Imagine taking the stage for the very first time, facing an audience under a bright spotlight pointed solely at you. Also, imagine this is the first time you truly feel like yourself — the first time you’re able to express yourself to the nines.
More than 15 University of Louisville students will be facing all these emotions and more when they take the stage at the annual PINK drag and variety show, held Friday, March 29, at Play Dance Bar. The benefit is hosted by the LGBT Center at UofL and will help raise funds for Shades, UofL’s group for LGBTQ students of color.
The event is the longest-running student-produced fundraiser at UofL, having begun in the late 1990s, and the students are responsible for every aspect, including directing, producing, performing, taking tickets, etc.
Insider caught up with Lisa Gunterman, director of UofL’s LGBT Center, to find out more about the performers and what PINK means to them.
Insider Louisville: What types of performances can we expect at PINK?
Lisa Gunterman: Performances will be in the tradition of drag culture, and you’ll see a range of expressions, including drag queens, kings, gender non-binary performers and performers who don’t really identify with any label. The one thing each performer has in common is their courage to take the stage.
Students who are involved in PINK benefit from the guidance of “pros” who mentor and encourage them in their performance, including Reva Deveraux, Mother of the House of PINK; King Mystical, former National Entertainer of the Year King; and emcee Jaison Gardner, whom readers may know from his WFPK podcast with Dr. Kaila Story, “Strange Fruit.”
IL: What does PINK mean to the students?
LG: There are key disparities facing LGBTQ youth that have remained unchanged in my close to 30 years working with this population. They include suicide rates, bullying rates and homelessness rates. PINK is the opportunity for students to take the stage and be celebrated and applauded for their identity.
During our student interest meeting, I shared: “If you take the stage and are a gifted performer who amazes the crowd, you’ll receive wild applause and tips! If you are performer who ends up shaking in your shoes and makes mistakes, you’ll receive wild applause and tips!”
PINK is such a validating experience for everyone who participates. While PINK is an annual event, each one of us can do something every day to ensure LGBTQ young people feel this type of love, support and validation so they are empowered to realize their dreams.
IL: How long has the event been held at Play?
LG: This will be our second year at Play Louisville, and we are fortunate to have such a community-minded business dedicated to investing in LGBTQ and social justice organizations. Play generously underwrites all expenses for PINK, such as lights, sound and staffing, which means when you buy a ticket to the show, you can trust that proceeds will go directly to student programming.
For a number of our students, performing on the professional stage at Play is a dream come true. Many hope to be “discovered” and invited to perform on amateur night (hint, hint to the folks at Play).
IL: What are you most looking forward to?
LG: Given the difficult paths many of our students traveled prior to attending UofL, I am most looking forward to seeing them shine as they soak up all of the love and affirmation from our community. Students will also happily accept your tips, so bring those dollar bills!
PINK starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 29, at Play Dance Bar. Tickets are $15, or $5 for students. Play is located at 1101 E. Washington St.