Rust Belt drag queen show must go on online

YOUNGSTOWN — Because the Rust Belt Theater Company can’t have an audience for “Miss Tuesday Night,” it’s taking the show to social media.

The Youngstown theater group will livestream a performance of the musical at 8 p.m. Friday on its Facebook page.

“We’re in a unique position,” said Rust Belt founder Robert Dennick Joki, who cowrote the show with Josh Taylor. “We write our own material so we can record anything we want.”

“Miss Tuesday Night” was supposed to open last Friday for a three-weekend run at the Calvin Center but was postponed because of the restrictions put it place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“I feel awful for the actors,” Joki said. “The reason we put the show on this season is we had so many who were passionate about exploring the issue of drag. We had a huge cast for ‘How the Drag Queen Stole Christmas,’ and it made sense to continue with something people wanted to work on.

“We’ve also been doing a lot at Club Switch (in Youngstown) and have built a following there, and they haven’t seen it before. There’s a lot of design work that goes into the show, a lot of costumes, and it was heartbreaking that people won’t see it.”

The musical chronicles the competition at what is described as, “The most popular early-midweek drag queen pageant in the southernmost part of northeast Ohio.” It provides a behind-the-scenes look at the outlandish culture surrounding small town gay bar drag pageantry. Contestants, stage mothers and drag hags abound in an interactive musical that follows the structure of a traditional drag queen pageant from beginning to end.

The show normally includes an audience participation element, where people in the crowd are selected, put in costume and become a part of the pageant. For Friday’s livestream, Joki said they’ve invited a couple of Rust Belt performers who weren’t part of the cast to take those roles.

The cast features Kage Coven, Jeremy Grimes, Celena Coven, Janelle Yohman, Jessica Patoray, Lisa Torrence, Martin Daniels, Austin Brown, Sarah Whitlach, Dean LaSalandra, Jude Mikulich, Brooke Nobbs, Keith Ian, Heather Powell, Josh Yohman, Amanda Rudnytsky and Abigail Kremm.

“I’m filming it myself because I know it best and I’m not in this one,” Joki said. “I’m hoping we create something people will enjoy.”

The theater will promote its GoFundMe campaign during the livestream, and viewers will be able to donate to the theater or leave a tip. However, the livestream will be free to watch, and for those who can’t watch it at 8 p.m. Friday on the Rust Belt Theater Company’s Facebook page, it will remain available on an on-demand basis.


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