1995 – Present
Flare, Flarington King, Drag King Flare
Country of Origin
Birth – Death
Drag King Flare is an international drag king performer, producer, and documentarian. Flare’s first performance was November 25,1995 at a drag competition in the northern Canadian town of Thunder Bay. Soon after, they moved to Vancouver where they met K.C. who was producing a monthly drag king show at the lesbian bar The Lotus. K.C. mentored Flare for one year before Flare moved to Toronto in 1997. November 1997 Flare produced the first drag king show at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. At the beginning of 1998 they formed The Fabulous Toronto Drag Kings, which later became The Toronto Drag Kings 1998 to 2002. In 1999 Flare and The Fabulous Toronto Drag Kings went to the first International Drag King Community Extravaganza (“IDKE”) and Flare was hooked. They became part of the IDKE Steering Committee from 2001 to 2009 helping oversee IDKE move to different cities. They co-produced with Deb “Dirk” Pearce and Christopher Noel, Toronto’s first International Drag King Show “United Kingdom”, co-produced the documentary “A Drag King Extravaganza” with Meaghan Derynck distributed by Frameline, headlined three International Festivals, and has mentored over a dozen fellow drag kings. They have also helped develop the website www.dragkinghistory.com.
Flare, also known as Flarington King, was born Clare Smyth, February 22, 1974 in Iroquois Falls, Ontario, Canada, raised in Huntsville, Ontario. Though they didn’t hit the public stage until their twenties, Flare started performing drag for their family from age 6, copying moves from musicals such as Westside Story, Victor Victoria, and Oliver. In 1995, while in college, they were asked to participate in a drag competition at The Boda restaurant in Thunder Bay, Ontario. In their first ‘act’ was to George Michael’s ‘Faith’ where their character was a young man coming out and embracing their queerness. This set a base of flamboyant gay characters that Flare would become known for. They moved to Vancouver shortly after and met drag king K.C. who was producing a monthly drag king show at the lesbian bar ‘The Lotus’. K.C. and Flare became roommates and K.C. started mentoring Flare in performance and in producing.
When Flare moved to Toronto in 1997 the previous drag king troupe “The Greater Toronto Drag King Society” had disbanded. Flare approached the queer theatre Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and asked to produce a show. Two people who signed up were Deb “Dirk” Pearce, a previous member of The Greater Toronto Drag King Society, and Christpher Noel who had won best male impersonator months before at Crews & Tangos. The three of them would go on to co-produce Toronto’s first international drag king show “United Kingdom” at Buddies in Bad Times, be special guests on “Queer as Folk” in 2004; and travel together to the International Drag King Community Extravaganza (“IDKE”), which propelled them on an international level.
After the first show at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, The Fabulous Drag Kings moved to the bar Pope Joans and changed their name to The Toronto Drag Kings. They did monthly shows from 1998-2002. One of their big highlights was bringing in Mo B. Dick from New York to perform. Drag King shows continued in Pope Joans till its closure in 2004 with “Big Daddy Kings”, “Kingsize”, and “Genderfukt”.
Flare joined the IDKE Steering Committee in 2001 and remained part of the committee until 2009, helping oversee the conference moving to different cities. In 2002 Flare brought to IDKE, and co-curated, the Drag King Film Festival, where filmmakers provided their films on VHS tapes. The film festival remained part of IDKE until its conclusion in 2011. 2007-2008 Flare, along with Meaghan Derynck, produced and directed “A Drag King Extravaganza” a documentary about the first ten years of IDKE. The documentary covers the history of IDKE. It was released at IDKE’s 10th year anniversary as the main film at IDKE’s film festival. It was then purchased by Frameline Distribution who has distributed the documentary to Universities such as York, Princeton, and Harvard.
In 2003, Flare, Deb “Dirk” Pearce, and Christopher Noel produced Toronto’s first International Drag King show “United Kingdom” at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre. They repeated this production in 2004, inviting drag kings from across Canada and the US. The summers of 2005 and 2006, Flare along with Fluffy Souffle and Pride Toronto produced the International drag show “Insert Pronoun Here”, with specific focus on non-binary performers and bringing in special guests such as Dred from New York. For World Pride in Toronto, June 29, 2014, Flare produced another International Drag King show “World Class Kings” featuring an outstanding cast of performers including but not limited to Kitten n’ Lou, Hot Metal Hardware, Fake Mustache, Master Cameron Eric Leon, and hosted by one of IDKE’s founders Luster/Lustivious de la Virgion.
Flare’s performances started to shift from flamboyant gay characters to draglesque in 2002, when they joined the burlesque troupe The Scandelles. The Scandelles influence was an education in body positivity and expressing the fluidity of gender through performances and storytelling. Flare has been twirling tassels ever since and is one of the first drag kings in the world to actively perform draglesque.
Some of Flare’s performance highlights have been: winning The Mr. Goodhandy competition in 2007, where they turned to their fellow participants immediately after their win asking them to create a troupe and instantly created the “Mr. Goodhandy’s”; performing at every Great Big International Drag King show, produced by Ken Vegas, from 2001 – 2007 and producing one of the events in 2006; performing at “Queerpocalypse” produced by Ties & Tassels –n- Dago T Productions in Chicago 2012 & 2014; bringing together and branding the drag king collective “The Yes-Men” in 2014; Saturday night headliner of Fierce: Queer Burlesque Festival in 2015 produced by Viva Valez; performing at Bar Wotever produced by Ingo Cando at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, London, England in 2017; being guest judge at the 23rd annual San Francisco Drag King Contest produced by Fudgie Frottage August 22, 2018; being a headliner at The Austin International Drag Festival 2016, 2018 & 2019; co-producing the online event Drag King Legends, celebrating Drag Kings with 25+ years in 2021; being published in The Canadian Theatre Review with their article “A Salute to our Canadian Kings” in 2021; and helping with the development of the website dragkinghistory.com.
Throughout their years as a performer and producer, Flare has passionately dedicated their life to drag kinging and draglesque. They have mentored and helped named over a dozen fellow performers, they have researched and presented history and drag king workshops at Universities, Festivals, and Shows including a special presentation on Diane Torr, they have formed four different drag king troupes, produced three International Drag King shows, and made a feature documentary used as an educational tool at Harvard.
(Submitted by Flare, Toronto, Canada, 2021)