Gesa Power House Theatre plans Pride Party – June 2
May 31 Union Bulletin Article (by Mason Neil)
From 7-11 p.m. Saturday, Gesa Power House Theatre will host its first-ever pride party in coordination with June’s month-long LGBTQ+ pride celebration.
The all-ages event will feature a screening of the new film “Saturday Church,” a drag show and a dance party.
The drag show is hosted by Walla Walla resident entertainer Chardonnay — also known as Jimmy Vaughan — a self-described provocateur who uses drag as a form of political expression.
Jimmy first started producing drag shows with a fundraiser for the victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting, and has continued to be vocal about the political activism he combines with his performances.
With each of his shows, Jimmy is emphatic about including all members of the queer community as well as helping the next generation of LGBTQ+ kids find their space within it.
Planning Gesa Power House Theatre’s drag show has been a full-circle experience for Jimmy, who understands the visibility he and his fellow performers are providing for the LGBTQ+ community representation he didn’t have as a kid.
Jimmy recalls being isolated as one of a few gay students at his high school, where the only LGBTQ+ model he had was a lesbian teacher.
“I didn’t know that I could be who I was because I didn’t have any role models,” says Jimmy.
Living in a rural area and not having a larger queer community to be a part of, he quickly learned to carve out his own path.
Now, as he plans the upcoming drag show, he wants kids to realize they’re free to be themselves. “Seeing a bunch of queens on stage, playing with gender and pushing against cultural norms, it validates you. It gives you permission to be yourself, and that’s why I do it.”
Jimmy describes his drag persona as a boisterous, sassy, big-hearted queen who loves to laugh and can turn any stage into a runway.
The show will feature four drag performers and a special guest, all coming from the Walla Walla and Tri-Cities areas.
Each routine will have special significance to the performers, who have selected songs that were part of their childhoods and coming out experiences.
“The show will have everything,” Jimmy says. “Every queen showing you what they are about in every single performance and in every type of drag.”
In addition to solo performances, there will also be duets between drag mothers and their daughters — Chardonnay is the drag mother of “Haus of Tannins” — a part of the matriarchal drag house system where seasoned mother queens help younger daughter queens get started in their craft.
“This isn’t just an all-ages event, it’s a family ordeal.”
Rural communities like Walla Walla often lack the LGBTQ+ representation that larger cities have, which makes it more difficult for young queer people to find community.
“Historically, for youth, it’s been very closeted in Walla Walla,” says Erica Allison, a licensed mental health therapist and the program coordinator for Triple Point Walla Walla. She represents a local support organization for LGBTQ+ youth that offers “education, safety, support and acceptance to end isolation.”
According to Erica, even with increased mainstream LGBTQ+ inclusion and marriage equality, visibility and representation are still incredibly important.
“There are tiny pockets where it is safe to come out,” says Erica, “but there aren’t enough — which is why Triple Point started in the first place.”
After 11 years in Walla Walla, Triple Point is still in its own process of coming out: “It’s mostly for the safety of the youth that we’ve kept quiet,” says Erica.
“But it’s very hard to reach out when many people don’t believe we need representation. It’s important to see diversity in general, for everyone, and to see representation of yourself. It increases self-esteem, helps create community, reduces isolation, which then reduces depression and anxiety.”
The pride party at the Gesa Power House Theatre is a celebration of LGBTQ+ life and the diversity within the queer community. Everyone is welcome — queer people and their allies of all ages are encouraged to attend.
“I want everyone to be there,” says Jimmy. “I want kids to see the queer community, to be awed, wowed and welcomed. Even if they’re not queer, it’s an opportunity for young people to be validated.”
If you go:
The Pride Party will be 7-11 p.m. at Gesa Power House Theatre, 111 N. Sixth Ave.
7 p.m. — Film screening of “Saturday Church”
8:45 p.m. Drag show
10 p.m. Dance party with music by DJ Lotek
A local group for LGBTQ youth and allies ages 13-18 with 11 years in Walla Walla that provides education, safety, support and acceptance to end isolation. Meets
Tuesdays 4-6 pm at Children’s Home
Society of Washington, 1612 Penny Lane.