By Logan Lowrey-Rasmussen
While many local queer businesses are struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Arizona, the financial tribulations of one Tucson venue rang personal to various drag folk who call the historic city home.
Organized by local queen Miss Nature and Virtual Arizona Pride, the team enlisted the help of Tucson and Phoenix drag performers to save what she calls one of the “very few LGBTQA+ spaces in town" with an event on September 12 that raised $1,500 for The Screening Room.
“We are a truly progressive city, but with very few places to call home,” says Miss Nature.
“I first approached The Screening Room about doing shows there in early 2018 [and] since our first show in May of 2018, we have been able to do eight shows for eight different organizations raising over $15,000 between them.”
Since then, Miss Nature says the venue opened their doors for other drag events in the Tucson drag scene as well as Tucson Pride.
Performers who also participate in the Tucson drag scene like Justin Deeper-Love, Han Nguyen, and Dvyne Valentino told Echo about their individual drag-related experiences at the Downtown Tucson venue:
“The Screening Room was introduced to me a few years ago when Miss Nature started doing her quarterly fundraising shows; I have done several fundraising shows at the Screening Room,” says Justin Deeper-Love, who hasn’t performed since March.
“I think The Screening Room is a wonderful venue — it's inexpensive to rent out, it has a great stage, seating for 125, and a screen to project photos or movies onto; [they serve] great local beers, and the staff is always nice.” He says venues like this in Tucson are “like a dime a dozen,” citing his reason for wanting to save The Screening Room.
Han Nguyen says they were introduced to the screening from after working with Miss Nature at Tucson Pride a couple of years ago.
“I was invited to perform at several community fundraising drag shows, which she had organized and presented at The Screening Room; those shows have given me opportunities as a performer to be more involved in supporting local nonprofit organizations, and The Screening Room was the venue to help foster the generosity of our community, while also providing a live performance space for local artists and talent,” says Han Nguyen.
Dvyne Valentino says they have witnessed numerous successful drag shows at the space:
“I recognize their support and appreciate their love for the art form of drag; I am grateful to be a part of this event to help keep that support alive.”
"What makes the Tucson drag community unique is its feeling of more than just a bunch of performers who like to put on beautiful makeup, expensive shiny clothes, or how much money they make from the art form; it feels like a family,” Dyvyne continues.
“And that’s what I want the world to know: when I moved to Tucson in 2016 from Chicago they welcomed me with the widest open arms [and] I love my Tucson drag brothers and sisters!”
Miss Nature says she loves the community and its diversity, but wishes other performers could also open their hearts and minds for the greater good.
“We need to be open in working with each other more and not making it such a difficult world for others who may already be struggling personally,” says Miss Nature. She gave a shout out to National Suicide Prevention Month, which is observed in September.
The event featured one act from each individual performer along with a Q&A session based around “the importance of art centers in our community.” Described as a “telethon-like event,” Save The Screening Room was streamed live with a limited number of tickets sold for the September 12 occasion.
Miss Nature says dressing room space was divided to help keep performers safe and follow CDC guidelines.
“Performers were asked to come prepared and not have all their luggage as well; that way, dressing remains easy as masks and will be required during this event with the exception of the one performer who is performing on stage,” says Miss Nature. She says no interaction between audience members and performers occurred, and all tips went through The Screening Room’s designated Venmo account.
“Four hand sanitizing stations were throughout the theatre and there was also a hand-washing station at the door.”
Hosted by Phoenix sensations and social advocates Sassy Charming Diazz and Mia Inez Adams, the aforementioned performers were joined by Phoenix’s Kristofer V. Lee and Shannon McKenzie, alongside Tucson’s Raul St. James and Dirtee X from Casa Grande.
“Audience members enjoyed some of Arizona’s great entertainers,” says Miss Nature. “We had individuals from across our great state who showcased their talents. What I love about this group is the number of people involved who are highly talented, but aren’t often given enough on-stage time to share those talents with us."
If you're interested in donating, visit the GoFundMe link.