Rebel Cupcake is certainly one of my sacred places. One of the best compliments I've gotten about it is that the person felt like this was the place they felt they could most be themselves in queer nightlife. The December 20, 2012 show being the night before the Winter Solstice I wanted to make it extra special. I put together six acts--four more than I usually book--at the intersections of the theme of Muppets, the end of the world (as we know it) and the darkness transforming to light that the solstice represents. I also adapted a group solstice ritual for use on the stage. The following is what happened.
Friday morning I awoke from a really intense nightmare. An ex lover of mine had revealed herself to be a serial killer and was in the process of herding together me and a group of girls to slaughter, aided by a celebrity I follow on Twitter. I don’t have creepy violent dreams very often, but mornings like those I am totally grateful to wake into the groggy paws of Macy.
In sharp and magical contrast, I spent the latter portion of my day watching Taylor Mac’s The Lily’s Revenge. If I could choose a perpetual dreamscape to have every night, it would be this play.
The Lily’s Revenge is part Noh play, part verse play, part vaudevillian theatric, part installation, part puppet theatre, and part dance, in a site-specific extravaganza. Using flowers as a metaphor for queer (meaning different, not specifically gay) communities, Taylor Mac, with six collaborating directors and an ensemble of more than 40 performers and musicians, tells the tale of a flower’s quest to become a manin order to wed its beloved bride. As the flower’s journey unfolds, it finds itself at the center of a revolution of flowers intent on destroying their oppressor, The God of Nostalgia. A radical experiment in “genre-squishing,” The Lily’s Revenge is a multidisciplinary pastiche exploring themes of homogenization of city, culture, and community, marriage and gay marriage agendas, and the role of theatre as a catalyst for action.
From NY Theatre.com*
I had been hearing about it for months since my friend Glenn Marla plays a Poppy flower. I was hesitant to go because, you know, 5 hour theater commitment, $35 price tag. But that’s only $7 an hour and I knew it would be an experience if nothing else.
And it was! About 20 minutes into the first act I decided even if the play began to drag I would be entertained by the costumes alone. Designed by Machine Dazzle, almost every character was coated in glitter, shiny fabric and tulle, the stuff of my wildest drag costume imagination. The make-up, too, was mesmerizing and glitterific. I told World Famous *BOB* that I wanted to live inside her wig (a giant pink orb full of pink lilies and butterflies), she said there was a guest apartment in there just for me.
The point of this blog piece is to get you to go see the show if you are in New York City in the next two weeks, (and therefore the costumes and make-up should be left a delightful surprise) but in case you aren’t, check out this amazing gallery. Everything on that stage is stunning.
While the show is technically 5 hours, there are three recesses, where they encourage you not to use your cell phones and be present. There is so much to do and so much interaction! I loved this video monologue (performed by many actors dressed like Radical Faeries crossed with Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and sea creatures) that told Taylor’s story and gave a good background for the inception of the epic show.
There was a Discussion Disco in one of the cast’s dressing rooms where you could dance it out, chat with fellow audience members, get your make-up done, write your hopes and dreams on cocktail napkins. You could go into this place called Context Corner that had all of the source materials for the show, as well as a computer hooked up with the wiki for Lily’s Revenge**. That was my favorite, as I fell more and more in love with the show with each act, I wanted to find out how Taylor came up with it.
The story is endearing and romantic. It’s the kind of thing that has gelled for me all of the notions of romance and dating that have been floating through my consciousness for the last couple of years, how important it is to love the self first, how necessary it is to not allow yourself to be boxed into the standard narrative–in the play, bride and groom. It hasn’t undone for me what the last 20 years of romantic comedies have created in my tender psyche, but it arms me with ideas of how to combat those notions of success being finding a mate.
It is also a powerful reminder about the joy and truth in staying present. Probably one of the things that is important in living a full life is creating a fulfilling “here and now”. Getting to know yourself well enough that you can figure out what makes you happy and having the guts to do it is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.
I cried real tears several times, especially during the opening of the second act, when Taylor Mac sings a beautiful song on a ukulele. I hope one day there is a soundtrack.
Taylor Mac is beyond charismatic. I want to see everything he does on stage. There is an incredible boylesque number by James Tigger! Ferguson. And I had an immediate and enduring admiration and lust for Miss Bianca Leigh.
It gave me so much to think about as an event producer, performer and community organizer. I walked away with so much inspiration about what my shows can be and how I can interact with my audience and make my messages tangible. I am not a “theater” person by any means, but the friend who accompanied me is a playwright and said Taylor Mac broke every convention in the New York theater world. I was molested by a Sunflower.
You can buy tickets here. Experiencing this show is something I won’t soon forget.
*The entire review is worth reading, it tells the story of the experience of The Lily’s Revenge much better than I can.
**Also, if you are unable to go to this show, read through the wiki.