by Mallory Moad
You know what I like about the holidays? Dressing up! And who likes dressing up even more than I do? Kids! On a sunny Sunday in mid-December, a bunch of kids came together with another group of people who are even more enthusiastic about dressing to the nines: drag queens and kings. The event was Drag Story Time and from designer dresses to plaid pajamas and a pint-sized Santa Claus, everyone looked marvelous.
Brought to the Central Valley by Common Space, Drag Story Time is exactly what it sounds like – drag performers reading aloud from story books. According to Common Space Founder and Executive Director, Justin Kamimoto, Fresno’s Drag Story Time was inspired by, but is not associated with, Drag Queen Story Hour (created in 2015 by San Francisco writer, Michelle Tea). “Most Drag Queen Story Hours are affiliated with libraries,” Justin says. “We choose to use alternative venues for a visibility factor.” Since acceptance and inclusion are the basis of all Common Space productions, they are held in locations that are open to, and appropriate for, that philosophy.
This has also made it possible to expand the events to include more than just the reading of children’s classic and/or LGBT+-themed stories. There were plenty of fun pre-show activities and the lobby of Bitwise Industries in Downtown Fresno was buzzing with holiday energy. There was cookie decorating with plates of blank cookies and lots of goodies, like colorful frosting and candies, to give them a festive makeover. A coloring station was equipped with crayons and coloring book-style pictures of drag queens and kings. Candy canes and juice boxes were available for everyone, but if you were in the mood for something more substantial and less sugary, there was a build-a-sandwich table. Performers mingled with the crowd and a photo booth provided just the right lighting for taking a flawless selfie with your favorite king or queen.
After half an hour of revelry, the audience was ushered into the auditorium. We settled into our seats as our host, well-known local drag queen, Leilani Price (tall and stunning in Christmas-tree green) welcomed us. Four stories would be read during the next hour, each by a different drag queen or king that Leilani has personally chosen. She also selects the books, all of which are classic children’s stories, have LGBT+ themes, or both.
Opening the show was Naudia Skye. With her long, white hair and purple velvet dress trimmed in sparkly white fur, she was the absolute image of a snow princess. Her selection was The Rainbow Fish, a story about generosity and sharing. Next up was drag king, Alec Allnight, with The Wizard of Oz. Dressed appropriately as the Cowardly Lion, Alec had a fun performance style and good rapport with the kids he invited to sit with him onstage. When one of them claimed his chair, Alec wasn’t phased at all – he just took a seat on the floor. Crazy-haired Hazard Strange then shared her favorite book, Red – A Crayon Story. A member of the trans-gender community, she identifies closely with this tale of acceptance, difference, and being true to yourself.
Closing the show was Ego Dahhling who brought the house down with an energetic, hilarious interpretation of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Fierce in candy-apple red (including matching gloves and shoes), her look was completed by a perky, prosthetic nose that gave her the appearance of a Whoville resident. Each reader openly and warmly engaged the audience, inviting questions and receiving numerous hugs.
This was the fifth and final Drag Story Time of the year. The first was held at Common Space’s former location (they recently moved to a new, improved space). Three have been presented in Fresno (including one at Starbucks in the Tower District) while one has taken place in Visalia and another in Hanford. The response from the public and support from local businesses, including those not directly associated with the LGBT+ community, has been positive, and there are already big plans in the works for Drag Story Time 2019. Although I’m sworn to secrecy on the details, they involve a theater, university and sports stadium. I know you’re curious, but it will be worth the wait.
Justin had this to say about the success of this series of free, family-friendly events, “Parents will say they enjoy an experience like Drag Story Time because it’s not the traditional reading of a book. Our themes are promoting love and acceptance, that different is beautiful.” That’s a worthy point of view regardless of your age.
The first Drag Story Time of the new year will happen at Common Space on Saturday, February 2 at 11 a.m. Common Space is located at 1252 Fulton Street in Downtown Fresno. Admission is always free and everyone is welcome so let’s get all dressed up and go! Common Space has lots of cool things going on all the time. You can find out more on Facebook or on their website.
My name is Mallory Moad, and there’s no doubt in my mind that difference is a beautiful thing.