Esmerelda DeVille was the Royal Majesty student winner in 2019, and is returning as a featured performer for this year’s show. Photos by Dionne Smith Photography

USM Royal Majesty Drag Show has long been inviting to both the deaf and queer communities, but its 20th anniversary show on Saturday will bring the intersection of the two to the forefront.

The Royal Majesty show is the biggest drag show in Maine and has been ASL interpreted since 2012.

“(The ASL interpretation]) is an opportunity to really normalize someone’s experience and to integrate someone seamlessly into this world of performance … our culture puts a lot of barriers in place and we want to try to limit those barriers as much as possible if not completely destroy them,” said Sarah Holmes, Title IX coordinator and assistant dean of students at the University of Southern Maine, and a founder and organizer of the show.

The show will be co-hosted by Deafies in Drag, a deaf and latinx comedy duo consisting of Jimmy Linares, whose stage name is Casavina, and Alvaro Garcia, who goes by Selena Minogue. Shane Diamond, local performer and founder of the organization Speak About It, is the third host. There will be three interpreters and some practicum students who will be interpreting the performances, and two interpreters who will be giving voice to Deafies in Drag.

Deafies in Drag make videos for YouTube and Facebook, and tour all around the world. They have never visited Portland before, and are looking forward to the show, according to Linares.

“In our show, we pretty much educate our audience on what we face in life as deaf individuals through comedy,” Linares said. The night before the show, Deafies in Drag are doing a live talk show, out of drag, where they will talk about their experiences as deaf and gay performers. “We enjoy helping inspire and empower the deaf community that they can achieve their goals through communication barriers as well.”

One of the featured performers this year is Darleen Michalec, aka Magenta. She was the student winner in 2014, and the first and only deaf performer the Royal Majesty show has had. “This show allowed me to explore and embrace several parts of my gender and sexuality journey. I felt safe to do that exploration at the USM show and that allowed me to finally understand who I am,” Michalec said. She said that she is performing with a mystery guest this year, another deaf performer who she is very excited to debut.

Returning student competitor Charley Merryman performing at the 2019 Royal Majesty drag show. Dionne Smith Photography

Charley Merryman is one of the student competitors this year, competing for the second time in a row. The 2019 show was their first time doing drag. Merryman is looking forward to participating again, and said that the immense positive feedback from last year was a big part of why they chose to come back. “The audience is so great! There is kind of an infectious desire to see you do well up there … I think the positive, uplifting energy is what I am looking forward to as well.” Merryman said.

The event has featured performances as well as a competition aspect in which student performers compete, pageant style, for a panel of judges. Student winners are a priority for future featured performances according to Holmes, and runners-up are invited to return to compete again.

Held at the Holiday Inn by the Bay, the event is not age-restricted. Holmes expressed how important this aspect of the event is considering that a lot of drag performances in the area are held at bars. “I think there are lots of young people who would really like to explore this, as a performance medium, as an art form, as a connection to a queer community or a queer identity,” Holmes said.

Tickets to the show are $15 online, $20 at the door, and $7 online and $10 at the door for students with their IDs. For more information, go to usm.maine.edu/student-diversity/usm-drag-show.

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