Drag’s gone boom did not erupt during COVID-19 says the Toronto promoter

RuPaul and Canada’s Drag Race have put it more into the mainstream

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Call that move “perfect storm.”

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As Canadian clubs suffered COVID-19-related closures and then reopened with greatly reduced capacity, separate seating, mask wear, and other restrictions, drag shows were one of the few live acts that still worked.

At the same time, Canada’s Drag Race started at CRAVE last summer (in the footsteps of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which premiered in 2009) and pushed our country’s own drag stars, as the winner of first season Priyanka, into the mainstream in the midst of the show’s success as the station’s highest rated original production in CRAVE’s history.

In other words, instead of bustling time, it has been boom time for Toronto drag promoter Alex Dooley, who has booked shows across Canada since starting his business last July, including at Toronto’s Phoenix and Stackt Market and Vancouver’s Hollywood Theater , to name three venues.

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“(Drag) was in the mainstream, but I think even more now, especially because Canada’s Drag Race, season 1, was released during the pandemic, and Canada’s Drag Race, season 2, is now out this year,” said Liverpool-born Toronto- based Alex Dooley of Dooley Noted Productions.

“And it has actually given us a chance to do drag shows with more local artists (because international actors were not traveling) at larger venues because the venues had lower capacity and seating.”

Gia Metric at ICONS Vancouver at the Hollywood Theater.  (Gia Metric - Canada's Drag Race season 2 participant).
Gia Metric at ICONS Vancouver at the Hollywood Theater. (Gia Metric – Canada’s Drag Race season 2 participant). Photo by Megan Gialloreto

Dooley says that during complete club closures, drag queens and kings also made remote shows online or via Instagram live, “and it became part of people’s entertainment when they were at home during the pandemic. I think the drag community, they helped them “When we reopened, it was even more exciting because we could actually see them in person.”

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Lisa Zbitnew, owner of Phoenix with 1,300 capacity, says drag shows have been a way to keep making money during the pandemic. (Just last Friday, concert venues, seated or not, got ready to return to 100% capacity in Ontario.)

“Drag was the first thing we brought back in the short time we had open in August and September 2020,” Zbitnew said. “We were only allowed to go to a capacity of 100 people. We had done a lot of drag shows before. But programming for the number of accommodated limited things we could do as a venue, but it worked quite well with moves. “

For his part, Dooley says he can not keep up with demand.

“I get calls every week from different venues trying to get things into their venue, but I can’t do everything,” said Dooley, who previously ran Toronto’s private member club, Soho House, where he staged some drag-related events.

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“I saw a bit of a niche because I had done so many shows in Soho House that it felt like that was the direction I was going to go in. It was a bit lucky because (bookers) were trying to find things that could filling the venues (with reduced capacity with separate seating) and moves just happened with one of the things that fit perfectly. “

Brooke Lynn Hytes at ICONS TORONTO at The Phoenix.  Brooke Lynn is hosting Canada's Drag Race - Season 2 is currently airing on Crave on Thursday at  21.00 ET).
Brooke Lynn Hytes at ICONS TORONTO at The Phoenix. Brooke Lynn is hosting Canada’s Drag Race – Season 2 is currently airing on Crave on Thursday at 21.00 ET). Photo of Drag Coven

Dooley Noted Productions current shows:

October 30 – Twisted with Scarlett Bobo, Pythia & BOA, Phoenix, Toronto (co-production with Pitbull Events)

October 31 – Halloween @Stackt (for the whole family), at 12-18, Stackt Market, Toronto

Nov 4 – Canada’s Drag Race show party with Synthia Kiss, Beth, Kiara, Phoenix, Toronto

November 11 – Canada’s Drag Race Showdown with Gia Metric and Priyanka, Phoenix, Toronto

November 18 – Canada’s Drag Race Senation Party with Gia Metric and Icesis Couture, Hollywood Theater, Vancouver

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