The term “shit show” is often attributed to a feeling of disorganization, confusion or being a mess without any doubt about it. The phrasing of the two words compounded feels absolutely chaotic, but that is exactly the impression local drag performers and producers Viper Fengz and D’mon wish to bring to the Seattle scene.
“We named our event ‘Shit Show’ because it quite frankly is a shit show sometimes,” Viper explained. “We have shows where we have ideas planned for months, while other times we have it planned a few days before the show. It’s so near and dear to us. We never settle for something we don’t feel passionately about.”
Held in the Timbre room at Kremwerk every third Saturday, the producers invite audiences to witness a new, zany challenge each month. As stated on the event’s page, people are invited to an “evening of unhinged drag, and a twisted monthly survival challenge showdown for the chance at cash...or something else!” December’s theme was Apocalypse, with a chemical challenge to finish off the year.
One driving motivation in creating the production was to push the boundaries of preconceived notions about drag shows, D’mon said.
“[It’s] the idea of creating a ‘Fear Factor’-esque drag show where we torture local queens and force local drag performers to come out of their sequined comfort zones and make drag fun and unserious,” D’mon said.
At its core, Shit Show dares itself to unsettle with its monthly challenges (a good usage of raw meat often makes an appearence). Regardless, an urgency to make a space inclusively safe for people of color remains vital to the show’s existence.
“We originally just wanted to create a space for us — a space where we could do whatever we wanted outside of the typical expectation of a drag show in Seattle,” Viper said. “Especially as POC, we are expected to water ourselves down, be polished and clean, to be as digestible as possible if we want to be rewarded for our work in the same way.”
The birth of Shit Show came from this need to create a space specifically for drag performers of color to flourish. Influences of house shows, punk nights and art exhibitions are incorporated into the production while also making sure representation takes center stage.
“As a Black Trans performer, I figured since there are no spaces for people like me already … to think out of the box and not always be palatable to the general cis-white audience, we had no choice but to make those spaces ourselves,” said D’mon.
At the start of the show, both producers present themselves as hosts, starting off with either a music number or witty banter. Their chemistry is infectious as they riff off of each other effortlessly. It might come as a shock to know that the two weren’t the friendliest upon their first meeting when training for ballroom.
“We used to hate each other!” Viper said. “We just started off on the wrong foot with the limited interactions we had. It wasn’t until months later we finally clicked, and now we are attached by the hip. It’s not until you see us interact you realize we are just two sides of the same absurd coin.”
The power of producing together brought them closer.
“I have never met someone so driven, creative, supportive, down for all my insanity and willing to commit to the bit as much as I do,” D’mon said. “I knew from the day of her first drag performance that she was going to be something incredible and someone I’d always want to stand beside.”
This love and absurdity powers Shit Show. In their attempts to be provocative and thoughtful, both Viper and D’mon have found it necessary to welcome those who find themselves on the outside looking in.
“You can find a lineup of diverse talent at Shit Show highlighting a group of weirdos of all shapes, sizes and colors,” Viper said.
The production pulls itself up by providing a more mindful approach for people of color, a “Safer Space,” as stated on their instagram caption for the show. The Safer Space messaging was a responsible initiative that comes directly from showrunners.
“I think that artists should consider engaging with their audiences and listening to community members when also establishing what makes a safe space not only for us, but for them,” Viper said.
The goal as a producer is to create that type of inclusivity and stress the importance of creating a dialogue with performers, D’mon said. “We don’t just throw people on stage and do crazy stuff to them. We as producers go over boundaries, consent and disclose everything we are planning to do with everyone we book for the show.”
With intentional practices implemented for a safer environment, both producers acknowledge how having a platform within the community must be used responsibly. In this case, for social good.
“Although we as drag performers did not sign up to become politicians or leaders, drag is rooted in resistance. So falling into complacency does a disservice to the art and to all the queens who have come before us,” Viper said. “Drag is all about unprejudiced transformation, anyone and everyone can become icons of opulence regardless of what society has boxed us in as.”
Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, D’mon lacked the access to queer education and representation that was essential to their identity.
“I probably would have understood myself so much more, skipped so much heartbreak and transitioned into my authentic self at least a decade before I did. Trans people of color live a life where we are forced to live quietly. We are told to fit into the cisnormative gender binary to survive. We don’t have the freedom others have to be anything less than exquisite or else our lives are quite literally at risk,” D’mon said.
As a Black trans man in the ballroom scene, he noticed how rare it was to see someone like himself, even as far as going on to represent the category for “runway walking female figure.”
“My point is every single day I do not have a choice on whether or not I want to ‘represent the community,’” said D’mon. “I am visible so long as I am breathing, and I’ll continue to live my life authentically so that those who look like me have someone to look to. To show them that this kind of life is an option. That’s an honor I hold with pride.”
This sentiment of being seen is what gives Shit Show its unique charm. Having a rotation of new performers from all walks of life brings a freshness to what the production offers. Audiences love the out-of-the-box style, but it’s having representation that makes attending the show all the more special.
The last 20 minutes of the show proved to be outrageous, bloody and so humorous to the point it hurt to laugh. Before the chemical challenge, Viper and D’mon joined in on a performance that left the audience hollering. As the night transitioned, all the performers joined the hosts in a challenge that had them scrambling back and forth within a set time frame. As the audience tipped more, the challenge became even more ludicrous. At one point, the venue’s trash got dumped into the bucket the performers had to scrounge through in order to complete the challenge.
When asked about any goals the two have in mind, both producers described an ambitious outlook for the new year.
“I’m hoping to continue to be more thoughtful with my drag and to build more scenes that reel in audiences. I don’t want moments of fleeting fame; I want to build a community of people who love drag and the people under the wigs.” Viper said. “I’m very excited to enter more pageants to also help myself become a better drag queen. Learning from people and their experiences across the world.”
There’s commitment to the art of drag as well as representing the community that shines off of both the young producers. Viper and D’mon represent not only the community they dearly love, but also the next generation of performers who wish to change the scene altogether, as can clearly be seen in Shit Show. It is bizarre and campy but also effortless, with its power shining through by way of its producers and the performers who breathe life into it. So, expect to cover your eyes, gasp in shock and leave with the urgency to see what the two have planned for the months to come.
JayAre Orlando is a freelance writer currently attending the University of Washington as an English major. Their writing tends to focus on queer joy, identity and how that is in relation to the world.
Read more of the Dec. 27, 2023–Jan. 2, 2024 issue.