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My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

HallowQueens at Screemers: terrifying drag from lifesaving queens

BY DREW ROWSOME  -

"I'm very protective of Screemers," says Kenny Wiseman, the creative genius behind HallowQueens. "I want it to be scary all the time, even if someone gets up on stage cracking jokes." The lineup of drag queens for HallowQueens is scary good: Allysin Chaynes, Sofonda Cox, Ivory Towers, Scarlet BoBo and Katinka Kature. Hosting will be Jacklynne Hyde who promises some spooky surprises - "His ideas are amazing," says Wiseman - to keep the terror level high.

As we wrote in "Screemers drags you to hell and it is heavenly," last year's LGBT Night at Screemers was an unqualified success,so it received a catchier name, HallowQueens at Screemers, and a bigger budget. For Wiseman it is a fusion of two of his favourite things: horror and drag.

Wiseman has been going to Screemers for 20 years (2015 is their 23rd edition) and began volunteering in 2002. After twice winning the Best Volunteer award and cash prize for his skill at walkaround scares - "We have to keep the atmosphere going outside the mazes," he says - Wiseman signed on full time. He had only been part-time because he was so busy with his work in the evangelical church and community he belonged to.

"Halloween is not as taboo in evangelical circles as everyone thinks," says Wiseman. "Kids go trick or treating but there is no dressing as evil things like ghosts, witches, Frankensteins, vampires, zombies, etc. Instead they do angels, characters from the Bible and marshmallows. The church didn't mind my work at Screemers, it was just the homosexual stuff they had trouble with."

When Wiseman finally came out at 30, the church, his family and friends, shunned him. All except for the wife, who he calls "a wonderful woman," who he had hoped would turn him straight. Instead she helped him come out. They went to drag shows together and meeting Chantelle Helena Carter (aka Farra N Hyte) and Heaven Lee Hytes changed Wiseman's life. The drag duo nicknamed Wiseman "Jesus Camp," and listened to his tale and offered advice and support. "I have a great affinity for drag queens," he says.

Wiseman decided to combine his two loves, horror Screemers style and drag, by creating last year's event. "We had never done anything like this before, we had limited resources, the queens were not on time . . . " says Wiseman. "But everyone saw how amazing it was." And Hallowqueens is back, bigger and scarier and gayer than ever.

It is safe to say that the drag artists will not be performing as characters from the Bible, angels or marshmallows, but their delicious brand of glamorous horror will surely be one of the best treats of Halloween 2015. And if it isn't scary enough for more refined tastes, the dark mazes surely will be. And if (unlikely) still not, Wiseman will be roaming around and will make sure you scream and scream again.

Hallowqueens at Screemers is on Wed, Oct 28 at Screemers, 200 Princes' Blvd. Screemers runs until Sat, Oct 31. screemers.ca


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