KSO director ‘very happy and very proud’ to collaborate with U.S. drag performer

Former ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ contestant Thorgy Thor will be performing alongside the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra later this week amid legal attacks on LGBTQ2S+ communities.
Photo features the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra
KSO director Daniel Mills says the symphony strives to bring a variety of unique performances to Kamloops each season. Photo by Allen Douglas.

Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra, a theatrical symphonic experience, is coming to Kamloops on March 30 and 31 in partnership with the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra (KSO). 

Thorgy Thor, the stage name of Shane Thor Galligan, is a multi-instrumentalist and comedic drag performer who earned fame on RuPaul’s Drag Race and its spin-off, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, for her competitive spirit, goofy demeanour and undeniable talent. 

On RuPaul’s Drag Race, Thorgy first revealed her dream to one day perform in her own “drag orchestra.” She made that dream into a reality in 2018 and has partnered with local symphonies across Canada and the U.S. regularly since then.

The sold-out event will feature Thorgy playing her violin, viola and cello, singing, dancing and “slaying” alongside KSO. The performance combines the campy fun of a drag show with the instrumental mastery of Kamloops’ foremost classical musicians.

KSO executive director Daniel Mills says the symphony has long been awaiting Thorgy’s arrival. 

“We had tentatively booked [Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra] for our 2021 season,” he explains. “Because of the pandemic, that season never launched … so we’ve really been waiting two whole years to have this concert.”

‘Shocking’ American laws put the spotlight on drag performance

Mills says he and KSO are “very happy and very proud to be able to host [Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra],” especially given recent hatred towards drag performers and trans people in the U.S. 

Currently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is tracking 430 anti-LGBTQ bills that have been introduced in state legislatures meant to undermine the civil rights of queer people and trans youth. 

For example, the Tennessee state legislature passed companion bill SB3 towards the end of February, which criminalizes “adult cabaret performances” taking place on public property or in a location where “a person who is not an adult” could view the performance. 

SB3 was passed in conjunction with SB1, which prohibits healthcare providers from providing care to minors if it enables “a minor to identify with, or live as, a purported identity inconsistent with the minor’s sex.” 

SB1 and SB3 have been flagged by many U.S.-based advocacy organizations, including the ACLU, for fabricating criminality surrounding queer identity, restricting and stipulating when queer people can express themselves, limiting access to medically-necessary healthcare, outlawing gender-affirming care and blocking trans people from obtaining health insurance. 

Canada has also seen a rise in hate crimes targeting LGBTQ2S+ residents, although no legislative changes have been made in line with anti-trans rhetoric. Protests at libraries and restaurants where drag events take place have become prolific, suggesting that anti-drag and anti-trans sentiment exists here, too.

Statistics Canada reported a 64 per cent uptick in hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ2S+ community between 2020 and 2021. Recently, protests have occurred ahead of drag story time events at libraries in Calgary, Kelowna and Coquitlam.

“It is shocking that we’re having to have these conversations and deal with this sort of thing in 2023. I mean, especially given the popularity and success of things like RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Mills says. 

“When looking to program this [event] over two years ago, we never would have thought that these kinds of performances couldn’t happen in places right next door to us like the United States,” Mills says.

He says there was zero pushback from anyone within the symphony organization when planning the event and adds he does not take the ability to host events like Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra for granted. 

Kamloops Pride president Alyssa Christianson echoed Mills’ statements.

“To think that [anti-drag, anti-trans sentiment] is alive and well and [anti-drag laws] are a thing that are happening in the world in 2023 … I mean, it’s hard to hear and read about it as a queer person,” she says. 

“I think it’s easy for us to say, ‘we’re lucky we’re in Canada … [anti-drag laws] could never happen here.’ But they could, and I think that’s a totally valid and real concern for queer people, and especially trans people, here in Canada.” 

“Other countries’ laws could very easily influence ours and it’s definitely something we should continue talking about,” Christianson adds.

In Kamloops specifically, Christianson says she has been following TRU Pride Club’s efforts to open a private and permanent meeting space on campus and can’t believe Kamloops still lacks a pride centre. 

“In places like Kamloops where there isn’t a ton of representation, I often think about young queer people and trans youth who are reading things and hearing these news stories in a world where their actions, their identity, their bodies are being policed … I imagine it’s very scary sometimes.”

Christianson says she hopes for more opportunities to showcase drag performers in Kamloops and adds Kamloops Pride is keen to collaborate with local drag artists

Sold-out shows ready to dazzle Kamloopsians

Thorgy Thor, a multi-instrumentalist and comedic drag performer, performs alongside the Regina Symphony Orchestra in 2022. Thorgy wears a pink sequinned jumpsuit and a feathered pink wig. The symphony sits behind her in all black.
Drag performer Thorgy Thor, pictured with the Regina Symphony Orchestra in 2022, is taking her instrumental skills across North America after competing in RuPaul’s Drag Race in 2016. Photo provided by KSO.

Christianson says Kamloops Pride is cross-promoting Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra alongside KSO.

“Myself and my girlfriend will be in attendance and I know of a whole lot of people from the Kamloops Pride community who will be there as well,” she says.

“I’m really excited by the fact that there are two shows. I think it’s definitely going to allow for as many people as possible to get out and experience the world of drag … It’s a unique sort of performance that I don’t think a lot of people in Kamloops would typically get to see,” Christianson adds.

On March 26, KSO announced both shows were sold out.

Thorgy Thor’s symphony tour isn’t the only non-traditional show KSO has hosted. The symphony strives to bring a variety of unique performances to Kamloops each season, Mills explains. 

“We enjoy hosting events that are somewhat surprising … and like to bring in performances that have the potential to attract a wide variety of people who then get to experience something they might not have expected,” he says. 

“[Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra] really fit the bill. We expect a wide variety of Kamloopsians to join our tried and true supporters and I think it will be a really fun couple of nights at the symphony.”

For more information on Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra and other KSO events visit kamloopssymphony.com.

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