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The Flower City Queens

by Steve Desroches

Since the smash hit RuPaul’s Drag Race premiered in 2009 the show has introduced nearly 150 drag queens from all around America to a national audience. The Emmy Award-winning phenomenon has featured queens from big metropolises like New York, Los Angeles, and Houston as well as smaller cities like Tampa, Florida, Bayamón, Puerto Rico, and Albuquerque, New Mexico and far-flung small towns like Owensboro, Kentucky, Johnson City, Tennessee, and Back Swamp, North Carolina. But one small city on the shores of Lake Ontario has attracted a lot of attention for sending a seemingly disproportionate number of cast members to the show who went on to become beloved contestants, bringing attention to the robust and dynamic drag scene in The Flower City, otherwise known as Rochester, New York.

Mrs. Kasha Davis

Rochester got a boost from George Eastman, who founded the Eastman Kodak Company there and then endowed multiple cultural organizations. The city is also is home to several colleges and universities as well as institutions like the Strong Museum of Play and the Rochester Contemporary Art Center, making the western New York city a hot spot for the arts. Its large LGBT community is what gave root to its celebrated drag performance scene, which produced the RuPaul’s Drag Race alums Mrs. Kasha Davis, Pandora Boxx, and Darienne Lake, who are coming to the Pilgrim House to perform their drag revue 3’s Company: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em Join ‘Em for a late summer run.

“It’s kind of crazy that this many drag queens from such a small city have been on this national television show about drag,” says Pandora. “It’s always had this great drag scene. Per capita it has a larger LGBT community than New York City. Plus it has such a big arts and theater community, so it makes sense that there is such a large drag community, as well.”

Pandora Boxx

The three drag pals created their own show after having performed for and with each other for years, providing support and inspiration in a trifecta of sequins, lip stick, and double entendres. Joining forces for each of their Provincetown performance debuts, the show promises juicy tidbits from their respective times on RuPaul’s Drag Race, as well as tales from their baby drag days together in Rochester.

“It’s a variety show of our friendship,” says Darienne, whose drag name comes from Darien Lake, a popular amusement park not far from Rochester. “We perform well together as we all do different types of drag, so there is definitely variety, as the show centers around our life in drag and how we are still friends. It’s a smorgasbord of talent.”

“Well, we’re doing the show together instead of alone, first off because we’re old,” says Kasha. “I literally had my first colonoscopy today.”

All three queens have been to Provincetown as visitors, with Darienne and Kasha coming in part to see all the drag shows the town has to offer and Pandora coming to ride on a float in the 2014 Carnival Parade. All of them confess to being bitten by the Provincetown bug, as the small town rivals RuPaul’s Drag Race in providing support and opportunities for drag performers.

Provincetown sets a high bar for drag queens, where most write completely original, full-length shows which is very, very different than most locales around the country where queens get maybe 10 to 15 minutes to perform a number or two in bar or nightclub. Provincetown is one of, if not the biggest, drag capitals in America.

Darienne Lake

Here seeing drag legends like Varla Jean Merman and Miss Richfield 1981 lit a fire in each of them to create their own Provincetown-style show, which is what they are presenting at the Pilgrim House this week. But Kasha points to her drag mother Naomi Kane, who for years owned and operated the now-closed gay club Muther’s in Rochester, giving a home to the city’s drag queens, both new and seasoned, acting as a mentor to Pandora and Darienne, too. That’s really where the road to RuPaul’s Drag Race and Provincetown began. Some say it’s something in the water in Rochester that creates so many drag queens, but it’s really the legacy of Naomi Kane.

“She helped us all,” says Kasha. “She helped us all work together. She fostered such talent. She was great. I would go there and try so desperately to be what I saw on stage, all these beautiful queens. But she said to me to be a drag queen, a good one, you have to be you. That’s when my character and everything else fell into place.”

Mrs. Kasha Davis, Pandora Boxx, and Darienne Lake presents 3’s Company: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em Join ‘Em at the Pilgrim House, 336 Commercial St., Provincetown, Tuesday, August 21 and Wednesday, August 22 and Monday, August 27 through Wednesday, August 29 at 7 p.m. Tickets ($30/$40) are available at the box office and online at For more information call 508.487.6424.

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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