April Paris broke up laughing after her daughter, Ava, told a guy with a notebook what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“A heavy equipment operator,” Ava said, with all the seriousness and earnestness a 5-year-old can muster.
“Can you believe it?” Paris said.
“She’s actually been talking about this for a while. I just tell her, ‘You can be anything you want to be, baby.’ ”
Which was also a core theme as the queens took the stage of the Gluck Theater in the WVU Mountainlair Thursday night.
Identity, that is.
Being who are.
Journeying to who it is you want to be.
The occasion was the Drag Queen Storytime & Show, which was presented by the university’s LGBTQ+ Center.
And while the evening was about drag, it was also about being drawn into the pages of a good book.
April and Ava were joined by other parents and kids who whooped and cheered as local drag performers Robin Hearts-Love and Dimitria Blackwell appeared under the lights.
The duo known for its YouTube channel read aloud, lip-synched to hit songs (the K-Pop earworm, “Baby Shark,” was a particular crowd-pleaser) and tossed off one-liners that made everybody laugh.
No, they said, in the spirited question-and-answer session that followed, they don’t personally know RuPaul, the drag superstar. They are, however, friends with many of the people who have appeared on his nationally televised “Drag Race” show.
And yes, hair and makeup does take some time, they allowed. Forty-five minutes to an hour, depending.
The evening was free of the rancor and physical threats that forced the cancellation of a similar story time event that had been scheduled for November at the Morgantown Public Library.
One man, though, did patrol the perimeter outside during the show.
He said he was a father and that his two children were in the theater.
“I’m out here with a couple of dads, actually,” said the man, who didn’t give his name.
“Just in case somebody tries to start something.”
From the confines of the Gluck Theater stage, meanwhile, Hearts-Love, Blackwell and others read tales of empathy and tolerance.
Narratives unfolded of bats who preferred the company of birds, ducks who were considered “sissy” until they saved the day and that certain caterpillar who eventually morphed into a butterfly — to become who he was all along.
“Anything to get kids reading,” Hearts-Love said earlier, as people were still finding their seats in the theater before the show.
After it was done, Blackwell told the youngest in the audience to keep reading and to remember the stories they just heard.
While it’s important to let your parents or guardian know if you’re being picked on, the performer said, it’s equally important to always try reaching out your hand and saying hello.
“Sometimes the people you think are the most ‘different,’ can end up being your best friend.”