The Reverend Annie Goodfellow will be preaching the Gospel of Trump from the inside of a wrestling ring in Dawson City this weekend.
She may also slap her opponents with her Bible or choke them with her rosary beads, depending on how the mood takes her.
This weekend marks the fourth annual League of Lady Wrestlers event in Dawson City, and it’s likely to be filled with armpit hair, swearing, severed toes and fervent worship of Donald Trump.
“My character is an evangelical preacher from the South and for the past year or so, she’s been campaigning around the country with Donald Trump,” said Yasmine Renaud, who will play Annie Goodfellow. “She seems to think that Trump being elected will announce the second coming.”
Renaud is one of the event’s organizers, and one of about 15 female wrestlers slated to perform this weekend. Each has her own character, some of which have become crowd favourites over the years.
There’s the Lunch Lady, a sweaty kitchen worker who used to beat her opponents with a mackerel in a bag, but who’s now on a health-food kick and eating lots of omega-3s and coconut oil.
And there’s Sourtoe Bo, a “disgusting wretch from the North,” who lost her toe to gangrene and frostbite and now wears it around her neck, according to organizer Andrea Pelletier.
There are some new characters, too, including a Stepford wife-type who’s always seen with her controlling husband.
Pelletier will play Shreeeka the Dredge Pond Siren, who’s “kind of a disgusting, hairy, dredge pond monster.”
“She just has a lot of pure rage, and is quite filthy,” Pelletier said. “She’ll often rip out chunks of her armpit hair and throw it at the screaming fans.”
The League of Lady Wrestlers is more about performance art and less about actual wrestling. It’s kind of a satirical take on professional wrestling, which is more about entertainment than sport. The fights and the outcomes are at least partly pre-determined, and the pairs practise some moves beforehand.
But these performances aren’t just about entertaining the audience.
“It’s as much for the wrestlers as it is for the audience in some ways,” Pelletier said. “They’re not just creating characters, they’re creating alter egos.”
Pelletier said the characters allow the wrestlers to explore different female identities and to release parts of themselves that they cover up most of the time.
“Shreeeka is all the times that my parents told me to be ladylike,” she said. “I’m a taller woman, I’m a larger woman, so taking up space has always been an issue. Shreeeka’s not afraid to take up space.
“Sometimes I feel as though I’m not allowed to be angry,” Pelletier said. “You can’t always just scream at people in public, but it’s nice to be able to some of the time.”
Renaud said she grew up going to French Catholic school, even though she was never baptized. She remembers the principal taking her aside and encouraging her to leave the school because she wasn’t religious.
“From a very young age, I’ve had kind of an issue with religion,” she said.
Reverend Annie Goodfellow grew out of that experience. Through her character, Renaud gets to say all kinds of terrible, bigoted things so that people can “listen to how stupid it sounds,” she said.
The League of Lady Wrestlers was born in Dawson City in 2013, the brainchild of Aubyn O’Grady, who attended the Yukon School of Visual Arts in Dawson in 2011.
“I knew all these wonderful women and strength is so celebrated here,” she said.
“(Wrestling) is like a weird, macho-dominated world, so to kind of subvert that with only women is kind of fun.”
She has since started another league in Toronto, and the group exists in Victoria, too. But Renaud believes the Lady Wrestlers could only have come to be in Dawson.
“Dawson’s a matriarchy where everything goes,” she said. “This town is run by powerful women.”
All three women said Dawson residents are really supportive of ideas like this, and are often willing to volunteer their time to make them happen.
Renaud said she likes when people turn up at the shows expecting “foxy boxing” and K-Y Jelly, and are surprised to find something quite different. “It’s not at all what they expect.”
Pelletier said she hopes that people come away from the shows more willing to accept different ideas about gender and femininity.
But the events are also about having fun. The focus isn’t really on winning or losing, but there is a Golden Diva award for the crowd’s favourite character.
And even though this isn’t exactly real wrestling, the wrestlers do rack up some bumps and bruises. In 2013, O’Grady rolled off the ring and onto a broken bottle, and was taken away in an ambulance to receive 19 stitches. Now, they don’t allow any glass at the events. Dogs have to stay away, too, as they tend to get worked up.
“No dogs, no beers, no misogyny,” Renaud said.
The show’s audience has been growing over the years, from 60 people in 2013 to about 250 last year. For the first time this year, the event is being held right in town, beneath the Moosehide Slide in Northend Park.
People are encouraged to show up at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6 and to pay what they can. There are five official matches and a few surprises in store. There will also be a wrestling-themed after-party at the Pit in the Westminster Hotel.
Contact Maura Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org