,” she said. “When I got there, I had my hand over my mouth and I was like, ‘oh my God.’ I was in awe. Then again, I haven’t ever been to a strip club ever either.”