Tracey Erin Smith is an award-winning, international artist, teacher, and speaker who transforms the individuals and groups who work with her through her company, SOULO Theatre.
Who is your drag persona? How do they highlight or reveal parts of you in bigger and more dramatic ways?
My drag persona are: The Burning Bush and Buddy. The Burning Bush is my female drag persona. She has fiery wild curls, boobs for days and wears a huge rhinestone Star of David necklace.
She is many parts of me put on theatrical steroids. The Burning Bushes’ journey from drop out rabbi to preacher/stripper has helped me reveal my own path as a teacher/performer. I have never been a stripper (that I know of) but I did take pole and lap dancing lessons for my one woman show called The Burning Bush! which I performed Off-Broadway and across Canada.
Buddy is my male drag persona. He has long dark hair, wears a navy bandana, a Canadian tuxedo (jeans and a jean jacket) and a handle bar moustache with a goatee.
Buddy, like Burning Bush, highlights and reveals parts of myself.
He is a Canadian dude who’s ‘Part Scarborough, part Jewish’. He talks like a ‘hoser’, has a huge heart and teaches kindergarten at a Montessori School.
I have taught SOULO to pre-teens at a Montessori school, I am ALL Jewish.
Portraying these parts of my own biography as Buddy has revealed a more playful, goofier side to the things in my life that I have taken very seriously (including the Canadian Tuxedo).
Does the idea of drag as therapeutic or being healing resonate with you? Why?
Yes! I think drag could be called, ‘medicine that sparkles’. My work with SOULO, which I developed when I was an instructor at Ryerson University, is all about using theatre, writing and creativity to make powerful and entertaining solo shows. Along the way, the shows become healing both for the creator and then for the audience.
In my experience with Drag, I see people finding a persona that, whether they know it or not, comes from a deep place within them. I have heard more than a few drag artists say that their drag persona has saved their lives.
Doing drag is a great way to get to know parts of yourself and to learn more about how you feel and think about things. As Oscar Wilde said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.”
How can the drag community benefit from being more inclusive?
Great question! Based on what we experienced in Season 2, the drag community can benefit hugely from being more inclusive. More inclusivity means more people to learn from. During our taping, there was some great creative cross-pollination of ideas and skill-sharing among the performers. I saw the participants of Drag Heals 2 become bigger and better artists from having witnessed different genres of drag. If you want to spark your ideas for your own drag, go watch and work with artists who are doing different things than you!
And on the personal growth side of things, I believe including people/artists who are different from one another, and sharing our stories, enriches our lives more than we know.
When the group is diverse the benefits to individuals are truly exponential.
What’s been most challenging about Drag Heals for you personally?
When you create a solo show based on your own life, stuff can get pretty real. By this I mean that in order to create something powerful you have be brave enough to face your own dragons. This can bring up fear and resistance for some people.
I have spent almost twenty years midwifing these shows, as well as having two certificates in Narrative Therapy, so I have experience dancing with people’s fear. It’s normal sometimes to want to quit half way up the mountain and my job, as a creative Sherpa of sorts, is to normalize fear as part of the process.
The reward on getting to the other side of the fear can be a deep healing that comes from releasing a story that has been locked inside of you. The show becomes each performer’s gift of truth for the audience, who may, through their tears say; I thought I was the only one.
What’s brought you the most joy working with the Drag Heals cast?
What brought me the most joy was that the cast became such fast friends. They trusted each other enough to share very personal stories and stay open and vulnerable when things got challenging. And, to do all of that on camera is an astounding act of courage.
I am so proud of them.
What has surprised you the most?
What surprised me the most is the caliber of skills and the level of passion of our guest coaches and mentors. Each one is a super star in their field.
What also surprised (and delighted me!) is how much we all learned from each participant. Each person brought their own form of magic and mastery. Everyone on this show is a teacher of their own unique lesson.
What do you hope the TV audience gets out of watching Drag Heals?
My hope for the audience is enlightenment. I hope they watch and feel enlightened about the amazing variety of lived experiences in the LGBTQ2S community and that they gain exposure to all the different kinds of drag performers that exist now. I would also LOVE if they leave with a desire to try some form of drag themselves!
How has COVID-19 affected your work as a theatre director?
Since Covid19 hit I have taken my SOULO course online. This means that if you enjoyed watching the creative process on Drag Heals and would like to create your own show with me, you can apply to be in a SOULO course…from anywhere in the world!
To apply send an email to: [email protected]
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