Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sissyboy Washes Up

Last night, after a lovely day at the beach, what I assume to perhaps be my last hurrah of the summer, the last warm day on the upcoming calendar that I had off, the last day perhaps where I could lie in the sun and splash around in the water all day, after this lovely day, I went to Dixon Place to see "Sissyboy Washes Up," a theater piece by Sissyboy, a Portland-based queer performance group clearly heavily indebted to the Cockettes.

I had heard nothing but good things about this group and was really prepared to enjoy this performance, but I have not disliked a piece of theater in so long. Five minutes into the thing, once the Pixie Harlots had finished their piece, I was ready to go, did not like what I saw at all, but stayed put because I was with friends there, stayed put also because I thought that the work would have more to say, would somehow piece itself together as the show went on, that maybe the amateurishness of the beginning would be just that, a stage piece, an opening with which the rest of the performance would dissect, would somehow show as a play within a play. Sadly, I wasn't going to get anything so meta from this group, and yet the show's conceit had so much potential.

The premise of the show is Sissyboy leaving Portland, Oregon to become A-list performance artists in New York with a Justin Bond caricature standing in for A-list NYC performance artists. The Justin Bond imitator was pathetically lacking and I wouldn't have known that's who they were trying to send up if they didn't constantly refer to the character to as Justin Gold-Bond. I was a bit confused why Bond had been chosen by this group as their target, but even more so was sad that the imitation was so lacking, that Bond has very distinctive attributes that the person failed to get. He wasn't even close to the throaty, dramatic singing that seems pretty easy to imitate.

And so that was the plot, a good idea with lots of meat that they completely failed to run with. There is so much to be said about the provincialness and insularity of the New York art world, about how for whatever reasons the New York art world is privileged in its recognition in a way that areas in the rest of the country are not, about how little notice is given to art movements that do not take place in this city. There is so much to be said about this and yet instead the audience got people in drag running around and screaming and emema jokes and a performance that seemed slapdash past the point of intention, to the point where it seemed amateur, unintentional. There were more than a few points at which I thought maybe there is something better about the New York art world, that stuff like this doesn't fly here, that we are used to better, that maybe this group is big in Portland because that city is lacking, that this group has epically failed in their ambition to be A-list New York performance artists and needs to head back on their cardboard cutout boat to the West Coast.

Their references in the show to Divine and Justin Bond didn't help their cause, just made everyone more aware of would good transgressive art is, showed what the difference was between that and a gay club act. The program made big claims for the show about breaking down gender barriers, about queerness, about some other things, claims far too big. They have big dreams and seemingly lofty goals for their work and yet realized the work falls so far short of those.

The two most touching moments to my time in this theater were when Q Lazzarus's "Goodbye Horses" was played, a song I had never heard but fell so hard for, a thing of beauty and restraint and sadness, things I wanted from my evening, things I'll always be glad to take from a work of art. Second moment was leaving the urinal and seeing this boy I had not seen in a year or so whom I had a long flirtation on Manhunt with, with him and his boyfriend, often talking about having a threesome with them. It never happened. I am still filled with desire toward this boy and to see him and to exchange smiles with him and to be filled with nervousness and horniness and memories of the past and hopes for future memories filled me with a spinning, dizzy feeling, overwhelmed with this life.

I left that place, walked up to the new Mr. Black's, drank a tall boy of Coors Light along the way. It was a full moon, there were lots of people out, and I was feeling really present in a way I had not in a while. I could also say here that the new Mr. Black's is terrible, is in the old Room Service space, a small bar that was designed for bottle service. The dancefloor is a small thing compared to its size in previous incarnations of this club, which might be okay if the music wasn't so terrible, bad remixes of tired songs. The door people there are also insanely intimidating and intense. Despite wearing insanely tight jeans in which everything could be seen, I was still patted down and frisked by some brutish man. I am not sure why they have such intense door staff working at a gay dance club but it really turned me off from the venue even before I had made it all the way in. So I didn't stay too long and left and walked back down to the L with a friend and listened to him tell him about his intense sex life, the night still there, and so too those feelings of being present, of being alive.

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