OPENING GALA: The Empress of Vancouver

Aug 11, 2022
6:45 PM

Vancouver Playhouse

“Oh my god, you’re gorgeous. Who the hell are you?!”

The opening lines of The Empress of Vancouver are directed at a drag queen clad in a faux fur coat with towering blonde hair, pencilsharp eyebrows, and dark lipstick. She returns the compliment with a gracious “thank you” and turns to the camera. This is Oliv Howe, performer, artist, icon, and the 10th Empress of the Vancouver Dogwood Monarchist Society.

When she was crowned in 1981, Oliv’s punk rock energy, gender-fucking performances and DIY glam aesthetic spoke to a political and artistic shift in Vancouver’s drag community. Oliv represented the weirdos and freaks, the trans kings and queens and gender queers busting the binary open. The impact of this legacy threads through the film in interviews with Oliv’s contemporaries as well as younger local drag performers like Maiden China.

Accompanying Oliv’s stories is a stunning visual archive from artist Oraf Oraffson, who photographed Oliv every single day leading up to her coronation and all during her reign. This proudly local documentary is an ode to an iconic performer, and a tribute to the unique and vital queer artistic legacies that have previously been unseen.

ASL interpretation provided for the opening remarks.

The screening is followed by our Opening Night Party at šxʷƛ̓ exən Xwtl’a7shn Plaza.