Award-winning creator and host Tracey Erin Smith joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss the hit television series Drag Heals, which follows drag artists over an intensive month-long workshop to build their own stage show. The show is set to make its season three premiere on February 10th on OUTtv, Amazon Prime and AppleTV+.
We’re so excited to see season three of Drag Heals this February. What can audiences expect from this latest season?
Season three is full of surprises, incredible stories and fabulous drag. Amongst our cast, we have Canada’s only wrestler Drag Queen, an electric guitar-playing comedian, and a gospel singer! This season the stories get very personal, there is something for everyone to relate to and be transformed by. There’s also a last minute turn of events that forces the cast to come together and help each get their performances ready in time for the live show!
You’ve used the term ‘Theatrical Alchemy’. Can you tell us more about this?
‘Theatrical Alchemy’ describes the process of taking raw and often difficult material from our lives and transforming it into something beautiful, moving and entertaining. The alchemy is how this process maintains the truth and essence of our experiences. Alchemy was originally used to describe the process of turning base metals into gold. It’s the perfect metaphor!
Excavating our tears, joy and pain, and then working with that deep, personal material to transform it into something that has light in it pulls the audience towards us. Their stories glisten and we want to listen and cheer as they tell their tales of trials and triumphs! This process births a more fibrous drag performance that manages to serve up a delicious meal of tantalizing truths with full diva quality drag!
As the title suggests, this show is something different to a competition series. What do you hope participants, and audiences, get from Drag Heals?
I hope audiences will take away the mind blowing magic and human connection that is possible when people become each other‘s biggest cheerleaders. When you feel completely accepted and celebrated for who you are, there’s no limit to what you can do. Watching each participant’s growth from episode to episode, inspires each of us to try new creative adventures in our own life.
What has been the most rewarding aspect for you making this show?
Making Drag Heals gives me the opportunity to witness people season after season become more of who they really are. There is no greater reward than the ecstatic satisfaction of being in the presence of a soul blossoming, and seeing minds being blown by what they are capable of. Helping people see who they really are, and watching them do something they thought was impossible is my passion. I get to live all of that through making Drag Heals.
And the most surprising?
When the audience is not only wowed by the dazzling peacocking of their Drag but also moved by their personal stories, it packs a one-two punch inside a glittery velvet glove. Working with series director and amazing friend, Charlie David has also shown me how sensitive the camera can be at capturing truth and flair! It is an amazing looking show!
How has drag and other people’s drag stories helped you emotionally?
I am one of those people who teaches things that they want to learn. Playwright 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.” I am a performer but since teaching my first drag workshop in 2011 I have discovered courage I didn’t know I was looking for. Putting on a mask helps reveal a truth that would otherwise remain hidden.
Throughout my career of helping people tell their stories and in my own one woman shows, I have come to see that our stories are the bridge that connects us to one another. Telling the truth about ourselves and sharing our stories makes connections between people unlike anything else. Listening has magic in it. The stories that we listen to unlock treasures that would have remained undiscovered. Drag is a truth telling portal. Watching and learning from drag artists has shown me so much about truth, courage and strength.
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
‘Show Your Crack’! I’m serious! Leonard Cohen said it more poetically but Show your Crack! Let the light in. This is how we give permission to ourselves and others to be all of themselves. Going forward…my book. It is killing me! Literally I am getting older with each year I don’t get it out there!
I also just want to keep getting to do what I love. I want to keep making television shows like Drag Heals that showcase people who are not often featured in the spotlight. I want to keep creating my one woman shows. I am working on the next one now and it involves more smiling than anyone thought possible. And I want to keep making shows with people who have unique stories to tell. My recent show, The Hair Show, tells the personal stories of 5 hair stylists. It is heartbreaking, funny and all true. If anyone has a great idea for this type of personal storytelling please let me know! And – obviously – I look forward to season 4!