QuASA Open Mic Night creates space for students to express themselves

A senior majoring in music industry, who goes by the stage name “wren,” performed one of his original songs, “I Lost Myself in Finding You.” (Sasha Urban | Daily Trojan)

As colorful beams of light framed a stage blanketed by haze, student performers entertained a small audience with original poetry and musical numbers at the Queer and Ally Student Assembly’s Open Mic Night. Most read lines off their phones, a testament to the casual vibe at the Ground Zero Performance Café Wednesday evening. 

With an audience of about 20 people — many of whom were performers themselves — the event did not last the entire two and a half hours allotted. But for QuASA Director Steven Vargas, the show’s lead organizer, the event represented more than just an opportunity for exposure.

“It’s a space where these queer students can voice their identity and their art that is specific to who they are freely on stage,” he said. 

Vargas, a senior majoring in theatre and journalism, said that he was introduced to USC’s queer community at his first QuASA Open Mic Night as a freshman three years ago. Since then, he’s viewed it as an important staple of the fall semester, especially during October, which is National Coming Out Month.

With only a few acts signed up to perform, a couple students took to the stage more than once. One senior majoring in music industry, who was introduced under the stage moniker “wren,” first read poetry — some original, some not — then performed his original song, “I Lost Myself in Finding You.”

Drag queen Blanche Devereaux, a freshman majoring in economics and theatre, began with a lip synced version of “When You’re Good to Mama,” from the musical Chicago. In a black silk robe and thigh-high boots, they strutted across the stage using only a small handkerchief as a prop, and the small crowd cheered and clapped enthusiastically.

Later in the evening, they returned to the stage for an improvised standup routine about their upbringing in a conservative part of Texas. 

“My mother wonders, ‘What did I do to make my son gay?’” they quipped. “You read Edgar Allen Poe to me as a child.”

Yocelyn Pina, a freshman majoring in architecture, read two original poems: One about immigration and another about her sister. Titled “Yellow Target,” the former told the story of her indigenous heritage and her family’s history immigrating to the United States. 

“To the people who have referred to us as thieves in the night creeping into your country, stealing your jobs and your money,” she said, “we are escaping countries where corruption, violence and poverty have given us no other alternative than to drop down to our knees and worship an implausible American dream.”

Daisy Tichenor, a sophomore majoring in theatre, performed “For Good,” from the musical “Wicked,” with her friend and non-USC student Gracie Nayman. Before beginning the duet, a song of reconciliation between the Wicked Witch of the West and good witch Galinda, Tichenor joked about their history as best friends.

“Gracie and I met freshman year of high school and we told each other that we had a ‘friend crush’ on each other,” Tichenor said. “And we’ve recently realized that that was repressed homosexuality, and that we should have dated in high school — it would have been the perfect time.” 

Leslie White Moon, a sophomore majoring in occupational therapy who did not perform, said that although she arrived late, she enjoyed seeing performers “doing what they liked to do.”

“Because [QuASA]’s specifically such an open community and one that’s really supportive of everybody that’s going to be here, I feel like it’s something that anybody could really do,” White Moon said. “I feel like it’s something that’s fun and more community-oriented than just about the performing.”