The Haus of Peculiar, a drag group located in the Hudson Valley, had an amazing show at the Bacchus restaurant right here in New Paltz last Friday, Sept. 10. Six performers from the Haus were there, and they had a donation box at the door for Haiti earthquake relief. But while most of the Haus was at Bacchus, Venus Peculiar, one of the original members, was getting ready for the Bushwig festival, a huge annual drag event in Brooklyn, New York.
Bushwig was described as “the biggest, queerest and most iconic festival of Drag, Music and Love. Period,” on its website. One can imagine what a great opportunity for exposure this was for the Haus and for Venus herself.
Venus was joined by two other members of the Haus at Bushwig. She said the process of preparing yourself for drag can vary depending on the situation.
“Getting into drag can be an hour and a half to a three hour process depending on what you’re doing,” Venus explained.
Venus describes drag as a community-based artform, so it’s nice to get ready with other performers and be with “your people.”
Just like any other performance art, “drag is an experience from start to finish,” Venus said.
Bushwig was extra special this year as the drag world was hit hard by the pandemic. While in quarantine, some members of the Haus really caught on to online shows and were able to give a great performance.
Others did not appreciate Zoom as much. The bad camera quality and sound lags were not in their favor. Being separated by a computer screen was not ideal for such a community artform.
Venus recalled the strange feeling she had after performing online. “You do your number, and everybody watches and it’s done and you’re just sitting in your room by yourself and it’s like…quiet,” said Venus.
Not only was drag a different experience for the kings and queens, but for the audience members as well. Watching a performance through a screen alone or with roommates gives off a completely different energy rather than being at a club, bar or big venue where there could be potentially hundreds of people cheering for the performer.
Since the summer, restaurants and bars have begun to open back up, allowing opportunities for drag shows to happen again. The kings and queens have had to relearn their craft and overcome some new “stage fright” while performing.
After months of quarantine, it can be hard to rediscover routine and practices that happened every week.
There are some blurred lines as to what is acceptable during a performance because of the Delta variant. Before COVID-19, touching the audience and other performers was acceptable but now it isn’t done as much because of people’s comfort levels.
Some bars and clubs ask the audience to wear masks and others don’t have as many restrictions. There are always announcements at the beginning of shows that let audience and staff know the performers’ needs when it comes to protecting themselves from COVID-19.
“There are definite precautions that we as a haus have taken and will continue to take until things get better,” Venus said.
The future of Haus of Peculiar is big, yet uncertain.
A few of the members are moving out of the Hudson Valley region. Some are going to the city and others are even going out of state. Venus thinks the separation will actually be beneficial to the Haus. Branching out to other places will mean more exposure and shows for people outside of New Paltz.
“The haus will be branching out and its members will be making a splash in other parts of New York, and other parts of the US.” said Venus.
Even in the Hudson Valley, a lot of people are not aware there’s a drag scene or any sort of queer community there.
Although the Hudson Valley may seem like it has a strong LGBTQ+ community and a welcoming feeling, it isn’t perfectly inclusive.
“There are some welcoming moments but that little pocket is small,” Venus said.
New Paltz itself is very queer-friendly but outside of the town that may differ. Some members of the Haus have experienced hate firsthand.
Being part of the Haus of Peculiar is more than just drag. It’s about finding your chosen family.
Drag started as a counter cultural form of art and it still is. It defies the gender norms and patriarchy that cisgender, heterosexual people created. It’s important for the kings and queens to find community in something that is still sometimes shunned.
Venus describes her time with the Haus as “experiencing things with people who also get you on a level that just does not need to be debated or does not need to be understood or tolerated in some way.”
You can support the Haus of Peculiar in this “comeback” year post-quarantine.
The Haus’ next big event is Venus’s birthday ball where LGBTQ+ folks can participate in different categories in the competition and try and win trophies. You can find other exciting performance dates and more on their Instagram @hausofpeculiar and their Facebook page Haus of Peculiar.