Lucille Ball, Joan Rivers and Carol Burnett will soon take the stage in Winnipeg – or at least their characters will.
Halifax-born drag queen Shayla Shenanigans will perform more than 16 impressions of comedy legends at The Park Theatre on Wednesday, June 14 at 7:30 p.m. as part of her Legends Live Comedy Tour.
Shenanigans uses 25 exact-replica costumes and transforms from one character to another on stage – right down to her padding. Audience members see Shenanigans perform with and without the illusion of costumes, wigs and character personas.
“It’s like a deconstructed drag, so it takes down the walls of what you think drag is,” she says.
Shenanigans is known for her comedy-queen impressions and was once hired to impersonate Lucille Ball at a funeral where many attendees worked or were friends with the I Love Lucy star.
But that’s only one highlight of a prolific career. Shenanigans is celebrating her 24th year of drag on Aug. 7. She was the first drag queen to headline Yuk Yuk’s Halifax Comedy Club and sell it out twice in one night. Shenanigans has also sold out her last 30 shows in a row. Legends Live is her fifth comedy tour.
“I love bringing joy and happiness to people and using my impersonations and comedy to do that. It’s just the greatest gift,” she says.
Shenanigans created Drag Queens of Comedy, a touring drag-queen comedy group that performs in different Canadian communities. The company sold out 18 shows in a row.
Shenanigans prefers to tour in June to celebrate the beginning of Pride season. She says it’s important for people to celebrate themselves and also pay respect to people who fought for queer liberation.
She often refers to herself as a “drag mother” who mentors young and new drag performers. Shenanigans says it can be life-changing to create space for 2SLGBTQIA+ people to feel safe and supported.
“Not only do I want to entertain people, (but) I also want to show the importance of what drag can really do. It can change a life. It can change a community,” Shenanigans says.
She says drag is for anyone who is brave enough to try it and hopes the art form will help people find their passions. Shenanigans says her message to new performers is to persevere despite struggles and know there is nothing wrong with asking for help.
Shenanigans now works in drag and comedy full-time. She is forever unapologetically herself – and also just happens to be 16 other people at the same time.
“Everybody marches to the beat of their own drum. Mine just happens to be a tambourine,” she says.
Shayla Shenanigans performs her Legends Live drag comedy show on Wednesday, June 14 at 7:30 p.m. at The Park Theatre (698 Osborne St.). Tickets are $30 each and can be purchased at myparktheatre.com. To book Shenanigans for weddings, barbecues, TV appearances and just about anything else, find her on Instagram @mzshaylashenanigans.
Published in Volume 77, Number 25 of The Uniter (May 9, 2023)