Drag shows return to Moscow

Anniversary show honors friend of founding couple; Saturday marks first in-person event in years



WSU sophomore Milo Edwards (far right) and the rest of the TabiKat Performers at a show held in October at the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center.

NICK GIBSON, Evergreen roots editor

Tabikat Productions returns this Saturday, with its first in-person drag show in roughly two years. The event serves as an anniversary, birthday party and celebration of a beloved individual in the community.

Kathy Sprague and her wife Tabitha Simmons founded Tabikat 27 years ago to honor the memory of Sprague’s friend, David Henson. Sprague said Henson passed away in 1993 due to complications from AIDS, at a time when there were very few resources being put toward an epidemic that devastated the LGBTQ community.

Sprague said her friendship with Henson quickly blossomed after meeting as students at Moscow High School. They grew closer and closer over the years, and on Sprague’s 18th birthday, they came out to each other.

Fast forward a few years to the early ’90s, and the two friends landed a TV show on community access cable. The sitcom starred Henson as his drag persona Niagara Stubblemeyer, and Sprague said she played the next-door neighbor.

“David had a ridiculous drag persona that he had created, and she just did random things,” Sprague said. “She ran 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 worked on the community access show for about six months. 

“David and I had a lot of fun with that, and that was when he was sick — and then he progressively got worse,” Sprague said. “There was really only one thing you could take at the time, and that was AZT. And in retrospect, he was on too high of a dose. It was causing a lot of neuropathy.”

AZT, or azidothymidine, was the first medication approved for the treatment of AIDS by the Federal Drug Administration back in 1987. The 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 had one of their largest and most impactful demonstrations when a couple thousand protesters occupied the FDA headquarters. Shortly after, the FDA opened the gates to research into other treatment methods, even allowing access to experimental medications. Nowadays, there are over 40 approved medications available to someone diagnosed with HIV, according to TIME Magazine.

Henson passed away in 1993 at the age of 27, just a few months shy of his 28th birthday, in his home in Moscow. As Sprague said, the drag shows are soon to be as old as he was when he passed.

“I was doing hospice care; I was on his team,” Sprague said. “His funeral was actually on my 28th birthday, and then the first drag show was on my 30th birthday to kind of help me get over it.”

That drag show became an annual celebration of Henson’s life. Sprague said the show also helped address the lack of community events in the area for LGBTQ individuals.

“I missed drag queens,” Sprague said. “When I came out, they were the people in the community that were there for me and really embraced me, so I convinced some friends to put on dresses and we had a party.”

Sprague and Simmons themselves are key figures in the local LGBTQ community. The two were the first same-sex couple in Latah County to receive a marriage license when it was legalized in 2014 and possibly the entire state of Idaho, according to a Spokesman-Review article

Sprague said Henson attended the couple’s first wedding ceremony back in 1991, hooting and hollering throughout the joyous occasion. 

Henson’s legacy lives on through both the Tabikat events, as well as the many young performers that first entered the spotlight at one of their shows. Sprague said several students from the University of Idaho and WSU have become valued members of the Tabikat team over the years.

Saturday will be WSU sophomore Milo Edwards’s second performance with Tabikat. He said he first fell in love with drag at 16 and would perform at all-ages shows in the Spokane area. 

Edwards got involved with Tabikat shortly after moving to Pullman in August 2020. He performs under the name Emerson Taylor and said his drag persona exists outside of the constraints of gender.

“I grew up just doing different performances,” Edwards said. “I was in gymnastics and ballet when I was really little, and then I joined band in fifth grade and I was in band through my freshman year of college.”

He said his performances are not quite traditional in a drag king or drag queen sense, but described it more as “chaos goblin drag” — kind of clownish, but in a camp way. 

“Doing drag has been really nice because it’s both a creative outlet, and it is also able to give me a sense of community,” Edwards said. “[Drag is] an opportunity to just be queer, and do performances to weird music and wear strange outfits with my face painted crazy. It doesn’t quite matter what I look like or how I’m doing it; I just want to have fun with it.” 

College students like Edwards are a big part of why Sprague and Simmons built and continue to foster a safe environment through the events they put on. Sprague said since 18- to 20-year-olds can be some of the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community, Tabikat shows are open to everyone 18 and up.

Sprague said she is looking forward to Saturday’s show, as it will be the first semblance of normalcy for Tabikat after a stressful couple of years. She hopes this in-person event marks the return of several more in the future.

“There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a first-time performer, watching them get that feedback from the crowd and suddenly blossom and have that confidence that they didn’t have before,” Sprague said.

Tabikat’s anniversary drag show will be held Saturday at the 1912 Center in downtown Moscow. Doors open at 8:30 p.m., and performances start at 10 p.m. Performers include local drag legends like Lilly Longlegs, Aquasha DeLusty and Faye Queen, as well as a live DJ. 

Masks are required for those attending the event. Tickets are $10 at the door or can be purchased beforehand for $8 at Sprague and Simmons’s comic store, Safari Pearl.