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Drag storytime draws a crowd in NH

  • Michael McMahon shows a book to the crowd while performing as Clara Divine and reading it on stage during “Drag Story Time” at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry. The event was moved from Taylor Library because of social media backlash. Eagle Tribune — Tim Jean

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    A crowd of adults and children move their arms as they learn a song from Michael McMahon during "Drag Story Time" at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry.

  • Michael McMahon performs as Clara Divine during “Drag Story Time” at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry. The event was moved from Taylor Library because of social media backlash. Tim Jean photos / Eagle Tribune

  • Michael McMahon performs as Clara Divine during “Drag Story Time” at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry. The event was moved from Taylor Library because of social media backlash. Tim Jean—Eagle Tribune

The Eagle-Tribune
Published: 6/22/2021 9:41:59 PM
Modified: 6/22/2021 9:42:03 PM

DERRY, N.H. — It was a night of celebration as one man had the opportunity to share his story and spread acceptance to local families.

Michael McMahon, performing as Clara Divine, presented “Drag Story Time” on Thursday night at the Tupelo Music Hall in Derry, with a high-spirited audience waving rainbow flags, cheering and supporting McMahon and his message of love and diversity.

Between the reading of three books that spoke of love, family and acceptance, McMahon taught songs to children in the crowd. He offered thanks to his parents, family, friends and those in Derry who stood up and offered support.

Congressman Chris Pappas, D-NH, kicked off the event, telling the crowd this is what community is all about.

“It shows what is really special about our community,” Pappas said. “We come together to celebrate our differences, we can support anyone no matter our differences, or who we love.”

Once Clara took the stage, the performer said this was his first “Drag Story Time” and that the crowd’s size and show of support was “unexpected.”

“This is like a Pride parade in itself,” McMahon said. “You have made me feel so welcome.”

As McMahon started to read his stories, a small group of protesters stood across from the venue, occasionally interrupting with cries through a bullhorn.

“We are not going to let the haters tell us what to do,” McMahon said.

Getting to the Tupelo stage was not easy as McMahon faced a backlash from the community when he was booked to perform at Taylor Library.

Social media lit up with both support and opposition to the event once it was announced at the library.

Those opposed included state Rep. Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien, R-Derry, and Lorraine Lindenberg, a trustee at Taylor Library and Derry Public Library.

Both posted their opposition on social media. The library canceled the event.

“The will of the public can be known to them when they communicate their concerns to trustees by contacting them or attending board of trustee meetings,” Prudhomme-O’Brien said. “They had not been given the opportunity to do that and that was wrong. I’m glad director (Jen Thielker) agreed with that opinion and changed course.”

For Lindenberg, it was the response from many residents in town who called or emailed her to voice opposition to what she called “a controversial issue.”

She then offered an apology to the community for her comments on Facebook. Lindenberg said she wanted to apologize to residents for her social media post after the library canceled the event.

“It was taken by many that I was happy it was canceled,” Lindenberg said. “I had meant I was relieved because the divisiveness between some residents had gotten out of control and it made me sad to see our town so divided. I love our Derry.”

McMahon then hoped to hold the event at MacGregor Park, but the backlash against the show continued, forcing a search for a new venue.

That led to the Tupelo, with owner Scott Hayward offering his space to McMahon.

Town Council Chairman Jim Morgan was among those who supported McMahon’s program, saying the event was a positive sign for the community.

“This night will send a good message,” Morgan said.

Morgan also spoke out at an earlier Town Council meeting, where some members of the public spoke in support or in opposition to the plan.

Morgan said he appreciated the views of those who spoke out publicly but also called out Prudhomme-O’Brien and two other Derry state representatives, David Love and Erica Layon, for their comments in opposition — something he said was not part of a state representative’s role.

“It’s not your job to go out and be crusaders,” Morgan said. “I need the state representatives to stay in their lane.”

For McMahon, the night at the Tupelo was a good one.

He ended the event by teaching children a song about the meaning of the rainbow flag and then hosted a meet and greet.

“I could not ask for a better support system than I have here,” he said.

Derry town councilors voted in favor of June as Pride Month in Derry, and a flag now flies in the lobby of the Derry Municipal Center.

This article was shared by a partner in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit 

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