To say that A Dragged Out Affair is campy would be to underestimate this fabulous indie short. Shot entirely onstage in Toronto, this musical-comedy chronicles the forbidden love between two drag queens. The film is a visual wonder, starring some of Toronto’s best-loved and most creative performers, including Donnarama and Heaven Lee Hytes as star-crossed lovers, and Miss Conception and Daytona Bitch as the crossdressing Capulets and Montagues.
The storyline was born from a comment made by Heaven Lee to the film’s producer, Olga Barsky, and director Sonia Hong.
“We were all kidding around one night, and Heaven Lee mentioned something about drag queens never dating,” explains Barsky. “About a year later, Sonia and I remembered it and that’s where the plot came from.”
The mythology surrounding drag queen love has been entrenched in queer culture since the early days of men donning dresses.
“They call it kai kai love,” explains Miss Conception. “It means two drag queens sleeping together, and it’s supposed to be forbidden. In my eyes, I don’t care, but other drag queens may. I think that’s what Heaven Lee’s idea was, that it would be fabulous to have a drag queen love affair that was wrong and people were looking down on it.”
“Daytona and I are disgusted at the fact that we catch Heaven Lee and Donnarama together,” says Miss Conception. “Myself, I don’t know if I could date another drag queen. I’m a media whore; I want to be the centre of attention, but there might be a drag queen out there that’s my soul mate.”
What Miss Conception was in love with was the cast.
“They are all so creative,” she says. “When I heard Donnarama was doing the costumes, I was in right away. She’s the queen of hot glue guns. Daytona is a comedy queen and a fabulous dancer, and Heaven is the gorgeous one. And the story, it’s hysterical.”
Olga shares Miss C’s respect and fascination for drag queen culture, having worked with Donnarama and others on a wide range of art, fashion and film projects.
In A Dragged Out Affair, Miss Conception works alongside the lovelorn Heaven Lee at a classy nightclub, while Daytona and Donnarama toil in a trashier dive across the street.
“I was so surprised to discover that there is such a huge drag scene and that a lot of people are so unaware of it,” Barsky says. “I wanted to bring that magic to more of a mainstream audience. You see this skill level and work ethic with the queens, and it was hard for me to understand that you could walk into a bar, not pay a cover and see an amazing show. I felt it was my duty to fundraise and give the queens some better production values to play with for a film.”
Barsky shared fundraising duties with Hong and long-time collaborator Clair Lowery, but their respect for the art of drag wasn’t shared by the judge of one of the arts grants the girls applied for.
“We got rejected for an arts grant, and when I ran into the woman responsible for the decision, I asked her why,” says Barsky. “She said that she found our drag queens underwhelming and that we should have hired ballet dancers and put some makeup on them. She said that as there’s no formal training for drag, they don’t bring anything to the performing arts. That really pissed me off, and that’s when we really started going for it. All I ever wanted was to prove that bitch wrong, and we did.”
Since then, the film has gone on to screen at the Reel Asian film fest and the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.