Tabikat Productions returns this Saturday, with its first in-person drag show in about two years. The event serves as a birthday, anniversary party and celebration of a loved one in the community.
Kathy Sprague and his wife Tabitha Simmons founded Tabikat 27 years ago to honor the memory of Sprague’s friend, David Henson. Sprague said Henson died in 1993 of complications from AIDS, at a time when very few resources were devoted to an epidemic that devastated the LGBTQ community.
Sprague said her friendship with Henson blossomed quickly after they met as high school students in Moscow. They grew closer and closer over the years, and on Sprague’s 18th birthday, they dated.
Fast forward a few years to the early 90s, and the two friends land a TV show on community access cable. The sitcom starred Henson as her drag character Niagara Stubblemeyer, and Sprague said she played the next door neighbor.
“David had a ridiculous drag character he created, and she just did random things,” Sprague said. “She was running an eight-track cassette museum while my character had a cooking show, but she couldn’t cook. She could make coffee and that was about it.
She said they had worked on the community access show for about six months.
“David and I had a lot of fun with it, and that was when he was sick – then he got progressively worse,” Sprague said. “There was really only one thing you could take back then, and that was AZT. And in retrospect, he was taking too high a dose. It was causing a lot of neuropathy.
AZT, or azidothymidine, was the first drug approved for the treatment of AIDS by the Federal Drug Administration in 1987. Lack of research into other treatment alternatives led in part to the formation of the Direct Action Group , the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).
In 1988, ACT UP staged one of its largest and most impactful protests when a few thousand protesters occupied FDA headquarters. Soon after, the FDA opened the doors to research into other treatment methods, even allowing access to experimental drugs. Today, there are more than 40 approved medications available to someone diagnosed with HIV, according to TIME Magazine.
Henson died in 1993 at the age of 27, a few months short of his 28th birthday, at his Moscow home. As Sprague said, drag shows will soon be as old as he was when he passed away.
“I was doing palliative care; I was on his team,” Sprague said. “His funeral was on my 28th birthday and then the first drag show was on my 30th birthday to help me get over it.”
This drag show has become an annual celebration of Henson’s life. Sprague said the show also helped address the lack of community events in the area for LGBTQ people.
“I missed drag queens,” Sprague said. “When I came out it was the people in the community who were there for me and really embraced me, so I convinced some friends to put on dresses and we partied.”
Sprague and Simmons themselves are key figures in the local LGBTQ community. According to a spokesperson, the pair were the first same-sex couple in Latah County to receive a marriage license when it was legalized in 2014 and possibly in the entire state of Idaho. article.
Sprague said Henson attended the couple’s first wedding ceremony in 1991, screaming and screaming throughout the joyful occasion.
Henson’s legacy lives on through Tabikat events, as well as the many young artists who first appeared in the spotlight at one of their shows. Sprague said several University of Idaho and WSU students have become valued members of Team Tabikat over the years.
Saturday will be WSU sophomore Milo Edwards’ second performance with Tabikat. He said he fell in love with drag at age 16 and would perform in all-ages shows in the Spokane area.
Edwards became involved with Tabikat shortly after moving to Pullman in August 2020. He performs under the name Emerson Taylor and has said his drag persona exists outside of gender constraints.
“I grew up doing different performances,” Edwards said. “I was in gymnastics and ballet when I was very little, then I joined a band in fifth grade and was in a band my freshman year of college.”
He said his performances aren’t quite traditional in the drag king or drag queen sense, but described it more as “chaos goblin drag” – a bit clownish, but camp-like. .
“Doing drag has been really enjoyable because it’s both a creative outlet and it can also give me a sense of community,” Edwards said. “[Drag is] an opportunity to just be queer and perform to weird music and wear weird outfits with my face painted crazy. It doesn’t matter what I look like or how I do it; I just wanna have fun with it.
University students like Edwards are a big part of the reason Sprague and Simmons have built and continue to foster a safe environment through the events they host. Sprague said that since 18 to 20 year olds can be among the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community, Tabikat shows are open to anyone 18 and older.
Sprague said she is looking forward to Saturday’s show as it will be the first semblance of normality for Tabikat after a stressful few years. She hopes this in-person event will mark the return of many more in the future.
“There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a performer for the first time, seeing them receive feedback from the crowd and suddenly blossom and have that confidence that they didn’t have before,” said Sprague.
Tabikat The anniversary drag show will take place at the 1912 Center in downtown Moscow on Saturday. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and performances begin at 10 p.m.
Masks are mandatory for those attending the event. Tickets are $10 at the door or can be purchased in advance for $8 at Sprague and Simmons’ comic book store, Safari Pearl.