USC's annual Birdcage drag show is set for April 13 at 7 p.m. in the Russell House Ballroom, continuing the tradition of embracing local drag.
Birdcage is an annual show where local drag kings and queens perform songs and routines for students on campus. It's hosted by Carolina Productions and the Individuals Respecting Identities and Sexualities (IRIS), formerly known as the Bisexual Gay Lesbian Association (BGLA), and this year's headliner is Farrah Moan, a celebrity drag queen.
On Oct. 11, 1998, USC students of BGLA kicked off the first ever Birdcage drag show in Russell House. The event celebrated National Coming Out Day and Creed Week.
The event's debut gained interest and inspired students to elevate the next year’s show. With help from local drag queen Patti O’Furniture, who was the faculty advisor of BGLA at the time, the event gained more and more popularity.
O’Furniture’s drag career was born from Birdcage, and she hosted the event for nearly 10 years. Almost 24 years later since its debut, the Birdcage continues to bring in a diverse group of performers.
“Each year, we just wanted to change it and add something to it to make it bigger and better, more educational and more entertaining,” O’Furniture said.
Katie Jameson, a second-year advertising student and an event coordinator for Carolina Productions, said there is a diverse set list of local queens and kings.
“It's really important that we bring these events to campus diversity and then inclusion is something that Carolina Productions really tries to emphasize and include in all of our events,” Jameson said. “But this event in particular is just a big celebration and highlight of all the diversity and celebrations of different cultures and identities and sexualities — all the things that we're trying to include within our program.”
Carolina Production’s partnership with IRIS has allowed them to curate a group of diverse performers for the event. The president of IRIS, fourth-year advertising student Casper Skinner, said they are excited for the event, especially since last year’s Birdcage was downsized due to COVID-19.
“For someone to witness that vulnerability of the event where it's someone who's like, 'this is me taking off my gender performance,' I guess, and just going kind of wild and like making something kind of crazy for everyone to enjoy,” Skinner said. “I think it takes a certain kind of person to do that, and I think when you get to create and also witness art, it does something to your soul that just feels good.”
Paris Lefaris, Anaya DeVore, Ebony Would and Gouda Judy are a few of the local queens who are performing at this year’s Birdcage. Highlighting local drag is a staple to the event, as students can go see the performers at bars or restaurants around Columbia, beyond the Birdcage.
“The neat thing about the Birdcage is that it has that educational, aha-light-bulb going off above your head moment where people realize that they can feel safe in a space where they can use the Birdcage as a place to learn and explore,” O’Furniture said. “And they can also come to the realization that all this great entertainment is right here in your very own backyard.”
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and guests can come to mingle or snap some pictures at the photo booth ahead of the show. The event will have a photo area with a backdrop and props, and is free of charge with a valid CarolinaCard. Students are also encouraged to acknowledge drag show etiquette and bring some dollar bills to tip their local kings and queens.