Ohio Northern University’s Freed Center for the Performing Arts was alive with pride and representation at A Rubi Affair on Saturday, Feb. 15. Featuring the famed Rubi Girls from Dayton, Ohio, along with ONU students from all walks of life, the comedic drag show raised spirits while raising money for a good cause.
In their 30-plus years as a touring troupe, the Rubi Girls have raised more than $2 million dollars for AIDS/HIV and LGBTQ+ causes using an ingenious model for their shows that encourages audience and performer participation. The stage is open to anyone who wants to perform a lip-sync or dance routine in drag. Top performers are chosen by a combination of judges’ scores and money raised from the audience. The show is free to attend, but special VIP tickets can be purchased for prime seating. All proceeds benefited Equitas Health in Lima, Ohio, where the money will be used for HIV/AIDS research and support for patients.
The student organization Open Doors has hosted A Rubi Affair annually since 2005. Pharmacy student Alyssa Perry and her committee began planning months prior to not only make sure the event was a success, but also to make sure the space was as inclusive and accessible as possible.
“It’s a very important event,” says Bryan Lutz, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition and Open Doors’ faculty advisor. “By no fault of its own, Ohio Northern is isolated in a rural area and with that, LGBTQ+ students rarely see people like them not only existing as struggling college students, but thriving in a culture that is their own.”
Jacob Park, a junior nursing major, began performing at last year’s Rubi Affair. Since then, Park has performed a few times outside of ONU under the stage name Sage Love, and he returned to wow the audience again this year.
“Drag is something that really means a lot to me, so being able to participate in A Rubi Affair was a great experience. Increasing visibility for the gay community is important because it helps decrease discrimination and stereotypes. When people are able to see this representation, then they are able to better understand who we are. These events also help with those of us who identify as LGBTQ+ because it can boost feelings of self-worth. It allows us to foster a sense of affirmation in our identity,” says Love.
A Rubi Affair is Open Doors’ largest event each year, with more than 300 people attending this year. The group also collaborates with other student organizations to host events on campus. Last fall, Open Doors partnered with the Japanese Student Organization and Gaming Club to host a Super Smash Bros. video game tournament, held a holiday event with the Jewish Student Union, and celebrated Holi with the Indian Student Association.
In keeping with that spirit of inclusion and cooperation, A Rubi Affair was open to students that align anywhere on the gender and sexuality spectrum, including cisgender and straight. Even those who didn’t want to perform could still be part of the evening as ushers, work the raffle tables or even help the performers get ready backstage.
“People have no idea how hard it is to get into drag. It took me over three hours to do my makeup, hair and outfit,” says Love.
This year marked a few firsts for A Rubi Affair at ONU. In addition to it being held on the Biggs Theatre stage for the first time, the event also contained an educational component. Open Doors’ ally liaison Charlie Bahr, a fifth-year pharmacy student, prepared a presentation chronicling the history of the gay rights movement from Stonewall until today. Combined, the night’s activities presented an inclusive and welcoming environment full of amazing performers who were empowered to share their talents with their community.
Open Doors meets at 5 p.m. in the Dean Heritage Room. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.