The Liberty Belles want to save democracy, through drag.
On July 1, the four local queens—Madame DuMoore, Pepper Pepper, Carla Rossi and Hydrangea Strangea—are departing on a bus tour of 20 U.S. states in the hopes of registering 10,000 new voters between the ages of 18 and 30, a demographic significantly underrepresented at the polls.
"We're in a place of [political] apathy," says Kyle Ashby, executive director of the Liberty Belles—a registered nonprofit organization. "We want to engage and meet people where they're at, and we know that young people especially are obsessed with social media and fame. Drag queens are a part of that fame cycle."
Ashby says the Belles will stop in states with contentious races, where candidates of color and LGBTQIA candidates are in the running. (However, as a nonprofit, they can't actually offer endorsements.) And after each show, attendees will be encouraged to register to vote.
The group plans to target government-wary millennials, whom they hope to inspire to get involved in "course correcting" local politics.
The show itself, a musical, will follow DuMoore, Pepper, Rossi and Strangea on a time-traveling journey from drag queen retirement into the Trump era—as they help the nation rediscover political empathy.
The Belles also hope to recruit local drag queens from the states they are touring to perform with them.
"We'll probably talk to people in some places who have never met a queer person, or a drag queen," Ashby says, "even though of course they have… It'll be a chance to listen and connect with different communities."
The timing for a politically driven, drag queen-imagined campaign couldn't be better.
And the need for queer acceptance and representation in American politics—with only 10 states that protect against conversion therapy and a Vice President who is frighteningly anti-gay—is profound.
Belle Anthony Hudson (a.k.a Carla Rossi) says this political drag queen tour is the first of its kind.
"People have a certain idea about drag shows," Hudson says, citing TV series like RuPaul's Drag Race, "but it's not just one thing."
With stops in uber-conservative America, the Belles are also prepared for their show to rile some people.
"Hecklers are built into drag," Daniel Pulver (a.k.a Madame DuMoore) says. "Do I want to run into assholes? No. Do I expect to? Yes. All I can do is listen and try to gain a better understanding of different perspectives."
Hudson jokes, "I will have multiple tasers in my hair!"
In preparation for the summer tour, the Belles are currently raising funds and researching local U.S. politics.
"Politically, I've never been super engaged," says Brandon Harrison (a.k.a Hydrangea Strangea). "So this is a good opportunity for me to put the work in to really understand where I stand on different agendas and topics. I'm going to disagree with people, but I'm excited to see what connections can be made."
Portlanders can catch the Belles' first preview of their USO-style show on April 8 at Darcelle's. Tickets will go on sale here.
SEE IT: The Liberty Belles perform at Darcelle's, 208 NW 3rd Ave, darcellexv.com, on April 8. 5 pm. $20.