“Drag Is All Over the World, including Rochester, NY”
By: Megan MarkAnthony
In 1870s England, it was illegal for women to perform in theatre. Instead, men wore women’s clothing while playing female characters. Today it’s called drag.
But today instead of mocking women, drag is often seen as a celebration of women. Drag queens are often seen performing at gay bars. While gay bars started as a place for gay men to gather freely without judgement or persecution, these establishments have now become places for anyone who doesn’t feel as though they belong to find their family.
ROAR is a well-known gay bar in Rochester, NY. ROAR opened when TILT another gay bar closed in August of 2018. DeeDee Dubois a drag queen and DJ Mighty Mic both employees of TILT decided to “fill the void” TILT left by opening ROAR.
Drag is gaining more and more fans with shows like “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. “RuPaul’s Drag Race has put drag into our mainstream culture, opening up drag not only to the gay community but everyone,” Schmitt a regular at ROAR comments.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” features many contestants from Rochester, NY. Including Pandora Boxx from Season 2, All Stars 1, and All Stars 6, Darienne Lake from Season 6, and Mrs. Kasha Davis from Season 7. All of the queens have returned to their hometown to perform at ROAR.
ROAR’s motto “creating a unique safe space for the LGBRQ+ and everyone in the community” has brought together many different people like Tammy Boak.
“In society today as a woman its very dangerous to go anywhere. It’s not just a fear it’s a reality. But when I’m at ROAR I’m not afraid, it’s the only place I feel I can put my guard down and truly be myself,” Boak says.
Drag Queen performer Nashley Tisdale echos Boak “ROAR gives everyone a place to be themselves, a place like that is hard to come by.”
ROAR is one of the only 18+ clubs in Rochester, NY. “When I was 18, I started going to ROAR and it helped me get through difficult times in my life. It made me feel safe and that I belonged. I truly don’t know where I would be without it,” says Nate River.
Paris Faison-Lucas a bartender is a bartender at ROAR, who according to River makes an amazing cocktail. “It really has been a place where I was able to let myself go,” Lucas continues. “I know myself and know what I like and love but being able to express it openly without fear or judgment in a space where others are expressing themselves freely, its home.”
ROAR is more than a gay bar, catering to everyone in the Rochester community. ROAR offers Drag Shows (King and Queen), drag brunches, beginners pole dancing class, “Paint and Sip” a painting class with Eva Flow the drag queen, square dancing, Latin night, trivia, karaoke, and bingo just to name a few. In 2020 when COVID shut everything down, ROAR put on virtual drag shows.
ROAR also supports the local community. Nazareth Colleges senior musical theatre majors put on a cabaret at ROAR to raise money for their senior showcase. The money helped each of the students achieve their goal of performing in New York City.
Eva Flow runs ROAR’s Latin night, featuring an all latinx drag cast. “ROAR is more than a venue it’s a safe space for everyone no matter their gender preference,” Flow states. “It’s a safe place to come out and eat, drink or simply have fun with friends and family…it’s a heartwarming space.”
Rochester has a large ASL (American sign language) community. At every ROAR event a ASL interpreter dances on stage along to the music doing a performance of their own.
Not only is ROAR recognized by their customers and staff but also by the Rochester City Newspaper who ranked ROAR first for Best Karaoke, Best LGBTQ Bar, and Best Place to Go Dancing in 2021.
ROAR was also given the NYS Empire Award which “honors a select few local businesses and organizations that demonstrate unique vision, innovation, volunteerism, philanthropy, and achievement in support of our community.” (New York Senate)
ROAR continues to create a safe environment for everyone, helping the world become a more inclusive, safe, and joyful tomorrow.
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