It’s a rainy Friday night and the Wiggle Room crowd is waiting impatiently for the star of “Trantasy,” one of the big hits of the St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival. The velvet drapes open and Tranna Wintour steps onto the stage, to a wild round of applause. She pauses and lets the audience drink her in. “Well, someone had to bring the glamour, didn’t they?” Then, with a scowl, she adds, “It took me two hours to get ready–you’re going to have to do better than that!” The room erupts in laughter.
In a world where aspiring comedians dress in regulation uniform: tattered jeans, ironic t-shirt and floppy tuque, Wintour plays every show, from Open Mics to headliners, like she’s opening on Broadway – vividly elegant and meticulously prepared. “I’ve never given a performance half-assed. I always give it my all.” Success, she believes, “comes from an understanding of your worth and from feeling good about what you’re doing.”
“Trantasy,” the one-woman show Wintour wrote and directed, features comedy, music and a soupcon of dance. Her stories and songs touch on all her favourite Pop icons, including Mariah Carey, Madonna and local diva Celine Dion. “I don’t want to be limited to stand-up. For me, it’s the personality, the point of view that’s most important.” Wintour’s creative inspirations are comedians Sandra Bernhard and Margaret Cho. “The show is influenced by Bernhard’s act – strange, magical and multi-layered.” Unlike many female comedians who specialize in self-defecating humor, Wintour follows Bernhard’s example of “celebrating herself.” “Admittedly,” she adds, “It took a while to get there.” Wintour now finds herself a role-model for others. “It’s surreal how it’s coming full circle. Now I have a chance to put the message out in my own voice, in my own way.”
Wintour credits her loving family for her grounded perspective. “As a kid, I was always expressing myself so freely, in school plays and public speaking. My performer’s energy was always there… Early on, I identified as a girl; my family was always extremely supportive.” As an adolescent, her world darkened, when pressures to conform and fears of being bullied closed in on her. “I never tried to change, I couldn’t pretend–so I hid. I didn’t want to be the target, so I went against my true nature.” Wintour now finds comedy to be a powerful vehicle for self-expression. “I can breathe! I don’t have to do things the way everybody else does.”
These days, Wintour’s support comes from her circle of family and friends. “I’ve been very lucky–people have become invested in me.” After only two years in the Montreal comedy scene, her non-stop schedule recently earned her five “Top Five” spots, on CultMTL’s “Best of MTL.” They were: Best Comedian, Best Dressed Montrealer, Best Instagram, Best Twitter and Best Drag Queen/King. While Wintour does not identify with the last category, she graciously accepts the accolade. On her Facebook page, she writes, “I’m not a drag queen but I will take that #2 spot gladly and proudly!”
In an age of Instagram selfies and over-sharing, Wintour prefers Old Hollywood discretion concerning her private life. “It’s not a conscious decision on my part. I just miss that mystery – I guess I’m an old soul.” Given the frankness of her stand-up material, Wintour is hardly aloof. “I am private, but at the same time, I’m honest. Nothing is off-limits if you ask me a question, but I’m just not offering it up, unsolicited, to the world.”
Wintour was recently invited, for the second year, to compete with Canada’s top comedians at the Just for Laughs Montreal auditions and for Sirius XM Radio’s Canada’s Top Comic. “It’s hard not to have expectations, but I know that no matter what, every experience is an opportunity for me to learn. I’m thrilled to even be selected!”
While the locally-raised performer has had recent success in New York and Toronto, she says, “I don’t want to have to leave Montreal. It’s so culturally alive and vibrant.” Montreal is equally smitten with her.
“St-Ambroise Montreal FRINGE Festival” presents…
“Trantasy” – June 11-21
The Wiggle Room
3874 St. Laurent Blvd.
Tickets: $12 (Available on-line)
Photo credit: Poster Design by Adam Simms, Photography by Photologia – Isabelle Stephen Photographe, Styling and makeup by Tranna Wintour