Words by Monisha Mukherjee, photography by Chloe Johnson
It was the first live show I’d been to all year. Everyone was spaced out for safety, wearing masks, sitting outside the dining hall and yet I barely noticed all that. For the first time in months the restrictions of the pandemic weren’t weighing down on my experience. All I could think about was clapping louder, and how fabulous the queens performing before me were. Did I mention it was a drag show? Time Warp Drag is breaking all the boundaries. For those of you who are first hearing about them, Time Warp is an outdoor drag show, completely student-run, created by two freshmen and all safely managed during the pandemic. That sentence should make it clear how amazing they are. I recently got to talk to some of the Time Warp members and ask them my questions about how their iconic cast and crew came to be.
Turns out Time Warp started with two freshmen, bonding over Rupaul’s drag race, and dreaming of drag in their dorm. Harris Erickson and John Carmel, known in drag as Thea Tricality, and Jessica Peru assembled the Time Warp crew. Thea said how “Once John, and I were like yes we definitely need to do this Jamar, was the first person that we contacted,”. Jamar, known in drag as You’Neek, had done drag shows before, and helped the founding members get their idea off the ground. Soon after they were joined by Ava Vanameringen, and Joe Spinner known in drag as Placentia Varisma, and Glitter Bomb. Their recruiting techniques were as wild as their show is, Glitter Bomb recounting how she was walking on the street when, “Harris comes running up to me and I kind of know him… and he’s like hey you seem like someone who likes to perform do you wanna do a drag show, and I was like I guess? And here we are,”. That was the original cast and they were joined by a few more queens like Ani, and Johnny VertXes soon after.
The members of Time Warp are revolutionary and challenge many preconceptions about who can perform drag, with the inclusion of Placentia and Glitter Bomb who have, in Jessica’s words “bended that sort of identity of like the, what is a drag king, drag queen”, explaining that Time Warp aims to break those gender boundaries with their act. Glitter Bomb added on saying how she enjoys being able to “explore those different dynamics and mix femininity with masculinity so no one knows what’s going on, keep them on their toes.”
Not knowing what’s going on is part of their trademark style, going back to the overarching concept of the show, the Time Warp. Thea Tricality explained that they settled on Time Warp as “it was clear that John and I were coming from a standpoint of songs and references from decades behind us, and them of course blend that with contemporary performances and it kinda stuck.” Jessica expanded on how the Time Warp concept makes their show unique saying that “it creates the definition of a Time Warp going back but still being in the same place.” The cast loves how embracing the Time Warp lets them revisit the history of queer culture and really strong songs that still stand today, instead of only the present day songs.
All their effort is worth it, as the show stands extremely unique, and every performance is full of life, and passion. As effortless as these queens make it look, they do admit that they’ve had to overcome difficulties. Glitter Bomb talked about how dancing saying that it was hard to put together a dance at first but over time has come to terms with it saying how “it’s not about getting all the moves exactly right or having a step by step thing for every song, it’s just about being into it and being present, and giving them a good show.”
Placentia Varisima also explained how despite all the rehearsing they do the night before the show is always nerve-racking, but the queens get through every performance together saying how they “all support each other backstage, and it’s really just like a whole family!” The show takes different inspirations for each performer, and these inspirations range through history just like their show. Johnny VertXes said he draws inspiration from Dorian Electra, while Glitter Bomb loves the club kids scene, and Placentia style comes from her icons Lady Gaga,and Rihanna and her makeup is based on her mother’s clown makeup. Thea Tricality described her persona as sensual, sophisticated and super sassy, while Jessica, who loves fashion, says that her inspirations would be Marlo Thomas, Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, and one of her favorite artists Shirley Bassey. She also purposefully styles her looks to be very 60’s, to fully embrace the Time Warp.
Of course, putting on such elaborate spectacles takes quite a lot of energy, dedication and well time. The group rehearses constantly, with the main choreographer of the group Ani saying how “it’s hard to come up with moves that I can do myself but in group numbers I love that you can do so many formations and different things, it’s just you can be so flexible with it.” Of course, rehearsal work isn’t all there is. Thea Tricality and Jessica Peru spend a lot of energy on administrative work and keeping up with their Instagram, @timewarpdrag. The group has gotten very creative in order to make their show work. They thrift lots of their outfits from vintage shops to fully embrace the Time Warp concept, and have managed to get sponsored by Rumours and Blue Bones. They also give big credit to their amazing crew, their stage manager Jocelyn Larsson, everyone who ushers for them, and of course the tech divas Jared Howard and Kyle Duncan. Jessica says how “it’s so crazy that we found such a strong dedicated but talented group of people.” Outside the crew they also give a lot of thanks to people like Margaret, who allows them to use the Espresso-a-go-go in Monroe park for shows.
Time Warp is continuing with outside shows, and hope that in the future once covid does get better they will be able to draw larger crowds and interact with the audience more, but are extremely proud of all they have managed to accomplish this year. Jessica talks about how people “whenever people say how your covid year must be kinda of difficult… but it’s like no, like its really phenomenal,” and how people have approached them thanking them for putting on such a happy show amid this whole pandemic, she went on to say how they pride themselves on “having it so professional, but still having it spark that joy, cause like who doesn’t enjoy drag?”