Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser believes “It’s important to have spaces where 2SLGBTQIA+ people can come and see their lives, their work and their interests being celebrated, places where 2SLGBTQIA+ people can come and feel safe and see that they’re represented and they’re welcome, intrinsically and explicitly.” As the Barrett principal education conductor and community ambassador at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, he aims to create this safe and welcoming space by bringing Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra to Roy Thomson Hall on June 11. Bartholomew-Poyser co-created the show with Thorgy Thor and performs as conductor.
While audiences may not immediately see the connection between drag and orchestral music, Bartholomew-Poyser feels they’re a natural fit, like two puzzle pieces. When he was approached more than four years ago to create a piece fusing the two powerful yet distinct art forms, he says he “immediately said yes because music is such a big part of drag and the spectacle of what a drag artist brings to their performances.” He felt drag “would pair so well with the music of an orchestra,” adding, “I don’t see them as separate at all, so it didn’t even occur to me that it would be anything out of the ordinary to do.” Bartholomew-Poyser’s instincts seem to have been bang on, as audiences across North America have been going gaga for what he and Thor created.
While fans will likely be familiar with Thor’s work from her appearances on the eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and the third season of All Stars, Bartholomew-Poyser excitedly notes that this multimedia performance will “take the audience on a ride [where] they know what the ride is about, but they don’t know where we’re going.… [Thor] is an incredible performer. She is hilarious, she is smart, she is touching, and this multimedia production really shows everything that she can do.”
When asked about the creation process, Bartholomew-Poyser cites the biggest challenge as discovering how they would “bring the essence of Brooklyn drag to concert halls.” Thor is a founding father/mother of the style, which is known for being DIY, subversive and inclusive of performers from diverse backgrounds. Brooklyn drag artists are particularly experimental with their looks and performances and often incorporate political and social commentary into their performances. This edgy and innovative style has been seamlessly diffused into every part of the presentation; Bartholomew-Poyser notes, “Audiences can expect a show that is full of surprises.… To take the talents of somebody like Thor and show what she can do with an orchestra really shows both of them off to their best light.”
Tat Read, senior director of communications at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, is thrilled to have the opportunity to invite audiences to Roy Thomson Hall to experience such an exciting and important show, which will be a highlight at Pride Toronto 2023. She notes, “Diverse programming promotes representation and inclusivity, accessibility, innovation and creativity – all of which are crucial for engaging and enriching Toronto’s diverse audiences and communities.”
Bartholomew-Poyser is careful to mention that this show is for everyone, one of the elements that makes it so special: “This is a great show to bring people who are new to drag and people who are new to orchestra, and people who love drag, and people who love orchestra.” There is something for everyone, with creativity and joy at its centre. Bartholomew-Poyser hopes that audiences will “leave feeling relieved and happy and thinking about great memories, thinking about the atmosphere in the room … feeling like drag and orchestra are fun, worthwhile and a great way to spend an evening.”
You can catch Thorgy Thor and the Thorchestra for one night only on June 11. For concert details and to snag your tickets, head to tso.ca/pride.