Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua: a haven in troubling times

Pearle Harbour sings a song in Chautauqua, with her accompanist, Mr. Gantry.

Pearle Harbour prepares to take flight in Chautauqua.

Pearle Harbour’s Chautauquais like a revival meeting for liberals—and a lot of us could use reviving these days.

Chautauquas were a kind of tent meeting popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that offered a combination of entertainment and inspirational lectures—sort of like Tony Robbins, but with a band.

In her chautauqua, Toronto drag queen Pearle Harbour invites us into a little cotton tent that seats 40. Her hairstyle and trimly tailored jacket refer to the period around WWII but, in her tent, Pearle offers refuge from current sources of anxiety. She fleetingly refers to ice caps melting. She knows what it’s like when “the only light in your life is the screen in your pocket.”

And she offers solace in the form of communion. The venue and the size of the gathering are already intimate. Pearle asks us all to breathe with her and, near the top of her show, she personally greets every member of the audience. As a theatregoer, I’ve never spent so much time gazing directly into a performer’s eyes. [Read more…]

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