|House of Laureen onstage at Cafe Cleopatra (Photo by Kinga Michalska)|
Montreal is one of the great drag capitals of the world, alongside New York, London, Vegas and Sydney. But the city hasn’t been home to a bonafide “house” since the House of Pride dominated the annual World Ball For Unity produced by Divers/Cité, the now-defunct queer Pride and arts festival that put Montreal on the international gay map in the 1990s.
The House of Laureen – named for Laureen Harper, wife of former Canadian PM Stephen Harper – first wowed audiences with their 2015 Montreal Fringe Festival debut Laureen: Queen of the Tundra. The production was so popular, the troup regrouped for their 2016 Fringe sequel, House of Laureen: Backdoor Queens – starring Anaconda LaSabrosa, Connie Lingua, Dot Dot Dot, Uma Gahd and host Noah in a riveting backstage look at the reality of drag, performance and politics – a show they will reprise as part of the 20th annual Wildside Theatre Festival which runs from Jan. 5 to 15 at the venerable Centaur Theatre in Old Montreal.
|House of Laureen: Backdoor Queens|
(Photo by Kinga Michalska)
You can also see the House of Laureen headline Montreal’s iconic Café Cleopatra on January 14 at 10 pm (after their early evening performance at the Centaur).
In August 2016, House of Laureen established their monthly residency at Café Cleopatra, last remnant of Montreal’s fabled red-light district. There are plenty of ghosts in this great old building – the Queen of the Main – which has been a showbar since 1895, and where the House of Laureen follows in the footsteps of such Montreal drag legends as Vicki Lane, Lady Brenda, Vicki Richard, Twilight, Farrah, Black Emmanuel, Gerry Cyr, Michel Dorion and Cantelli.
On the eve of their Centaur Theatre debut, Three Dollar Bill sat down with the girls from the House of Laureen for a brief Q&A about drag (their answers have been edited for brevity and clarity).
Three Dollar Bill: Why do you love drag?
Uma Gahd I love drag because it is a time when I get to be onstage, living out the fantasies so many of us have: being famous, being fabulous, being a star! I get to explore makeup artistry, costume design, dance, and theatre. Stand-up comedy, pop culture, music editing and lighting design. Drag encompasses so many disciplines and demands so much from us as artists that it really is challenging. Every performance that gets a reaction from the crowd is an accomplishment that required hours and hours of thought and work. It is so creatively fulfilling!
Anaconda LaSabrosa I love drag because it allows me to explore my artistic side. I use it as a coping mechanism, in a way. Drag helps me go through all of these different things I have discovered and learned to love, and has helped me find new talents that I didn’t know I had. I love drag as it connects me with different people: I make them laugh and feel different emotions – which is fun – and I love getting people’s reactions afterwards.
Connie Lingua I love drag because I can express whatever side of my personality I want and because of the validation from audience – laughter, applause and shock feels so good!
Dot Dot Dot I love drag because it allows me to bring so many of my passions together: fashion, make-up, dance, theatre and gender. It is incredibly versatile, allows you to bring a wide range of talents, energies and styles to the stage. And because of this, allows you to continually be challenged and to grow. I love drag because it allows me to take my femininity and channel it through an art form that is beneficial to me and to others because it breaks down gender stereotypes. And I love drag because of the community that is built around it.
Why is drag important?
Anaconda LaSabrosa Drag queens have this power to share opinions, protest injustices, make the audience feel different emotions through our performances, our looks.
Dot Dot Dot Drag is important because it celebrates unapologetically bold, queer gender and sexualities. Drag is important because it is a longstanding queer art form that deserves to continue, which brings together our community, allowing us to discuss, explore, fundraise and take care of each other. Drag is also important because it is a fabulous, fun, glittery good time!
Uma Gahd I think that drag is so incredibly important because it is a celebrated expression of a part of my identity that is usually shunned. I was a sissy boy growing up in a tiny town; my limp wrist and my love for pop culture divas got me into a lot of trouble. Now, I take all of those things and wrap them up in sequins and glitter, shine a stage light on them, and I wow people with my talent. Parts of myself that people tried to convince me were detestable are now my biggest assets. Through drag we get to explore gender, identity and socialization. We get to think big thoughts and feel big feelings about ourselves that we are otherwise good not to. We reclaim our femininity, we understand our masculinity, and we know about all the things inside and outside that binary.
Connie Lingua Drag is more important now than ever because it laughs in the face of ignorance, dances to the joyful tune of freedom and wraps you in the glittering light of the in-between.
Visit the official House of Laureen website at houseoflaureen.com.