New Arts Organization Presenting Drag Show to Benefit Focus on Friends

New Arts Organization Presenting Drag Show to Benefit Focus on Friends
Show features Ivy Winters from Season 5 of RuPaul’s Drag Race

(Findlay, OH – March 18, 2017) Ignite the Arts, a new organization in Hancock County, is hosting a fundraising event to benefit Focus on Friends, a local nonprofit organization. Ignite the Arts is a cultural database, promoter, and integrator, supporting and bringing the arts to the community, including visual, musical, and the performing arts. The organization will present Drag City USA, a variety show event featuring performances by local and regional drag queens who sing, dance and lip sync. The show is on Saturday, April 22 in the upstairs banquet hall at Legends Bar and Steakhouse, 411 S. Main St. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $20 for general admission and $50 for VIP seats. The show is open to those 16 and older. General admission tickets are standing room. VIP tickets include special seating, swag bags, entry to meet and greet with food and two drink tickets. Tickets can be purchased at: Coffee Amici, 328 S. Main St., Focus on Friends, 509 W. Trenton Ave. or online at http://ingnitethearts.com.

The headliner for the show is Ivy Winters. A former circus performer for eight years, Winters routinely incorporates fire eating, stilt walking and juggling into her act. She is also a talented and sought after costume designer who has dressed fellow queens Manila Luzon and Lady Bunny among others. Her talents won her a place in season five of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” where she won the title of Miss Congeniality. When not touring the world as a performer, she calls rural Michigan home.

The show will also feature local drag queen “Candi, Wantsome?” who is the persona of Ben Hippensteel. “Candi, Wantsome?” has performed at the University of Findlay and Ohio Northern University. A Findlay and Fostoria native, Hippensteel started his drag career in 1998.  A musical theatre major at Wright State University, he found the unlimited, creative, and artistic side of drag undeniable and he was drawn in.  Hippensteel, who is in long term recovery, introduces himself in character as the “39-year-old, Super Sober, Drag Queen Hostess with the Mostess!” He uses his medium to help others, especially those in his LGBTQ+ community, struggling with addiction and self-acceptance. His goal is to show that it is possible to be in recovery and still have fun. Hippensteel will serve as emcee of the event and will share stories of his recovery.

“I learned to sew and construct my own costumes early on, but it wasn’t until I was handed a microphone that my character ‘Candi, Wantsome?’ took off.  I was hosting shows two to four times a week but always maintaining a full-time ‘boy job,’” Hippensteel said.

Hippensteel has performed with Thelma Houston, John Cameron Mitchel, and RuPaul.  He said, “being an advocate for those facing extreme challenges has always been at the center of my heart. In 2005, I was asked to join the “Rubi Girls,” an Ohio based drag troop which started in the late 1980s. The group has raised over one million dollars for LGBTQ+ charities.”

A Findlay native, Ignite the Arts founder and director, Ashley Donaldson, lived in London, England for several years, returning to Findlay in 2016. The show concept came to mind through discussions with a good female friend of hers in London, who performs as a "bio queen," or "faux queen," which is described as a "drag queen trapped in a woman's body." Another London friend suggested the title for the show.

"He visited Findlay twice," Donaldson explained, ''so he knows Flag City, and immediately put forward the idea." 

Donaldson sees Findlay's population growth as an opportunity to open minds and develop new cultural and social outlets. 

"Quite a few young people in town spend their weekends in Columbus or Toledo. I wanted to create something big that would entice people to stay in town, or bring them here for the first time. Findlay is made of many different types of people. The show will bring them together, especially those who may not always feel able to speak up, or that their voices go unheard," she said. 

Focus on Friends was selected as the recipient organization during a brainstorming session with other committee members and pieces of the puzzle immediately fell into place. Lynne Calvelage, board chair of Focus on Friends, mentioned that fellow board member, Ben Hippensteel, is an experienced drag performer. Donaldson and Hippensteel immediately got to work on developing the show. Through Hippensteel's Rubi Girls connections additional performers Taj Mahal and Majestik agreed to participate.

Focus on Friends is a peer-led recovery center in Findlay that offers support and resources to people impacted by mental health and addiction issues.

“Many individuals and families of Findlay and Hancock County have been impacted by mental health and addiction challenges. Our goal is to provide a warm, welcoming, and secure place for people to learn skills, meet new people, and just be themselves while providing information to the community and working to decrease stigma,” said Wayne Ford, executive director for Focus on Friends. “We are excited to be selected to receive the proceeds from such an unusual event for our community.”

For more information, visit http://ignitethearts.com. The tickets are on sale now. Only 250 general admission and 50 VIP tickets will be sold.