The Rubi Girls present annual holiday show
“People think we’re a drag show. We’re not trying to look like women. We’re not trying to be pretty. We’re entertaining,” said Joshua Stucky, member and emcee of the Rubi Girls.
The iconic local group that is The Rubi Girls has been performing in drag since the 1980s, and through a whirlwind of popularity and philanthropic success, they have become nothing short of a Dayton phenomenon.
“We almost have that old variety show feel,” said group member Mark Brewer, a product manager in Cincinnati.
Not only do the Rubi Girls provide a compelling outlet for themselves and the community, they have become a successful fundraiser for HIV/AIDS and gay-related causes, raising over $1 million to date. They have performed and volunteered at Dayton Pride events, ARCOhio and Yellow Springs Pride events, as well as for “off-the-beaten-path” charities such as the Humane Society.
However, the troupe is still more than a fundraiser for charities – they are equally proud of their financial accomplishments as they are with the outreach they facilitate to people who are uncomfortable with their own sexuality or others’.
“We have all been able to use our lives for the positive side of things and help other people,” Stucky said.
“And not just monetary, but with laughter,” said Jonathan McNeal, member of the troupe and manager of The Neon. “It’s so good to just laugh, even for an hour.”
McNeal created a behind-the-scenes-esque documentary in 2003 about the growth and closeness of the Rubi Girls, as well as their effect on the community and themselves individually.
The documentary shows the Rubi Girls are loved far and wide, but also touches on the fact that with every group, particularly ones of “grown-up, gay men,” comes inevitable challenges. The documentary displays the Rubi Girls simultaneously as family and a bit of a soap opera.
“We can rub some folks the wrong way, and even other drag queens,” said McNeal.
Drag shows vary from levels of intensity – the Rubi Girls play from a lighter perspective, because they put on shows for fun and charity in addition to having other careers and obligations.
“There’s no female illusion [with the Rubi Girls],” said Brewer. “There is a culture out there where this is people’s lives. But that’s not us. We put on shows a couple times a year to entertain – and for ourselves […] we are actors. It gives us an opportunity to play another character. We can take more risks on stage than we normally would.”
The film has been screened around the country at various colleges and LGBTQ events, and recently celebrated its tenth anniversary at the Dayton Art Institute Saturday, Aug. 3.
McNeal said the documentary would eventually be self-released on DVD. Until then, catch the Rubi Girls live at their Thanksgiving show on Saturday, Nov. 30, at 8 p.m. at IUE-CWA Union Hall.
Titled “The Show Must Go On,” the annual performance always includes comedic commentary on current events – along with some inappropriate, yet necessary, holiday humor. This show in particular is typically treated as a “year in review,” complete with comments that vary from national and local news, pop culture and the members themselves. Stucky and McNeal said there will probably be satire regarding Miley Cyrus and the MTV 2013 Video Music Awards performance.
“Usually we’re part of a bigger pride event. It’s more of a rarity for us to put on a show that’s just the Rubi Girls,” McNeal said.
The Rubi Girls pack the house with their shows from wall to wall, raising funds that go directly to charities in Dayton. McNeal said that while gay people are definitely part of the audience, they are not the only people who enjoy the shows. The performance is welcoming to all kinds of people – from teenagers trying to get in under 18 to their grandparents.
“It is an eccentric crowd,” McNeal said. “You cannot pin down a demographic for who’s there.”
This show in particular takes advantage of the fact that it occurs near the holidays each year. “The Show Must Go On” has become tradition for some people to attend, especially as people come in town for Thanksgiving, giving this performance a feeling of built-up anticipation.
Of course, the Rubi Girls meet and exceed those high expectations.
“It’s a ton of work, but the payoff is great. It’s fun to see people who you don’t see often throughout the year,” McNeal said. “By the end of the night we’re exhausted, but we’re enjoying that high from the energy that we’ve created throughout the night.”
“It’s a lot of fun to see the crowd enjoy it, cause you feed off the energy,” Brewer said.
The next screening of the documentary, along with a live performance, will be Friday, April 25, at the Real 2 Reel Film Festival at Springfield Arts Council.
“It’s been a really good way to use our lives,” Stucky said. “It keeps us going.”
The Rubi Girls present “The Show Must Go On” on Saturday, Nov. 30, at 8 p.m. at IUE-CWA Union Hall, 313 S. Jefferson St. Admission is $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m. For more information, please visit rubigirls.com or arcohio.org/news-events/upcoming-events/194-the-show-must-go-on.