Mx. Bukuru (@caillou.sexy.ass.cousin), SFU theatre alumni, onstage with Belladonna VonShade (@belladonna_vonshade) at Man Up May Musicals Saturday May, 25

By: Lainey Martin, SFU Student

While mainstream drag culture is infamous among intersectionally-minded queer audiences for being oblivious to passive culture appropriation and transphobia, Man Up has made their name in hosting a damn good party that comes with social awareness. From posting their accessibility info online to running a Buddy System which is “a grassroots effort to combat rape culture and enhance the safety of our queer events,” it’s clear that they are a space where everyone can party safely.

Man Up is a multi-gender East Van drag show run by queers for queers. Each month, they put on a show with a different theme, this past Saturday being May Musicals! month. The show is put on at the Warehouse at East Side Studios, a large open-concept space that is equal parts cozy and grungy. There are retro couches, pool tables, and arcade video games, as well as a large stage and dance floor.

The Warehouse is a newly opened space, made to fill the gap in queer spaces left by the Cobalt. When the Cobalt shut its doors in 2018, Man Up came close to ending as they couldn’t find a venue that fit their needs. Determined to keep the show going, Man Up partnered with the Eastside Flea, who recently purchased Eastside Studios in Strathcona, to solidify a new home. A new queer party and arts space was born, The Warehouse (also known as Eastside Studios).

Man Up has an eclectic cast of performers each month, and they make sure to always have some experienced performers and some new talent. Drag here isn’t bound to the gender binary here either. Performers of all genders and sexualities grace the stage every show, from queens to kings to self-identified “Drag Things.” The variety of performances that Man Up offers is so special because it showcases the differences in life experiences that the performers have. It makes it easy to find someone you relate to on stage, which makes the art that much more engaging.

This type of drag feels much more intimate than big shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race, which, while very fun, can alienate us from the performers themselves and turn drag into a highly edited and corporate machine. At Man Up, the crowd’s excitement to see drag performers that are just like them is infectious, and the performers feel just as excited to be performing. All of this makes for an exciting and familiar atmosphere, a place where you know you are welcome no matter what to come party.

Now that season 11 of RuPaul has come to an end and crowned a winner, there is no better time to get out and, as described on Man Up’s Facebook page, enjoy your local “multi-gender drag spectacular and queer dance party in East Vancouver.”