Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Local Drag Performers Take Stage at Black River Wine Shop

Cecil Pulley
The Black River Cafe hosted drag performers.

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, Black River Wine Shop and Bar hosted a Valentine’s Day drag show, featuring performances from three Oberlin-based drag artists. This event was the second drag show hosted by the venue, following the success of their first, which occurred in November 2023. The show featured performances from three local drag performers: Lavender Goodnight, The Twisted Transitioner, and Angel Mirage, PhDiva. 

Joe Waltzer, OC ’98 and owner of Black River, and his partner Katie Ashwill, who coordinates events at the bar, had been looking for events to host. They first got the idea to host a drag show in the summer of 2023, when they met Lavender at the Oberlin Farmers Market. 

We wanted to host events that are specifically by and for the LGBTQ+ community,” Ashwill wrote in an email to the Review. “Oberlin has a big LGBTQ+ community, but there aren’t many specific queer spaces in the town. … Lavender said she’d been wanting to perform in a drag show for a while. So then we’re like, hey let’s just do it.” 

Since September 2023, Ashwill, Waltzer, and Lavender have been coordinating drag events at Black River, along with Assistant Professor of Biology Gaybe Moore, OC ’15, who led the planning process for both drag shows. 

Moore, who performs in drag as Angel Mirage, PhDiva, started doing drag when they performed at the College’s annual Drag Ball and have been performing ever since. They were not the only performer at the show who got their start at Drag Ball. College fourth-year Cecil Pulley, aka The Twisted Transitioner, also performed in drag for the first time at Drag Ball and currently performs across northeast Ohio. 

Moore spoke about the combination of performers associated with the College and from the Oberlin community at the Black River shows and the importance of having drag events that are open to everyone. While Oberlin’s Drag Ball used to be a crossover between the College and the town, the event has been much more restricted and college-centric since its return following the pandemic. 

“Joe, the owner of Black River, showed me a photo of all of these Oberlin alums and town folks going to Drag Ball in the [nineties],” Moore said. “The photo had him, but it also had the owners [of] The Feve, it had a person who was on City Council. It had all of these people that now I consider to be statements of the Oberlin community. But now I feel as if Drag Ball’s kind of become more insular to the campus. And so that leaves a lot of folks in the community without a space to experience drag, or for queer folks who see drag spaces as a space where they can feel validated, a place for them to go.” 

In addition to the accessibility of drag shows, Pulley also highlighted the importance of inclusion of less “mainstream” types of drag that have occurred at multiple drag shows in Oberlin, both at Black River as well as at The Feve, which has hosted drag shows at its Manic Monday Markets. 

“The people that put on shows at The Feve and at Black River have been really good about consistently casting drag kings and drag performers that don’t do conventional styles of drag,” he said. “Most of the time when you think of drag a lot of people go immediately to drag queens and the style of drag that you see a lot on TV like on RuPaul’s Drag Race and stuff like that. That is not the only kind of drag that’s out there. Just like gender itself, drag is kind of like limitless in the possibility of what it can be because it’s playing with what gender is, which is also limitless and undefined.” 

Ashwill, Moore, and Pulley all want to continue to put on events like last week’s Valentine’s Day show, with Ashwill noting that Black River will continue to host drag shows as long as people are interested in performing at them. Moore emphasized the importance of drag shows as community spaces for LGBTQ+ folks. 

“It’d be nice if there was a calendar where at least once a month there was something drag-related, or just an LGBTQ+ affirming space that could be had in the community for folks to have,” they said. “I just want folks to come out to [events] as we continue to have them. Black River and The Feve will keep hosting, but as long as we continue to build among College and community, I think that there’ll be more opportunities to have these kinds of events. I can only imagine this growing in the future.”

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