My ‘About Me’ video just dropped an hour ago. If you want to blow your mind, check it out.
It’s 3 minutes and 30 seconds or so of amazingness. Shot mostly on location in my exotic and luxurious Sparks, Nevada office. I also got to spend a lovely day with Debbie last Saturday, looking for rainbow things and taking photos and video footage all over Reno. I learned how to splice together film and audio, how to make the sound loud and quiet and how to add text and credits to a video.
I have to give credit to Nick Gapp, Media Production Specialist, at Dynamic Media Lab at UNR, who helped me with my video when I had gotten a little too “extra” and got lost in the sequence. He also showed me the ins and outs of sound mixing.
When we moved to Reno in 2020, I decided that I wanted to connect with the local drag queens even while in a lock-down. It was a slow process, but once I found one on Facebook, I was able to find many. I’m not even really sure how, as sometimes they include their given name in their social media and sometimes they include their drag name.
But one queen who I picked up along the way was Cameron McMechen. I had the opportunity to see his pictures as he graduated from Paul Mitchell cosmetology school…IN FULL DRAG…IN THE LIGHT OF DAY.
Mamá, come through. You know I love anyone who can stick it out to graduate. Plus, I was like, “Oh, this queen is degree’ed legit.”
Cameron has been in Reno for 3 years. He came from Denver to dance at shows at the Eldorado here in town. He soon met his partner of 3 years after moving. His parter, Ferny Gonzalez, is his drag “sister”, Shania Twampson, both comprising the unstoppable due, The Twampson Sisters.
Cameron said he came out at 14, but he suspects his family already knew. His grandma brought rainbow cupcakes to the dance studio for his birthday in his formative years.
He considers his mom, his partner and his two roommates to be his chosen family these days.
He started doing makeup during the pandemic. During this time, he also started school and now does makeup and hair at BJ’s Hairshop. These Reno drag artists are not disappointing. Here are few examples of Cameron’s mad makeup skills.
Credit: instagram @maria_twampson
Most importantly, this queen’s moves are not to be missed. As a trained dancer, you can see Cameron’s work on his instagram dance page. He masterfully takes over the stage, from risers to floor and connects with his audience. His performance is well worth a visit to his next show and throwing down a few dollars.
He said the biggest single tip he has ever received was a $100 bill.
Check out the energy of Ms. Maria Twampson dancing in 8-inch heels to Ballroom Blitz by the British glam rock band, The Sweet.
Cameron said that his favorite part about drag in Reno is his fans. He loves the di-fierce-ity, getting to know the other queens, and being a part of the community.
I had the opportunity to interview Maria and Shania Twampson, aka the Twampson Sisters, this past week. They are a powerhouse couple.
The Twampson sisters are comprised of Ferny Gonzalez and Cameron McMechon. They prefer male pronouns, both in drag and out.
They met on Grindr about 4 years ago. In a Grindr twist, they decided they wanted to get to know each other before they became too involved.
When I asked about how they got their drag name, they told me that the their roommate was talking about having “swamp ass” and when Ferny asked if his roommate said, “Twamp-ass,” a drag family name was born.
They are a powerhouse couple with Cameron the dancer and Ferny the hostess. Cameron cuts hair for a living, and Ferny isn’t working right now, so he has more time for publicizing their events, like their monthly drag brunches at The Arch Boutique Bar, Bites & Bowling at 111 North Virginia Street in Reno, Nevada.
I have not yet been been to the drag brunch, but it is every last Sunday of the month (TOMORROW!) from 1 to 4. Doors open at noon. They tell me that the event will always be an amazing mix of queens which, of course, include them, but also other talented queens from the area.
The tickets are only $20, or $30 for a meet and greet after. They have a bar, bowling, food, and a raffle prize. It sounds like a pretty low cover charge to me. But be sure to bring your dollars for drinks and to tip the queens as they dip, split, and shablam for you.
They can also be found performing around Reno every weekend. I caught them two weekends ago at Splash, for Cotton the Act’s return to the stage after, literally, breaking a leg. They performed We Both Reached for the Gun from the musical, Chicago.
Credit: Erica Pionke @ Splash
They tell me that they have a new addition to the drag family as of late named Sabrina Twampson. She is their drag daughter, but she’s more like a sister.
They will be performing soon in Napa, Fresno, and starring in the “Twampson Takeover” in Santa Rosa. They would like to travel more and are hoping to get to Texas, Phoenix, and Santa Barbara soon. They’ve only been performing for one year, but are already in demand. They also hope to keep giving back to their community and finding philanthropic endeavors in which to engage.
Cotton the Act was back on stage from, literally, breaking a leg. Dino Valentino was dressed and ready to perform that night at Splash. Dino and his boys were doing a Beatles lip sync cover of Twist and Shout.
Dino’s real name is Roberta and they are a pansexual, genderfluid drag king. They’ve never had to come out to their family, and their sister is also queer. Roberta’s mom knows that she performs, but has not yet been out to see Dino in action.
Their pronouns depend on the day or the outfit that they are wearing. One day, they wear heels and lashes and call themselves she, and the next day they bind with no makeup and prefer male pronouns. They prefer to be identified as male when in drag.
Roberta’s drag name came from loving Valentino’s hot sauce, and they decided to use the name that included their deep love of mouth burns.
Roberta started at 5-Star Saloon at an open mike under the inspiration and motivation of Cotton the Act, and Roberta immediately fell in love with drag and asked Cotton to be his drag dad. Dino Valentino has been performing in drag shows for one year.
Roberta Dino is a constantly changing canvas with a goth aesthetic. They consider themselves edgy and sexy but funny, too. They are inspired by Ash from Pokemon, Loki from Marvel and comic book-style face painting. They also love the look of old westerns, with leather dusters and leather hats. And, after seeing Shania Twampson with a glitter beard the night I saw them perform, mentioned that was next on their list of drag art to learn and master.
They are also inspired by Landon Cinder and King Crimson, both drag king influencers.
They have been performing about once per week since the world has opened up. Their day job is working as a teaching assistant for high school autistic kids and also being a single parent to two kids. The oldest is 11 and has taken an interest in the makeup and theatrics of drag.
Roberta said their favorite part of drag is getting out of their shell and building confidence. They love the Reno drag scene because of its di-fierce-ity. Reno drag has a lot of different skills and talents, professions and religions, colors and accents, and gender spectrums in the small community.
They will be performing at Winnemucca Pride this year. And look forward to more bookings and learning more makeup tricks. You can find them on instagram at itsdinovalentino.
I don’t know if it was because it was my first time back in live theater since the pandemic (I’m sure that helped), but this play gave me sooooooo many feels.
They still have a few shows left next weekend: March 24, 25, 26 at 7:30pm and March 27 at 2pm with a post-show talk-back. I plan to attend that the 27th matinee to experience all of the feels again. I look forward to hearing from the cast and crew.
You can read about the show on the theater website, but the gist is a historical story of two women, a professor and her student, who become the president of Mount Holyoke and a teacher there at the turn into the 20th century. But the real twist is they are lesbian lovers and, gasp!, feminists. The president, Mary Woolley, is a butch and assumingly unique in style and approach for her day, while her partner, Jeanette Marks is a more femme character.
They have an age difference, according to Wikipedia, of 12 years. So as whiny and immature as the Marks character is written and regardless that neither Debbie nor I are neither academics, the story very much reminds me of us.
I immediately connected to the demographics of the characters. I also realized quite early that I have never seen a butch lesbian character portrayed in live theater.
Woolley is an aggressive, ambitious, visionary and unique woman and feminist, to which I also could relate. One important line I will never forget was when Marks was berating Woolley for not carrying forth her vision of revolution, and Woolley replies, “I am the revolution.” I immediately thought of all the women like Debbie who have moved through the world as themselves, forwarding the LGBTQ+ change we see today just by being themselves.
There is also an understory of impatience of youth versus the calculating risks and rewards in the battles of revolution. This includes the antagonism of selling ones values out for money that allows them to live their dreams and the dreams of their partner. This is the perpetual question for anyone working toward social justice.
The lead characters, Evonne Kezios as Woolley supported by Tara Rispin as Marks, are fantastic. It took me a minute to fall in love with them, but I did. Hard.
Terri Gray was perfect as proper and equivocal Welsh, who I wanted to punch by the end of the play. Sydney Tello as Pearl and Claire Hachenberger as Felicity were absolutely adorable. Felicity made me laugh the hardest because she was such a chill goofball.
Kudos to the Director, who I hope to hear from at the talk-back. The lighting designer, Chad Sweet, did a great job creating a lot of different environments and turning the stage into a wash of different colors and lighting over something like 26 scenes in 90 minutes.
Let’s talk about these friends, though: Intimacy Director Adriano Cabral and Assistant Intimacy Director Thomas Rao. These friends, working with the main characters, created some bedroom and night time scenes unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in live theater. I actually found the intimacy choreography on Thomas’ website and I’m a little disappointed that I don’t think I got to see all the goods they had choreographed.
The intimacy scenes were really very family-friendly, but, like I said, unlike anything I’d ever seen in live theater before. They seemed very genuine and I felt the intimacy. Maybe I’m just thirsty for content like this.
My favorite scene was Woolley, on a river in China surrounded by unseen diplomats, reflecting in monologue on her love for and return to see Marks again after 6 months traveling. Her musings were so lovely. All the feels.
If you saw or see the play, please drop me a note to tell me what you thought of it. And if you happen to catch your name on an alert in this blog as having contributed to the play, please repost and Thank you.