Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Fabulous Lois Weaver

Lois Weaver, of Split Britches fame, champion and pioneer of femme lesbian performance artists, will be doing a show at UCLA on Thursday. Diary of A Domestic Terrorist will combine video, political commentary, and excerpts from Weaver's past performances. I'm totally excited to see this femme dynamo on stage in real life rather than grainy video.

Lois Weaver:
"Diary of a Domestic Terrorist"

Thursday, November 30, 2006

4 - 6 pm
1330 Macgowan Hall

co-sponsored by the Center for Performance Studies, the Center for the Study of Women and by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Please excuse the sentimentality of this one. I want to send some thoughts out into the universe.

I'm spending Thanksgiving with my family, and I'm quite grateful that I can and that everyone is happy and healthy. But I have another family that's currently quite scattered and I want to send holiday thoughts to them even though I can't gather with them today. So here's to...

The boys who have known me since I was fourteen and overeducated and full of myself and yet somehow still love me.

Those who have known me since college, who have built sets and hung lights and shed blood with me, who never batted an eye at dramatic revisions of my identity and sexual orientation.

The grad students from whom I have learned and with whom I have shared books and ideas, seen many shows, and consumed countless cups of coffee.

My beloved roommate who has put up with so much and who is such a saint.

Those who are in New York and Chicago and Atlanta and San Francisco whose sofas I have slept on or who have slept on mine and who I don't see nearly as often as I would like.

All of these people are very much my family and I'm lucky to know them and that they put up with me.

I'm also grateful for all the theater folks and performance artists who put themselves out in the world and give me things to think and write about, all the bloggers whose voices I know without ever having met them, and all the queer folks who feel like family even when I don't really know them. Thank you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Life Lessons from a Gentleman Butch

Bergman, S. Bear. Butch is a Noun. San Francisco: Suspect Thoughts Press, 2006.

This sweet little book is gender studies, personal memoir, and butch training manual all in one. It contains the life lessons and love songs of one individual butch, spiced with acceptance for all kinds of gender presentation. It's the self-fashioning of a kind of butch that I almost find hard to believe exists in this era in which manners are a rare suprise. Bear*'s butch presentation and chivalrous charm feel profoundly intimate.

Butch is a Noun covers topics as private as cocks and breasts and as public as shopping in simple, straightforward essays that craft a description of how one particular butch navigates hir identity in the world. Bear does not, in defending hir own butchness, fall into the deadly trap of denigrating others' identities. Hir piece on butch/trans "border wars" is thoughtful annd sensitive while appreciating everyone's choices. In fact, the only harsh words Bear seems to have for anyone are for those so hurt by a world that tried to force them into femininity that they act out misogyny in order to distance themselves from womanhood. Even those harsh words turn gentle and corrective rather than punitive.

In describing butch, Bear also paints a picture of femme, and it is a lovely illustration filled with all the love and desire and hope for what a femme can be. Ze carefully avoids speaking for femmes while encouraging them to speak for themselves and offering appreciation for many things that femmes are. Ze demonstrates a subtle awareness of the ways in which hir butch identity makes it possible for femmes to move in the world. Not in safety on the streets, though ze discusses that, but in comfort and pride with their own femininity, which is so often almost as hard to navigate as butch masculinity. I would be delighted if this book helps to raise future generations of queer kids believing in butch and femme dynamics and the seductive dance of their potential for mutual appreciation.

Despite the love and appreciation lavished on femmes throughout the book, Bear in no way suggests that butch and femme are necessarily paired. Ze describes hir affection and ways of interacting with butches and transmen as equally loving, equally beautiful. Ze explores the many ways of being masculine together, in shopping and wrestling and friendship and sex, and reminds us that loving one does not necessarily mean not loving others.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to demonstrate the simple beauty of Butch is a Noun's language or the brilliant intimacy of its subject matter, because the moment I finished the book I passed it on to someone who might enjoy it. It's the kind of book that needs to be out circulating in the world, training young butches and warming the hearts of femmes who sometimes need to believe that such butches exist. And maybe it will reach others at just the right time to serve as a text of mentoring and love, carving a patch for future butches and femmes to follow, paving the way to a country in which butch is a noun and a gender all its own, and those who choose to practice it do so with the bravery and aplomb that Bear models throughout hir book. It's a beautiful book and I heartily recommend it to anyone who identifies with nouns such as butch or femme, or with forms of masculinity that draw upon ideals of chivalry.

*Forgive me the first name basis. The book feels so personal, that though Bear has never met me, I would very much like the privilege of calling hir by hir first name. Bergman, though correct, feels too formal on this particular occasion and I sincerely hope Bear will forgive me the transgression.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Jumbled thoughts

I was out of town this weekend. Which means I was super busy and bad at communicating. I visited friends who were fabulous hosts and made me happy and welcome and made my life so easy. They showed me around town and fed me and took me to art museums and plays. It was wonderful.

But in the meantime, there are so many long-neglected posts that I should have been writing. There are books I've read, and plays that I've seen and want to discuss. There's Nightengale by Lynn Redgrave at the Taper and two shows I saw while I was away, Self-Organizing Men, which I finally finished reading on the plane, and the three books I started.

And then there are the things I missed while I was gone. I'd love to hear about Trans/giving and today was also Transgender Day of Remembrance.

There's the conference itself, which was kind of unremarkable but also frustrating. There was a notable lack of attention to gender and sexuality issues, and even at the times where race was discussed, it felt rather apolitical and low stakes, which was weird.

In fact, the best thing at the conference was the cute butch who I completely failed to meet. Sigh. She was well-dressed and in general adorable, but I somehow only managed to see her during panels and other occasions when it was inappropriate to talk. Of course, it's probably my fault for missing the major receptions and generally not being so good at introducing myself to strangers. And sadly, she didn't seem to give a paper or anything so there wasn't an immediate and obvious occasion for conversation, so I was left with the thought of just plain going up to her and saying something unforgivably awkward like, "you look cute, so I thought I'd say hi" or "hey, you look like you might be queer. Me too." I was afraid that approach could be construed as unprofessional behavior. So I just want to send good wishes out into the universe for the butch with the red shirt and white tie. She had a great haircut, fade-reminiscent but longish and spiky and cute ear piercings that dramatized an otherwise fairly conservative look. She also had a suprisingly high voice for her appearance, which I found adorable. Here's to conference cruising, and once again I curse my social awkwardness.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Upcoming Show: Sex and Tortillas

Good news, via the butchlalis:


the official So Cal premiere of a Queer Chicana Comedy that originated in Los Angeles…


Written & Performed by Adelina Anthony

(Yes, after viewing this show... you too will be trained to partake in naughty fantasies with butter, Barbie dolls, and political mobilization!)

Nov. 30th-Dec. 17th, 2006.

Get a good boost of scandal before you have to go home for the holidays! This sexy, progessively political, and critically acclaimed show flaunts & flirts with sexuality, gender, ethnicity, and more!

A night of laughter is guaranteed with characters like the titillating PROFESORA MAMA CHOCHA, & the original PAPI DURO (F.B.I.)


"...the original, the raucous, ultrasapphic comedy...leaves audiences shaking with laughter... screamingly funny!" - Tom Sime, Dallas Morning News

"A comedy that will make your dildo blush!"-La Panocha Examiner

This queer Chicana comedy has a track record of SOLD-OUT get your pre-sale/discounted tickets TODAY!

THURS-SAT @ 8 p.m./ Sun @ 2 p.m.
*Nov. 30th-Dec. 17th, 2006

Playing at:
The Theater District
804 N. El Centro Ave.
(Near Melrose/ Vine)
Hollywood, CA 90038

*OPENING NIGHT includes a champagne reception and a Q & A session with the artist. (Evening sponsored by SFO PROMOTIONS and hosted by Celia Acido)

If you don't LAUGH… your money back! (Unless you're a conservative apretado, in which case all guarantees are null and void.)

I can speak from personal experience that Anthony is a fun, sexy performer and I'm totally excited about this show!

Upcoming Transgiving

An anonymous poster (feel free to leave your name; I don't bite and I love friends who know about queer or trans performance) just left a comment reminding me that Trans/giving is happening this Saturday. Sadly, I am otherwise engaged this weekend, but it sounds like it'll be a great show and I highly encourage those of you who can to attend. Here's the publicity info I received, and they also need volunteers, so if you can help out on the day of the show, I'd be glad to put you in touch with the proper people.

L.A.’s only showcase and display of art, music, performance, and literature from trans/genderqueer/intersex artists.

3rd year Anniversary show!
SATURDAY, November 18th
6:00 pm
GREAT HALL, Plummer Park
1200 N. Vista St.
West Hollywood, CA 90046.

Our badass lineup includes visual, performance, music and literary art from:

Von Edwards, Talia Bettcher, Trystan Angel Reese, Caitríona Reed, Journey Light, Jessica Lawless, solidad decosta.

Remember, artists bring original merch so bring some additional cash and pick up that chapbook, poetry collection, artwork, cd or trans/giving tee-shirts and clothing galore!

Suggested donation is $5-20, with no one turned away for lack of funds.

For more information, visit the transgiving website.

This sounds like it'll be a great show. And I'm totally in the mood for more queer spoken word, so I'm extra sad to miss this. But go out and support some great performers. And tell them I'm annoyed at them for not having proper websites that I can link to.

P.S. Transgender Day of Remembrance should be coming up as well. If anyone has info about local events, I'd be glad to post it. I attended last year and it was a powerful and emotional experience. Here's a lovely piece about DOR by S. Bear Bergman.

What do you get the performance artist who has everything?

I have to mail something to one of my recent guests, and I'd love to stick something nice in the box to make it more of a care package and less of a business thing. Anyone have any thoughts about something or things considerate but not too personal I could send along?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Rave Fable Without the Rave

Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell that Once Was Her Heart (a rave fable) by Caridad Svich. Son of Semele Ensemble. 11/10/06.

I had strong hopes for this show. A Greek play set in a rave, that is also a critique of political power and corruption juxtaposed with the maquiladora murders of the women of Juarez. It had so much potential. When Son of Semele did a reading of the play, I was totally excited about what was possible.

The production Son of Semele staged, directed by Matthew McCray, is, as the LA Times states, "overwrought and under-thought" and I don't know at this point whether this could be fixed by a better production or if its weaknesses are inherent in the script.

This play asks for such a specific aesthetic, a gender-bending desert rave, and Son of Semele gets it almost write, but it feels very much the simulacrum of a rave style, with none of the noise and danger and heat and heart. A rave of four people isn't much of a rave, and I feel this could have been easily fixed with noise and video if they'd wanted to. The look wasn't loud or fast enough to get people to want to dance, and if you don't feel the driving beat and the danger, what's the point?

While the set and the integration of technology in the production was impressive, the show was too slow and too wordy. They were so afraid that a snip of dialogue would be lost that there was often no action whatsoever.

And boy did this show have identity issues. It's hard enough when 4 of the characters are supposed to be some sort of genderqueer or transgendered, but they didn't even try. The murdered women or Juarez were played by men, as caricatures, with no sympathy for biowomen or transwomen. It was just bad drag, which eliminates the policial point. The whole idea is that these people, young people, women and transpeople, poor and disenfranchised, are killed, disposable, overlooked by those in power. They are mistreated, forced into the borderlands, and disappered. When Iphigenia vanishes it's national tragedy and pornography, but these women vanish daily and no one cares. If you're going to conflate biowomen with transwomen as groups of people who get murdered, you have to do so respectfully. This is one of those cases (which I'd say are rare) when bad drag really is a travesty of women.

Similarly, the gender politics of the role of Achilles, played by Doug Barry, were suspect as well. Achilles is written as an androgynous glam rock star, supposed to be Iphigenia (played by Sharyn-genel Gabriel)'s twin. Somehow, this production missed out on what makes androgyny sexy. And I'm a sucker for a boy in eyeliner, so it doesn't generally take much to impress me with sexy androgyny. But Achilles' simple black dress, highlighting the masculinity of his shape rather than playing with signifiers of femininity, made him look out of place and uncomfortable rather than rockingly confident. He looked more like Eddie Izzard (who I love) than a sexy rock star.

Similarly, all of the sexiness was taken out of Sharyn-genel Gabriel as Iphigenia. Her character was flat, playing innocence and desolation but nothing young and rebellious and exciting. She is a beautiful, beautiful woman, but she looked to be about 12 years old in this play with her wide eyes and sweet party dress. There was no sense of physical attraction between her and Achilles, no sense of the danger of her burgeoning sexuality, very little sense of character at all considering that she was on stage for the whole darn show. Like the occasional flashes of her in a garden on one of the sets of screens, this show was trying to make her Alice in Wonderland when it should have been her driving the plot, not wandering through it.

I'm not sure whether the play itself is all flash and no substance or if the production just misaligned the style from the substance, but the show just didn't work for me. It was slow and confused and not nearly queer enough.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

More Afterglow

If you haven't noticed, I have very much been dwelling in afterglow from my crazy week. This Monday-Thursday were perhaps the busiest I've been in a very long time. I got very little sleep and survived on coffee, grading papers in the wee hours of the morning so that I could linger over dinners and conversations with friends. By the time I had to teach on Thursday, I was positively manic, but I loved every minute of it.

But by now my real life has come crashing back, and I realize that one of the things I value most about the past few days was that I got to spend all of my time in queer spaces. Between the performance on Monday and Wednesday's Shotgun Ladies' Night at The Eagle in Silverlake (remind me to go back on the first Wednesday of the month for their Gendronaut drag show), I spent all my time with queer folks, discussing queer issues, feeling femme and proud of the fact. Though my feet sometimes hurt, wearing heels and a dress all day on Monday made me really happy. I got to engage in flirting with cute guys and girls, and I was in a space with some people I know well, many people I know but would like to know better, and several people I don't know but would love to meet. It was 4 days of playing with gender signs and gender binaries, of not always knowing what pronoun to use and loving it.

It's in these times and places when feeling femme really feels right to me. Femme invisibility usually feels like such a cliche to me in general, but it was so refreshing to be dressed up and queer and out and visible because I was surrounded by others who were out and queer and visible and who seemed to accept me as such. And it was also nice that it wasn't in a dating context. That this was just my way of being queer, and that it meant I only had to be as feminine as I wanted to be. I could iron Turner's shirts and call the show and strike and in general kick ass and feel girly and powerful at the same time. It's a sadly rare set of feelings for me. And it's so weird how much my sense of myself as a stage manager and my sense of myself as queer and femme are wrapped up in each other.

The whole thing made me want to run away and join the queer circus, or at least run away and tour as Turner's stage manager for a while. I know that's not the life for me in the long run, and I know I'm doing the right thing for me in academia, but when you touch something as amazing as the time I've spent in the past week, it's hard to go back to everyday life and work.

On Houseguests with Charisma

I had a long talk with Turner while he was here about charisma and exploitation. The boy has charisma and he knows it, and he worries about taking advantage of other people because of it. Because he's so cute and talented and confident onstage, people want to know him, want to talk to him, want to do things for him. He asked what he should do about that. I said that he needs to be aware of what people are willing to do for him that they might not do otherwise, but that it isn't necessarily his responsibility to refuse those things. What this whole conversation made me think about was myself, of course. Was I letting him stay with me and share my bed (platonically) because he's so cute and charismatic? Yes, probably, but it isn't something I wouldn't have done for a friend. It's not something I haven't done for many friends before. And I really do consider him a good friend. But I also realized that there are many performers, several of whom are not exactly good friends, for whom I would have done the same. I am glad to open my home and my heart for performers whose work I believe in. I'm glad to help tech their shows (even if it means ironing as it did for Turner), drive them around, or give up my bed to make them comfortable in order to do my own tiny part to help them make their art happen. I feel as if it's the least I can do to give back to people who have dedicated their times to making good performances happen. I may have abandoned my direct participation in theater, but I still want to do everything I can to support talented performers. I want to foster good art in any way possible, and if a few hours of tech help and a bed to sleep on are what I can offer, I'm glad to do it. I would be thrilled to have more queer performance artists on my sofa if it meant more fabulous queer performance art in LA. And yes, that has something to do with charisma, but more to do with payback for the art that performers such as these make happen.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Southern Gents

The Southern Gents. Scott Turner Schofield and Athens Boys Choir. Ground Zero Coffee House. USC. 11/6/06.

The show went really, really well. I can't really review it, since I was involved in making it happen. Suffice to say, these boys are rock stars and they were playing in front of what could be considered a sold out crowd estimated to be 150-200 people.

Schofield performed his one-tranny-show, Debutante Balls, a hilarious and personal introduction to race, class, region, gender and sexuality through his experiences growing up in the South. I've discussed this piece before, and though it changes each time (especially since I first saw it before he began taking hormones and now he definitely looks and sounds more like a boy), it is still the same piece with which I fell in love several years ago.

Debutante Balls was interspersed with performances by Katz, the spoken word artist known as Athens Boys Choir. Though Katz is arguably the more famous of the Southern Gents (he's opened for Ani DiFranco), I'd never seen him perform before or heard his work, and I was pleasantly suprised. He's a fun performer with a lot of charisma onstage, a solid political sensibility, and a memorable way with words. He really broke out with the pieces he performed with backup video and music, including an adorable tribute to the Waffle House and his raucous closing number "Tranny Got Pack," which included fabulous images of dancing dildos. After listining to his CD, which I totally recommend, I can't get the song "Mighty Sodomitey" out of my head, and I look forward to hearing/seeing him perform it some day. Rumour has it that he's releasing a new album soon and will be back in LA in March; I sincerely hope that that's the case and look forward to another show.

Anyway, these boys both put on fabulous shows and I highly recommend that you bring one or both of them to a performance venue or college campus near you. Keep your eye out for when they're in your town, and for goodness sake, let's make sure they get back to LA sooner rather than later!