Friday, July 29, 2016

Queerlesque, the Movement

"This show is proof that history remembers.
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger.
We rise and fall in light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer." - Lin-Manuel Miranda, 2016 Tony Awards acceptance sonnet

"How does a skater, a failed cloning project, and a/ Drag king, dropped in the middle of a/ Chainsaw repair and beauty shop in Denton for Glitterbomb/ A queer variety show/ Give a history lesson some rhyme and flow?"  My rap composition skills are a bit rusty, but get the reference?

To fully understand the story, let's go back to 2008.  I was in New York City, watching the Tony Awards (on TV) pay tribute to RENT after having seen the show live.  A young man named Lin-Manuel Miranda won Best Original Score and freestyled his acceptance speech.  I was in awe.  The particular run of RENT I saw featured Renee Elise Goldsberry who would go on to star in Lin's next musical.  I like to think that I was destined to be a Hamilton fan before Lin even started writing, but I'm just a fan of unconventional musicals.

Tony Fo-Hawk's Hamilton number came out of a fantasy and a joke.  Alexander Hamilton was on my list of dream theatrical roles, and I wondered if I could do a Schuyler Sisters act with my friends.  Nothing substantial came into mind until one day when Lillith Grey mentioned that Glitterbomb was still looking for performers for their "History Lessons" show.  I make a slightly snarky comment about how I'm surprised she's not getting a million Hamilton auditions.  She wasn't.  I could hear voice of Alexander, "I am not throwing away my shot."  This was mine. 

Although Tony is far from a history buff, he's "young, scrappy, and hungry".  "My Shot" is all about seizing the moment—a message that would be more important as we got closer to the show, which was the Thursday after the Tony Awards.  That meant it was right after the Orlando shootings.  As everyone tried to process the tragedy, the cast decided to change the theme to Pride.  I scrapped my steampunk act for "Jesus of Suburbia", my queerest number.  The angry tone made me apprehensive, but we needed to express a range of emotions.  "My Shot" was uplifting, and with every word I memorized, I realized its application to our community.  Another line rang out in my mind, "This is not a moment, it's the movement."  We were going to rise up.

And that's what we did that night.  I wished I could have seen everyone's performance, but I had to keep a level head to deliver a solid performance.  Lip syncing a rap is like doing three songs in one (and I don't blame Milo Cox for not rapping my intro).  The large crowd also made me nervous.  Due to an earlier event at Mable Peabody's, our audience was huge.  It was great to get the support, and a couple people approached me after my performance to express interest in future shows.  That made me happy because there are styles of drag and burlesque that people don't think about and sometimes they just need to see the right act to be pulled in.  Also it sounded like they had found another safe space.
Photo by Madelyn Waltz
I will forever sing praises for the queerlesque community.  Some stages might not appreciate our aesthetic and some people might not accept our identities, but places like Glitterbomb and Tuesday Tease give us opportunities to let us be heard.  I didn't throw away my shot.

Special thanks to Oliver Clothesoff for taking video and being my ride!

On the subject of opportunities, the movement has grown to where we now have the inaugural Texas Queerlesque Festival.  It's this weekend, and check out this amazing line-up. You can still get tickets to both shows and the workshops so go visit 

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