The opening of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” plays at a respectful volume in Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Twigs are placed on the ground to mark the parameters of the stage. Four performers stand next to each other, swaying back and forth and turning their heads sharply to the beat of the music. Two others break through the crowd and brandish their batons (today represented by sticks found on the grass). People fall to the ground when the sticks are pointed at them, rising up again during the “Fuck you” sequence of the song.
The six performers are working on an act — a performance piece on the history of Toronto’s Pride — for Colour Me Dragg’s Silence This! show on June 26th, part of Queer Pride 2010 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. A portion of ticket sales will go to QuAIA and Blockorama.
“It’s a wide range of groups, solos, spoken word, burlesque, drag queens, drag kings, gender performers,” says Milo Ramirez, who founded Colour Me Dragg almost five years ago and co-produces their shows. “We bring out the works.”
Buddies invited Colour Me Dragg, a drag/burlesque troupe for queer and trans artists of colour, to be part of Queer Pride. The group put a call out for performers and was quickly overwhelmed.
“If you look back at our original call-out, it said we had a limit of 10 acts,” says Ramirez. “We just can’t say no because we understand and we recognize how important Colour Me Dragg is for people. We read their descriptions, and we read their reasons for wanting to perform with Colour Me Dragg, and we just accommodate.”
Silence This! will feature 20 acts, including Ill Na Na, Chromatically Correct and Sue Shi. Each act was given the theme of the show but has been free to interpret it in their own way.
Colour Me Dragg wanted to do something special for Queer Pride and put out a call for performers for a group number. The result is the rehearsal in the park.
They work collaboratively. There’s no director, and a couple of people take the lead coaching. At one point everyone is asked their opinion on what the next sequence, after the one depicting the bathhouse raids, should look like.
The Queer Pride event in the Chamber at Buddies will be the group’s biggest show to date.
“I just wanted to connect with more performers of colour,” says Ramirez of Colour Me Dragg’s beginnings, “see who was out there, see who was interested and see if there were people who were interested but who were intimidated by not seeing that much representation. I remember doing the call-out and just being amazed by the [response].”
Queer Pride at Buddies will also include a workshop presentation of Obaaberima, a theatre/dance piece created and performed by Tawiah M’Carthy. Other solo works include The First Time, created and performed by Paul Hutcheson, and A New Gay, starring Laura Landauer as Céline Dion.
The festival also offers an evening with Boylesque; Dead Sexy: A Funeral for Church Street; and Hard and Able, featuring cabaret performances by musician Lindsay Sarah Czitron and drag king Luka Sidaravicius. PrideCab, another multi-performer evening, is part of Buddies’ Queer Youth Arts Program.
Meanwhile, at Trinity-Bellwoods, Colour Me Dragg continues to polish their act. Some decisions need to be made about the montage, and the sequences set to Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride” and Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us” need work.
“What’s great about Colour Me Dragg,” says Ramirez, “is that we come from all different experiences, all different areas, and we’re able to come together for the same goal. I think that’s what makes it so incredible.”