– by Elyse Simich
Drag shows are an art form, often incorporating dance, pantomime and skits. Each show is different, and with elaborate costumes and make up, there can be a sense of intrigue, which adds to the overall entertainment.
But there’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes. Barbie Q from Connections Nightclub and Veronica Jean Jones from The Court Hotel gave me some insight into what exactly goes into a production.
“Production is much like what you would see from a dance troupe or theatre company,” Veronica Jean Jones said, “We work on a concept and then pitch our idea to the venue.”
There’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
These proposals include details such as a cast list, plot, costuming, choreography and budget.
“After the venue has taken the show, we are given a budget to work with which pays for everything, including costumes and cast,” she said.
“Once a spark of an idea hits my brain I write it down and then start to research the music for the correct vibe that I’m going for,” Barbie Q tells me.
After the final selection of music has been made, the tracks need to be mixed and sound effects need to be added. The final product is the music for the entire show, including the introductions and interludes.
The next step is to begin casting.
“While the music editing is happening – it can take up to a week depending on how complicated it is – I listen to the tracks and in my mind I try to get the vision of who I want to cast in each role,” Barbie Q said. This involves checking the drag queens’ availability and making sure their look is suited to the role. “Their look has to be right and depending on the shows content, their choreographic ability needs to be up to standard also.”
“Choosing a cast all comes down to what you want in a show,” said Veronica Jean Jones, “Some girls are great at dancing, others kill a lip-sync, some are great at playing characters.”
After casting is complete, a rehearsal schedule is drawn up according to everyone’s availability. Rehearsals generally begin four weeks before opening night. Next, Barbie Q said she sketches out costume ideas and sends them through to the costume designer. Once the budget is approved, the costumes are made.
Promotion begins and it is time to come up with poster ideas. The drag queens come in on a night off to shoot the promotional pictures. “It’s always an awesome part of it as we all get along like crazy people,” Barbie Q said.
The images are then sent through to the poster and press designer. They are usually finished, printed, and digitally sent through within a week.
“We get it out there to the masses via our poster girls and all of our social media outlets, including the cast doing promo through all of their own personal avenues,” Barbie Q said.
The lighting designers record the rehearsals to develop the technical elements of the production. Barbie Q said she gives them her ideas and colour schemes, and then works with them to achieve a mutually desired outcome. “They are also a very creative team, so I always give them room to put their own visions to the test,” she said.
Full technical and dress rehearsals happen in the final week before the show opens. The tech crew helps out with set changes and lighting and sound operation. “It can sometimes run smoothly and other times last quite a few hours if things don’t go to plan,” Barbie Q said.
After that, they go home and get ready, while listening to the music a few more times. “For us, we worry more about the pre-production,” Veronica Jean Jones said, “If you don’t feel confident about your show the week before, you’re in trouble”.
The Big Night
Finally, it is time to start performing.
“On opening night/show nights the process for everyone is different,” said Barbie Q, “Makeup at home can take anywhere from one and a half to three hours, depending on the look that is required.”
With the show starting at 1a.m., the cast is expected to arrive at midnight. By 12:40a.m. they are fully dressed and ready to go. “We have our ritual pre-show cast circle where we get each other revved up and the adrenaline pumping,” said Barbie Q.
“Then…. Lights! Camera! Action!”
Photo credits: Pintrest, courtesy of Barbie Q