For 13 years, the good folks at Hardworkin’ Homosexuals brought us Cheap Queers, one of the first and longest-running Pride performance series. Every show sold out, with hundreds flocking to see their favourite queer artists sing, laugh and strip with cheerful abandon.
Sadly, group founders Keith Cole, Moynan King and Jonathan Da Silva placed their series on hiatus a couple of years ago, but – lo and behold – the trio has returned with a brand new evening of naughty fun called Explain Yourself!
The one-night only event celebrates a Canadian Theatre Review issue, edited by King, devoted to lesbian, female and trans writers. Along with the usual nobbing of hobs, the launch will feature performances by folks like Hope Thompson, John Greyson, Mariko Tamaki and some of the issue’s contributors. And while most magazines don’t throw launch parties after being around for several years, the CRT’s 149th issue is certainly a premiere of sorts.
“It’s the first critical anthology of this kind of work at all,” says King. “We have all this queer theory now in academia, but there’s this gap between the community that is actually living this theory and the people who are writing about it. I think there’s something to be gained by bridging this gap, which we’re trying to do with this issue. Our slogan has been ‘Practise queer theory.’”
Some of the evening’s performances have been inspired or adapted from the anthology. This includes discussions of works by Hope Thompson, Trey Anthony and trans choirmaster Tristan Whiston. Toronto performance artist and writer David Bateman wrote the profile piece on Whiston’s drag-king choral group The Boychoir of Lesbos.
“The theory I used to write the article talks about how the singing voice has been coded as gendered,” says Bateman. “It’s perceived in a feminine context.”
Bateman’s essay discusses Whiston’s relationship with gender, both as a lesbian and, currently, as a trans man. In tribute to that blurring of gender lines, Bateman will perform a song he wrote specifically for the male falsetto voice as part of the launch festivities.
“Falsetto has always presented a kind of happy conflict with my male body,” he says. “People are amused by it, but they’re also made somewhat uncomfortable because it suggests femininity. It seemed a good choice for Explain Yourself.”
Ironically, Cole is one artist who truly defies explanation. Screamingly funny and dangerously unpredictable, Cole gleefully walks the line between delighting, provoking and offending audiences – frequently during the same performance. He sings, tap-dances and dresses up (and down) in drag, but it’s never really clear how to classify this mercurial talent. Which is just how he likes it.
“My piece for Explain Yourself is called ‘The Anthropologist at the Cockfight,’” Cole says. “All I can really tell you is that it’s glitter-based.”
Cole found his inspiration for the piece while wandering around his local dollar store and plans to incorporate his own glittery creations into his performance.
“I find it interesting because glitter is so cheap,” he says. “You can buy a huge bag of it for, like, two bucks. But then you put it on something like a plastic flower and suddenly it makes something fantastic.”
While it may sound as though Cole has descended into some sort of bargain-basement Martha Stewart dementia, he quickly brings his larger vision into clear and relevant focus.
“It’s just like our lives are as big gay queer people, if you think about it,” he says. “In so many ways our options are limited and cheapened, so we have to find our own way in. It’s part of our bag of tricks, using the 25,000 other things we can do in order to get what we’re being denied.”
Hosted by Dayna McLeod
Sun, Feb 26, 8pm
120 Church St