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News / Life / Clark County Life

QWERKY returns as all-ages drag show at Columbia River High

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian staff writer
Published: November 30, 2018, 6:05am
2 Photos
High school student Keegan Dittmer, left, brings Wanda Faame to life while greeting a fellow drag queen at Brickhouse Bar & Grill last spring. Dittmer is ready to launch the next season of QWERKY, a queer variety show, tonight at Columbia River High School.
High school student Keegan Dittmer, left, brings Wanda Faame to life while greeting a fellow drag queen at Brickhouse Bar & Grill last spring. Dittmer is ready to launch the next season of QWERKY, a queer variety show, tonight at Columbia River High School. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

QWERKY is as QWERKY does, but over this past summer and fall, QWERKY didn’t do much. That’s about to change, with the launch of QWERKY’s second season, now in a new location: Columbia River High School.

Readers may remember that QWERKY is a homemade drag performance series that used to take over downtown Vancouver’s Brickhouse Bar & Grill on the last Sunday night of every month. The most amazing thing about QWERKY is the fact that it’s an all-ages show, launched by a local high school junior, driven by young performers and faithfully attended by their friends and families.

Less amazing has been sometimes-meager audiences on Sunday (school) nights. But today is Friday, and QWERKY has moved to a time and place that aims to be easier for young people. It’s set for 7 tonight at River, 800 N.W. 99th St., Vancouver.

(But it’s only open to students and parents at River, Pat Nuzzo of the Vancouver School District’s communications staff clarified on Friday afternoon. That’s as per school policy regarding use of the facilities for school clubs only.)

If You Go

What: QWERKY, an all-ages drag performance.

When: 7 tonight; tentatively set for the last Friday of every month.

Where: Columbia River High School, 800 N.W. 99th St., Vancouver.

Admission: Free, but donations accepted.

• • •

Read more about QWERKY and founder and host Keegan Dittmer.

QWERKY made a splash in Vancouver and beyond in the spring, as a Columbian feature about it got distributed by The Associated Press. Founder and host Keegan Dittmer, whose drag name is Wanda Faame, found himself getting famous in a way he never expected, he said. In recent months he’s met some of his drag idols and accepted invitations to speak at some public events, he said.

“It’s certainly been interesting,” said Dittmer, who’s now a high school senior.

Moving QWERKY to Columbia River High School has been a challenge, Dittmer said, but not because there’s been resistance to hosting a drag show there. “We haven’t really gotten anything … against a queer variety show here at River,” he said during a telephone interview Monday from River’s Black Box Theater, where Dittmer was busy organizing lights and other performance needs.

“We are using the stage to our advantage,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more space and freedom to be creative. We’re currently working on getting the lighting timed to the music.” This QWERKY will be “more of a traditional theatergoing experience,” Dittmer said.

The main logistical hurdle, he said, was making the show a school activity. There was some misunderstanding, but according to Pat Nuzzo of the Vancouver School District’s communications office, only students (and parents) at Columbia River may attend tonight’s show. It’s a “non-curriculum” club activity, sponsored by the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, and that means not open to the general public.

Previous QWERKY shows have raised funds for charity, but QWERKY at River will accept donations toward future QWERKY shows only, Dittmer said.

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