Ottawa’s queer community centre is gearing up for a night of contemporary performance and interdisciplinary art. Coming to the Bronson Centre Friday, May 9, Glitterbomb is an evening of Canadian performance acts, from spoken-word to aerial acrobatics and everything in between. Proceeds from ticket sales will help PTS Ottawa to cover its operating costs. The gala takes its name from the political act of glitter bombing, a decidedly more fabulous version of the pie-in-the-face technique, traditionally used by LGBT activists against opponents of marriage equality.
“We wanted to kind of make a celebration of it,” says Veronica Michelle, PTS’s events coordinator and the driving force behind the evening’s entertainment. Michelle is a well-known figure in Ottawa’s burlesque scene; her alter ego, Miss Helvetica Bold, is the founder of Rockalily Burlesque. To stage Glitterbomb, she combed through what she calls her “mental rolodex” of entertainers, curating a group of dynamic and varied performers. “We really wanted to showcase something different,” she says.
The event is now in its second year, building off an idea originally conceived by PTS executive director Claudia Van den Heuvel. Michelle says the aim was to rejuvenate the centre’s annual gala, which returned in 2008 after a five-year absence. Previously more of a cocktails-and-canapés affair, Glitterbomb places the focus on the arts — a direction Michelle says it’s been heading for a while. “I just really wanted to bring together a lot of artists that might not usually be showcased on the same stage,” she says of the roster of performers. “The running theme throughout the whole thing is exploration and celebration of self, gender and sexuality. So every piece, whether it’s obvious or not, has some sort of thematic inspiration surrounding self-discovery and sexuality and gender. There is some genderfuck performance and a little bit of drag.”
Representing Ottawa’s drag scene is Cam E Leon, a newly minted drag king who Michelle says has been taking Ottawa by storm. The evening will also feature aerial acrobatics by Miranda Tempest, of Toronto’s Illuminair Entertainment, and a collaborative video piece by Kkunt Factory, the performance duo of Percy Katt and Obskyura. “It’s weird. It’s really good, though. It makes you think, which I think is the hallmark of good art — where it gets a reaction out of you,” Michelle says of their piece. “He is a cisgender white guy and she is a cisgender black woman, and when they get up in their costumes they look almost identical. I don’t know how they do it.”
Glitterbomb will also include spoken word by Ryan G Hinds and Sorry, cabaret by Meena Jatois, pole acrobatics by Kerosene Misfortune, of Bourbon & Spice Burlesque, and circus acts by Yoshi Chladny. “I’ve checked out all of the artists and selected them for either their body of work or because of who they are and what they represent,” Michelle says. “There are some pieces that are a little bit darker . . . and then there are some pieces that are very excited and high-energy and celebratory.”
Funds raised through Glitterbomb will go toward PTS’s operational costs. “Obviously, we have costs just by having a physical space, and there’s staffing and promotional materials and running our programming and counselling services.” Currently, the centre has three permanent staff, including Michelle and Van den Heuvel, and runs a diverse group of programs for the queer community, including the sliding-scale Celebrating Self counselling program, the Pink Triangle Youth and QPOC-IT discussion groups, and the recently added Queer Youth Café.
After the show, PTS will host a 19-plus reception where ticket holders will have a chance to meet the artists while sipping drinks from Beau’s and Barefoot Wine and Bubbly and nibbling on Auntie Loo’s treats. Tickets are still available, but Michelle says she expects them to start disappearing in the days leading up to the event. “I’m hoping for 300 [people] this year,” she says. “I don’t know if I can expect 300, but I’m hoping for it.”