“It has not been very long that all of this has been accepted,” says Troy Caplan about queer art.
Caplan is a well-known Guelph entertainer who owns TroyBoy Entertainment, a business that celebrates drag and queer art through drag and burlesque shows.
When the provincial lockdown hit mid-March due to the pandemic, Caplan revamped his business to make sure the art was very much alive and accessible for two reasons: entertainment and awareness.
“I just don’t think that a were at a point now that we can slow down and stop,” said the 33 year old who performs under the stage name TroyBoy Parks.
“There are still people out there that need to have their negative input towards this art existing.”
For the past seven years, Caplan has run That’s My Drag! A travelling drag show that began in Guelph in 2013. Every year, That’s My Drag! would touch down in 13 cities across Ontario throughout Pride season with a rotating roster of over 40 entertainers that averaged 200 people a show.
When the pandemic hit, Caplan took his business online and hosted That’s My Drag! Digital Pride Tours in nine cities within six weeks and 25 entertainers. The two-hour digital pride show would feature local stars of the city where they glammed up, chatted, and put on drag performances for the virtual audience.
“It was like people really weren’t allowed out of their homes unless they had to be. It was nice. There are so many reasons why it had to be done,” said Caplan.
Once Phase 3 of the pandemic began, Caplan began hosting viewing parties in Royal City Studios every Thursday where he hosts contestants from the television show Canada’s Drag Race. So far, he’s hosted BOA, Tynomi Banks and Lenon, who discussed their time at the show and connected with the audience.
“It’s a much smaller scale than what we were. We were averaging up to 200 people per show and now we’re allowed 30 maybe in the space that we’re using depending on how we set it up,” said Caplan. The show now has multiple safety precautions in place such as sanitization and designated social circles.
Caplan also started a Saturday event called DRAG STARZ where he brings Ontario drag stars along with Canada’s Drag Race entertainers to perform a live drag show.
In the drag business for 13 years, Caplan refers to himself as someone who is old school and someone who would always promote his events in person.
“Everything has always been done live just because I worked a nightlife so my life is normally done live,” said Caplan who was unable to use social media when he first started his business.
“That’s one of the things I’ve had to adapt to in this industry as I’ve gotten older is learning how those things work. Now Instagram is a thing that we do use to promote our shows and Facebook is a place where we put events together and let people know,” said Caplan.
“Before it was all word of mouth. You had posters. You went to the bar five nights a week and handed posters while you’re out on the streets.”
He said hosting online shows is just something that was never done in nightlife but the pandemic made it important to provide people with something to look forward to like they do every year.
“We’re all taken out of our daily routine which is what keeps people mentally stable and we were forced into isolation and lockdown which does not help,” said Caplan.
“There’s a huge piece of us like yes this is our livelihood but the reason why this is our livelihood is because this is what fuels our souls.”
With Pride also held virtually this year, Caplan said a lot of people missed out.
“I know a lot of people like Toronto Pride, that is their vacation in a year. They work their butts off being in a minimum wage job not making very good money to be able to save just to go to Toronto pride for a weekend. That is their thing,” said Caplan.
Caplan said while entertainment is a large aspect of keeping drag alive in Guelph, he also finds it crucially important to raise awareness.
“Even with all the promotional material I send out now, I still get people with their angry face and their negative comments,” said Caplan.
“I still come from a generation where you didn’t want to be the gay kid in high school and you didn’t want to show your authentic selves and you didn’t want people to know secretly you wore makeup and you like to dance and be this other character that you’ve created.”
While there is a huge following for the arts, Caplan said the awareness needs to continue.
“I don’t think we’ve reached a point where it’s still been accepted,” said Caplan.
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