On Saturday, thanks to six performers from San Francisco, Sacramento and Redding, an entertainment epiphany hit the Cascade Theatre in downtown Redding, Calif., like a rainbow meteor from the Land of Oz.
These performers wore their best couture, changing 12 times in two hours, and lip synching to everything from sweet sultry 1940s ballads to hip hop music.
They strutted across the stage with lavender locks flowing around their spangled gowns while the near full house — maybe 10 seats shy — went into orbit, clapping, swaying, standing up and cheering for this historic performance: the first drag show inside the Cascade Theatre since the 88-year-old theatre’s construction.
This was a professional drag show, one of those sociological phenomena that certain states in our ‘free’ country are trying to stop — like Florida and Texas. However, as of June 4, a judge ruled that it’s unconstitutional to not allow drag shows in Tennessee. Saturday’s drag show in downtown Redding was a victory for freedom of speech and simply fun entertainment. We can be assured that in California, any ruling of this nature would be found out of order.
This historic first for the 1935 Art Deco theatre was more than a knockout for North State residents from every walk of life, but when you see doctors, attorneys and real estate locals swaying to the same beat, you know Redding has made a turn to the political center of life. It was especially comforting for local transpersons who felt they could come out and be part of the evening’s celebration for June’s Pride month.
This adventure has been in the planning stages for more than three months by a team of dedicated individuals who worked with Cascade staff to organize this year’s annual fundraiser for the local Nor Cal OUTreach Project and its center, located at 2042 Market St., Redding. This non-profit organization has been in Shasta County for some 14 years, providing support for LGBTQ+ persons throughout the North State and surrounding counties.
Yes, Redding, Shasta County and the North State will not be the same after these professional performers shook the chandeliers and belted out hand-clapping tunes. The colorfully dressed attendees stomped and cheered until they were hoarse, and still cried for more.
When it was noted that the line stretched around the block at one point prior to when the doors opened, the production team knew a success was in hand, not just as a fundraiser, but as a new point in our local history that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated.
Some of the last comments made, as folks made their way home, were, “Thank You!
We Love You! Do this again next year!”
Pride Month celebrations
And there’s even more for the month of June here in the North State: the LGBTQ+ Art Show at The Hunger in the IOOF Building until June 24, the lighting of the Sundial Bridge in Rainbow lights and the painting of the new rainbow flag in the Downtown Redding Promenade by Karlo Henry and fellow artisans.
The Cascade production was brought to all of us on the backs of past establishments like The Tiki Room, Shufflin’ Beaver, Bogey’s, The Rainbow Room and as of late, Club 501; all gay bars located in Redding. Those bars and their owners allowed a comfortable and accepting place regardless of one’s lifestyle.
And the tragic murders of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder on July 1, 1999, simply because they were a gay couple, will not be forgotten in our collective hearts. All of these things and more were part of Redding and Shasta County’s drag show history.
See you next year!
Photos courtesy of Caroline Shufelberger.