On Saturday, February 29, Askew in Providence was alive with cheering, singing and dancing during a fundraiser held by drag king extraordinaire Randy Andy. The event, aptly named Bushfires & Earthquakes, was in support of relief for Australia and Puerto Rico, regions recently affected by natural disasters. The venue found itself packed wall to wall with long-time supporters, occasional visitors and even some newbies.
Randy Andy performed to the song “Land Down Under” by Men at Work. The performance allowed him and his fellow performers to engage with the audience, which not only drove the crowd wild, but helped raise money for the cause in the form of ones (if you know what I mean). Among the performers who donated their time to the fundraiser were Randy Andy, Dick Dandy, Sergeant George, Wade Waterman, Man Lee, Hans In’Zeir and the talented Bobby Fre$h who finished up the night with some moonwalking to the song “Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson. There was no shortage of laughter, excitement, music and dancing, which left the audience in constant applause.
Andy offers several King Maker workshops throughout the year, which assists aspiring kings with drag performance. The workshops, where kings like Bobby Fre$h got their start, last five weeks and culminate in recitals where new kings get to show off their skills. Workshops like the King Maker series, the resulting recitals and drag in general are important for many reasons, according to Andy, because “the personas that we [drag kings] put up on stage allow us to access parts of ourselves that we might otherwise have difficulty accessing.”
Andy started their own journey in drag after moving to Seattle, Washington, in 2000. Seattle already had a somewhat established drag king scene and connected with those interested in performing by leaving signup sheets for participation in their events around the city. It was this type of grassroots movement that inspired Andy to step into the shoes of Randy Andy. Unforeseen conditions eventually forced Andy to move back to Rhode Island. Though Andy left many things behind, they did not forget to bring their passion for drag. Andy took their knowledge acquired in Seattle and began using it to cultivate a drag king scene in Rhode Island. In 2018, their first drag king show, RI Jollies, sold-out to a welcoming audience.
Within the LBGTQ+ community, drag kings do not receive the same attention and recognition as drag queens. Eventually, Andy hopes to see more equity in areas like payment and opportunities to perform. Andy’s goal has been to create a safe space for the queer community. They do this by not only screening physical locations in which events are held, but by also making sure that the people allowed into the community are respectful and supportive. Even at the fundraiser, Andy was diligent in setting down rules with the audience regarding personal space, consent and physical contact with performers.
The fundraiser was a huge success, raising $2,030 from ticket sales, performances and a raffle of goods and services generously donated by local businesses. As the coronavirus unfolds, Randy Andy is looking to reshape his productions in a way that will support the artists, venues and industries that have been hit particularly hard.
To learn more about Randy Andy, visit PVDdrag.com or find Randy Andy on Facebook.