So there’s two shows that, I think, have become audience favorites for Fusebox 2016: Bronx Gothic and Dickie Beau: Unplugged. Or, at least, that’s the result of my unscientific polling around the hub last night, as well as my own personal experience. I saw Bronx Gothic when it premiered in New York and was wowed by it. Okwui is a fantastic performer who I’d seen several times before in work with Ralph Lemon, and it was exciting to see her tackle her own work.
All of which is to say that I already knew how good Bronx Gothic was, whereas Dickie Beau was completely new to me. Afterward I wound up talking with a curator and a critic from New York who mentioned that we’d all, apparently, missed Dickie Beau as part of the last Queer New York International Arts Festival, from Croatian curator Zvonimir Dobrovic. Which makes me disappointed in myself, because his piece at Fusebox was remarkable.
The show is basically a deconstruction of the devices employed in drag performance–lip syncing, dress up, interpretation of content–but employed in a way I’ve never seen before. Beginning with a lip synced performance to an audio recording of Kenneth Williams–a British comedian whose character on Round the Horne was one of the first clearly gay characters in British media, prior to decriminalization of homosexuality–Beau goes on to offer a truly sincere explanation of what it means to claim someone else’s voice for your own.
I was really struck by the show, which deserves a stronger and more extensive write-up, but the ending was particularly affecting. Having employed the myth of Echo and Narcissus as his frame, he performs the Echo role as the closing. Whereas most drag performance is a camp imitation of celebrity, here Beau takes a found audio love letter (apparently a lost cassette tape on a train) and performs it: The ultimate nobody, in other words. And the tape is fairly banal–a love letter that begins with the humdrum then descends into passionate sexual longing and ends on an ambiguous note. Beau’s performance, far from camp, was sincere and heartfelt. A video recording of his voice box intoning the words he merely syncs onstage added a truly over-the-top note to the performance. There were precious few dry eyes in the house, and it was a wonderful example of the power of simple theatricality.
We’re packed into a shotgun style hall on the second floor of a campy german social club. There are barbies with lederhosen encased in the walls, billowy red ribbons cover the ceiling. The lights are low, drink in hand, I’m peering over bobbing heads to get a glimpse of the neon spandex mesh glued to Christeene’s body. Glistening back up dancer boys bounce in and out of view as she wails away. It’s the type of utopic non/punk that would make Jose Muñoz Esteban proud. It makes me want to reprise the bio queen Trixy that I once played. It makes staying up until 3am for the third night in a row worth it.
Thanks for capturing the moment I was too swept away by to document @pjraval.
Samson Young is considering sonic warfare. Night bombing videos are a thing on YouTube, like how cat videos are a thing. They sound different than you’d imagine, he started wanting to do sound design for these videos. As he continues working on this project he consideres feeling the magnitude of what it means morally to do this for long periods of time; what does it mean when creating sound around bombing videos, when it starts to feel like going to work, much in the same way that drone operators slip into the routine of bombing?
The durational performance, Nocturne, is happening until 6pm today at Big Medium.
Saturday’s chat was the mega-panel of who’s who in festival curating: Karen Farber (Counter Current Festival, Houston), Martin Faucher (Festival Transamériques, Montreal), Gideon Lester (Crossing the Line Festival, NYC), Angela Mattox (TBA Festival, Portland), Mark Russell (Under the Radar Festival, NYC) and, of course, Ron Berry.
These six came together to answer some of the hard questions about balancing the varying and sometimes competing needs of multiple audiences, funding structures, goals and future plans.
Much of the conversation at this year’s festival has centered around geographical context. Questions have come up repeatedly about the balance between presenting local and non-local work, how to engage community audiences and the pros and cons of touring work that was created in a vastly different context than the one at a given festival. Personally, I have been struggling with the relationship between this year’s festival and a tragic Austin event that coincided with the kickoff of the Festival.
Jeremy and I stayed up late sipping beers and discussing Manwatching at the festival hub Friday night. We had vastly different experiences of the performance. He saw it Thursday alone, I saw it Friday with colleagues from UT. The premise is that an anonymous British woman (of some stature in her field) casts a local white male stand up to cold read a script which is full of details about the woman’s coming of age through sexual fantasies and mastrubation. The fellow reading for the Friday afternoon performance was witty, self aware and charming.
Jeremy remarked that it seemed like an easy pill to swallow, watching this white dude read the intimate details of some woman’s private sexual thoughts and experiences. Maybe that was the point, that it is an easy pill to swallow, but for the woman who wrote the piece it wasn’t. This information, when read by a white man isn’t really that jarring. It points to a more insidious danger, one that white straight men won’t ever experience. It was about a structure of feeling that I know in my bones, a type of fear so internalized that was brought to the surface in Austin this week. The piece is about the patriarchy in a funny way, making it possible for me to consider a critique of the system without breaking down sobbing.
Here are the first reactions that I shared with theater director and dramaturg, Gabby Randle.