A field trip to Austin, TX, with creative superhuman Paul Soileau
Back in 2012, I saw Christeene perform at her very first gig in Brooklyn at Glasslands Gallery. It was a high-energy terrorist drag show with lots of mooning and stage diving. The crowd went wild. By that time, I was already familiar with her music, videos and filthy lyrics:
I am your new celebrity
I am your new America
I am the piece of filthy meat
That you take home and treat to yourself
— “African Mayonnaise” (2012)
But it’s Christeene’s live show that won me over and left a real impression. The audience interaction I found poignant and sincere; same with her no-bullshit approach to issues of gender politics, censorship and the policing of our queer community. It was raw, dirty, entertaining and enlightening, all at the same time. Enchanted, I decided I’d never again miss a chance to see her perform.
Christeene and I met socially a number of times, in typically late-night affairs, before or after her appearances. We’d even had our pictures taken together. But I knew very little about the person behind the act, an Austin-based native of Louisiana named Paul Soileau. So when an invitation arrived from the Museum of Human Achievement in Austin, I knew right away that I needed to go on a field trip with Christeene, to document and investigate.
When Paul and I met on my first night in Austin, it felt like déjà vu, like maybe we were separated at birth. …
An interdisciplinary performance by five queer dancers
The super talented and hilarious queen, Jack Ferver, sent us an email about the latest show he wrote, choreographed, and stars in, ‘Everything is Imaginable’ saying: “I interviewed James Whiteside, Lloyd Knight, Garen Scribner, and Reid Bartelme about the first name that came to mind when I said “childhood icon.” Respectively, they were Judy Garland, Martha Graham, Brian Boitano, and My Little Pony. Mine was Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer’s).” It sounded like something I needed to see in person. The interdisciplinary performance starts with five queer dancers performing solos under a set composed of 4 columns and a chandelier by Jeremy Jacob.
It opened with ABT principal, James Whiteside, wearing a lovely shimmering dress, tap dancing and lip synching to Judy Garland’s rendition of “I Happen to Like New York.” Right from the beginning, he made sure to set the tone to ‘gay.’ This was followed by an elegant, classic Graham performance by Lloyd Knight (Principal Dancer for The Martha Graham Dance Company); Garen Scribner (a former member of San Francisco Ballet) skating to the of sounds of blades on ice, sliding his feet around while making campy faces; and Reid Bartelme (dancer and fantastic costume designer) is seen tossing a pink mane, embodying My Little Pony. A group number set to throbbing club music had the crowd nearly cheering into the end of the first half.
During the intermission, I saw Christeene (as Paul Soileau) and they raved over the costumes – fringy dresses and sexy, sheer bodysuits – a collection designed for the show by Bartelme and Harriet Jung. …
Penny Arcade’s newest show, “The Faghag & Her Friends in The Summer of Love,” is running this weekend only (December 6-8) – and you don’t want to miss it. As she told me in our interview for Issue 9 of GAYLETTER magazine, she writes all her own work, and develops it live in front of audiences. She’s probably the only performer who makes her work in public, and you have the chance to see the latest living incarnation this Thursday (12/6) to Saturday (12/8).
Following sold out performances at Joe’s Pub earlier this year, this new iteration integrates film and media into her characteristic style of real history and blistering wit. In a time where Tr*mp officials delete LGBTQ lives from the census, the CDC bans the term “transgender,” mainstream media glosses over George H.W. Bush’s role in perpetuating the AIDS epidemic, and digital platforms like Tumblr remove all “adult” content, we need Penny’s work more than ever.
Her performances are important transmissions of queer history through the lives she portrays, searing critiques of the gentrification of New York, and also just totally thrilling and captivating entertainment. Don’t miss the chance to see a living legend of downtown performance art at the peak of her powers. For the low price of $26, you can time travel to the late 1960’s and visit Warhol’s Factory, Provincetown, and New York City’s criminal, intellectual, psychedelic, homosexual avant-garde.
$26 with code “GAYLETTER,” 7:30PM, Baruch Performing Arts Center, 55 Lexington Ave. …
"Clowns have made a comeback!"
When we were casting “The Clowns” to be photographed for GAYLETTER Issue 8, we looked for queens who’s makeup operated within the vein of what is visually understood as clown. Happy, sad, goofy, kitschy, macabre. Even if queens weren’t explicit in their clowning, their beats are paintings, and we read for gestures that pointed toward the ubiquitous performance style. Some of them knew they were clowning, and some didn’t think to much about it, but if we saw a clown, we called the queen.
Some of the clowns flew in for the shoot, some of them rolled over the bridge from Brooklyn. And some came straight from the gig. Before they touched up their hair and sharpened their frowns, we asked them to step into frame for testing. It’s not like we’d never seen a drag queen half-out of drag before, but the particular mixture of sweatpants and sneakers, or overalls, or knitwear represented what Tyler Akers, writing for Issue 8 calls the “complex, colorful relationship between queerness and clown culture.” He posits there has never been a better time to debate the conjoined politics surrounding the art forms considering the omnipresent the national conversations around LGBTQ+ issues, and the rise in popularity of queer phenomena like RuPaul’s Drag Race.
We wanted to hear from the queens who became clowns. What was their inspiration? Is clowning kind of important? “Since court jesters,” HinkyPunk said, “clowns have been a voice of truth veiled in humor or farce. …
More photos of drag queens? Yes!
This past weekend, RuPaul‘s DragCon arrived back in New York City and it was exactly the right dosage of drag queens needed to push us through the absence of RuPaul’s Drag Race on TV. Since GAYLETTER had a table and several photographers on the ground, we spent the three day convention (see photo libraries — Day 1 – Day 2 – Day 3) out of drag and uncertain of how all of these queens and kids were beat for the gods from sun up til sun down. Three days is a lot of makeup, hairspray and tucking tape. Not to mention fashion, there was a lot of that there. Oh, and screaming! And, if you were there to see the industry big-wigs (no pun intended) like Katya, Alyssa Edwards or KimChi, there was a lot of waiting too. Now that the weekend is over, we do kind of wish there was another DragCon to look forward too.
We all really enjoyed ourselves. We are big drag fans, and not just drag race fans. Dragula, Drag Race Thailand, good drag, bad drag, kiddie drag, mommy drag. You name it we yassss it. So we ran around behind queens all weekend to see what they were wearing and to clock their makeup in person. It was, as they say, gaggy.
You probably are wondering, more photos of drag queens? Lord. Well, we know, but simply take these 12 portraits by photographer Jason Leavy as a bonus and beautiful closure to our coverage for DragCon NYC 2018. …
Featuring Rupaul, Alyssa Edwards, Vanessa Vanjie Mateo, Miss Fame, Peppermint, Aquaria, Bob the Drag Queen, The Vixen, Asia O'Hara, Kalorie Karbdashian-Williams, Abhora, Vivacious, Nicole Paige Brooks, Carmen Carrera, Tammie Brown, Disasterina, Miz Cracker, Kameron Michaels, Kim Chi and many more
There's always a new queen in town
Unlike Valentina, Drü Holiday has really been doing drag for 15 months. Andrew, though new to publicly doing drag, is no stranger to the late night magic the medium so often emotes. Like many other younger, internet-bred drag queens, Drü began painting in the comfort of her own bedroom at 2:00am after everyone had hopefully gone to sleep. “I’ve been practicing since I was 14,” she told me over email. She worked at her face and learned the rudimentary aspects to a solid beat. “Then I really tried to realize who I was as a queen,” she said. “That took years to figure out.”
Drag in its present context is more art and less hobby. While the history of drag rests in political commentary and clownish-entertainment, the rise of RuPaul’s Drag Race has asked the world to take a more serious look at the many styles and forms of expression that are under the drag-umbrella. Whether it’s practicing your paint, learning to sew, or gaining the confidence to get on stage, drag – once a completely outsider performance medium – has become a multi-million dollar commercial industry. Queens travel the world performing and sign major contracts with television networks. Alas, none of this would be possible without RuPaul Charles, and what better place to have your drag recognized and your art validated then at the annual RuPaul’s Drag Con?
The convention, which takes place in Los Angeles and New York City, has become the place to be for drag fans and drag stars alike. …
With a special performance by Christeene
Penny Arcade has been performing for 50 years. That alone is something to applaud. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not into celebrating longevity alone, but Penny has been producing powerful and relevant work for every one of those 50 years. Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! Is undoubtedly her most important work. The show came out in 1990 at the height of the censorship culture wars, lead by fuck-face conservative politician Jesse Helmes. Penny has performed the show in over 30 cities, in dozens of countries. This Friday she is performing the show at the newly renovated Performance Space New York on 9th St. It’s a super cool, massive space that has been under renovation for about a decade (maybe not that long, but it’s felt like it.) “At Performance Space New York, Arcade will be joined by a star-studded cast of erotic dancers including Blaine Petrovia, 2017 USA National Pole Dancing Champion; Kevin Aviance; and Jantina, aka the Burlesque Booty Queen; among others.” The show has always featured erotic performers, Penny tells us why they’re so important: “Erotic dance is a powerful feminist art form, it is the only thing created by women that controls men, unlike the myriad of things men have created to control women.” I mean, how can you not love this woman? See you Friday Mama! You can attend other performances on May 11, 12, 17, 18, 19.