CSU student's experience with the Cleveland drag scene

The dimly lit streets of Tremont, Ohio commonly see couples gathering for a drink and shops cleaning up for the night. On some nights, down a set of stairs on Professor Ave., local drag performers prepare for a flashy show. 

Cleveland State University student She-Opatra began their makeup journey around five hours before their drag debut at Coda in Tremont on Sept. 19. However, their drag journey itself began decades beforehand.

“It all kind of started when I was really young – around the time I discovered I was gay,” She-Opatra, 22, said. “I entered an online queer community and I had saw drag being mentioned. I was fascinated by it.”

Although She-Opatra has been involved in campus drag shows, their performance in the Casting Call event at Coda was their official Cleveland drag debut. After years of imagining themselves on a public stage, they decided September would be their time to shine.

“I knew about Casting Call since its inception,” She-Opatra said. “I've been following Pineapple for so long and she's always wanted to keep the doors open as much as possible for as many people as possible.”

Casting Call is a monthly event occurring at Coda and hosted by Pineapple Honeydew-Delight and Ryder Slowly. It is an open stage where new drag performers are encouraged to make their debuts and begin their journeys. At the conclusion of the night, the top two performers will have a chance to “lip sync for their lives” to compete for first place.

That Thursday night brought nine performers from across the Cleveland area to the Coda stage. From a burlesque dancer to a zombie eating intestines, the night had a bit of everything for everyone.

“I feel like Cleveland has been one of those places where we are so open to every type of drag – glamor, horror, anything,” She-Opatra said. “It is completely senseless to try and fit [drag] in a box; it is a limitless art form.”

The communal part of drag has always been one of the most important aspects – if not the most. Without a community to support drag shows, these performers could lose their outlet for self-expression.

“Supporting local drag is the one thing any person who does drag will tell you to do,” She-Opatra said. “Getting that community support is what lets us create new drag and lets us experiment. The more you support local drag, the more the drag will thrive.”

You can support local drag by attending shows around your area. Events can be found through local performers and other drag accounts, such as @dragnewsohio on Instagram.

The next Casting Call has not been announced yet, so those interested should keep up with Pineapple Honeydew-Delight and Ryder Slowly.