When Colony opens its woody, elegant and historic space to the surging popularity of the drag and cabaret arts on Saturday, November 2, that’ll be my child – Strawberry, six-foot-seven in heels – commanding the stage on which they still occasionally let me play guitar, a six-string fretted instrument popular in the Renaissance. As I have watched Strawberry’s bookings rise in the last few years, taking them to Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Calgary and filling their pockets with bills, I can’t help but notice that locally, they play all the same rooms I do, or used to. From the New Paltz bars to BSP and now to Woodstock’s elegant and historic room, I struggle to find gigs, while my child and their ilk are “killing it.” Circle of Life stuff, I guess.
“Forbidden Fruit: Haunted Hotel” is co-presented by Strawberry and local visual and performance artist Cecilia Sin. It features a lineup of scene-leading locals (Victoria Precise and Succubish from the New Paltz-based Haus of Peculiar), Brooklyn-based talent (Dragulaworld 2018 winner and Alaska 5000’s Drag Queen of the Year pageant finalist Astrid Aurelia, Mx. Nobody Pageant finalist Iodine Quartz) and the upcoming New York deejay Skndlss. The promoters ask: “Has your Halloween hangover left you craving just a little more of the macabre and occult before you enter the increasingly long and stale holiday season?” If so, Colony is the place to be.
Through some connections, I was able to finagle an interview with my only child while they were literally between brunch and dinner gigs in Calgary.
How do you feel about booking an elegant and historic room like Colony?
It is very exciting. This show was created with Colony in mind. This is not us pitching it to multiple venues; it was cultivated specifically for this space because of its historical implications. Our inspirations for this show were The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Miyazaki’s masterpiece Spirited Away and American Horror Story Hotel. I’ve always been fascinated by old, abandoned hotels where, like, wealthy has-beens spend their lives slowly rotting away into irrelevance: the former wealthy baroness who lives out her last days drinking alone in a room in a once-great inn. Having a show that cultivates that energy and doing it in a lovingly renovated old hotel is really special.
Speaking of old people drinking themselves to death, why are you stealing my shows? People used to like guitars before you came along.
You don’t wear enough wigs. If you put on a wig and did the same thing you are doing, you’d make as much money as me.
Drag is a fascinating poly-art: part dance, part music and music curation, part theatricality and design and definitely part hip cultural theory as well. And it is red-hot right now. Your demographic trends younger. What about people outside the scene? What can they expect? What is in it for them?
I’m trying to welcome a new type of audience. Drag in the Hudson Valley predominantly happens late, and in bars. In a bar environment you can have a really great safe queer space, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a great performance space for artists. I want to use the Colony and the earlier start time to appeal to people who really want to see the art, where the performances are the absolute centerpiece of the show. I think that an older Woodstock crowd would find a lot to love about this kind of show. The Woodstock area probably has a lot of people who have not been exposed to the drag community as yet, and now they can see a drag show at a reasonable hours in an elegant environment, and they can really appreciate the validity and inspiration in what we do.
Where did I go wrong?
You read me [Junot Diaz’s] The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao when I was eight. You read me One Hundred Years of Solitude when I was eight, as well. I really think it was the literature.
Good to know, though I don’t see what I can do about it now. So, you’ve been in Calgary for nearly two weeks, performing a lot. How’s the drag scene there? Cold? How does it compare to the Brooklyn scene you are so familiar with, and the Hudson Valley scene you helped build?
Calgary has a long-running drag king community. There’s also a big, burgeoning alternative scene centered around a show called Shock Therapy, with performers like my partner Mauve, Flute Girl, Hermena and others who are bringing a strong sense of alternative drag to a scene that was previously divided between an old-school Top 40 crowd and a predominantly lesbian drag king crowd. The alternative scene has really taken over, centered around this club called Dickens. It’s a young, very trans and non-binary crowd. It’s still very new and has a ways to go, but it’s off to an amazing start.
Is Halloween just like any other holiday you might spoof and work with, or is there a special connection between drag and Halloween and ideas of transformation and such?
The more you do drag, the less special Halloween becomes, because every weekend is Halloween. There’s a theory that you’re either a Pride Queen or a Halloween Queen, meaning most people who do drag did it for the first time either at Pride or at Halloween. I did drag for the first time at Pride.
Can I have some of my gigs back?
You’re going to have to beg for it like a dog.
Forbidden Fruit: Haunted Hotel
Saturday, Nov. 2, 7 p.m.
$15 day of show/$12 in advance
22 Rock City Rd., Woodstock