Smoke & Mirrors Is A Fabulous Allusion.
By Patrick Hurley
Sash Velour, winner of Season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, brings a performance art aesthetic to Drag in her one-queen show Smoke & Mirrors, and the result is a technically impressive blend of camp, memoir, and fabulousness.
The show, which played at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel, is sort of a first of its kind on such a grand scale. Sasha, who also serves as the show’s narrator, takes us through her younger days of discovering the Drag Queen inside of herself, as well as her first experiences performing in Drag shows in the small East Coast town she grew up and then New York City. All set to an eclectic playlist of singers such as Judy Garland, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston. The digital aspects of the show, which include projections on a large screen onstage, create a somewhat futuristic dreamlike landscape that enhances the artistry and raises the bar of what a fierce lip sync can look like. It’s a bold, over-the-top drag performance that hits every note just right. Because, as Sasha herself alludes to, sometimes being extra is absolutely how you must express yourself.
The real takeaway from this, however, is the heart at the center of the show. It’s a celebration of “otherness” of a “queer aesthetic.” There’s an emboldening element coursing through its veins and because of that, the show becomes a personal empowering tour de force. Sasha is expressing her gender fluidity, not in any way to diminish or victimize herself or the culture, but as a celebration of power and sensuality, and pride. It’s a celebration, in the midst of a politically tumultuous narrative that America is entrenched in, and for that it’s not only crazy entertaining, but also deeply necessary.
Sasha’s personal commentary throughout the show serves it so well. It brings something deeply felt and personal to an artform that has a deep and very personal history. A culture that started in ancient times and carried through to Shakespeare and Vaudeville and finally found its way in small underground clubs and speakeasies during prohibition that served as sanctuaries for queer men and women, for individuals who disregarded the constraints of heteronormative society, and dreamed into existence a world where gender and identity are not binary, are not reductive, but can exist in whatever form is necessary to bring personal expression out of the closets and into the streets. This is a direct result of those queer forefathers/mothers, and it’s a huge step in the right direction.
The direction of progress and freedom, and of course, always more fabulousness. This particular conversation must continue!
“Smoke & Mirrors”
Created by: Sasha Velour
Produced by: House of Velour
Video Production: House of Velour with Gina Garan
Animation: Geo Barnett & Julie Robert
Costumes: Diego Montoya
Wigs: Elle Emenopé
Directorial Advisor: Lillian Meredith