A year ago I had the pleasure of hosting my favorite performance artists, the Eyes Wild Drag, on their first North American Tour. Around that time an article I wrote about them was published as a feature in Curve Magazine.
As you wil read, these performers embody ferocity and tenacity. In a country where being out is a revolution onto itself, these folks continuously create art that pushes boundaries. As they gear up for their international arts extravaganza, Generotica
, I wanted to share with you, my dear readers, a taste of true fabulousness.
Wild in Italy
as published in Curve Magazine, 6/2012
After dodging a group of tourists armed with giant cameras, I hopped onto the bus and squished myself in between two women speaking and gesturing at lightening speed. I held on tight to the handrail as the bus zoomed past the Vatican, turned right onto via Colonna, and then snaked around Piazza Cavour. Within 20 minutes the bus arrived at my destination, a Centro Sociale Occupato, one of the socialist community spaces that support of free speech and liberal expression in Rome, Italy.
I slipped into the rehearsal that was already in progress. A striking woman with the feminine wiles of a young Barbara Streisand stood on the stage directing two masculine women. She spoke loudly. “Piu’ forte!” I sat straighter in my chair. She turned on the music and the trio began to enact a mimed story about a gender misfit set to the lyrics and rhythm of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax.” I smiled to myself. I was less than two miles away from the conservative-stalwart-who-shall-not-be-named and watching Italy’s first drag king group in action.
Eyes Wild Drag is Senith, Spruzzy, and Bianco, three mavericks, each with a signature style. Senith is the nexus of the troupe, the most “rompi coglioni.” Proudly the first faux queen in Italy, drag queens are often jealous of the attention she gets. They can eat her eyelashes, because she has talent to boot. Spruzzy is the physical comedian of the group with a joyous presence akin to Kevin Kline in “A Fish Called Wanda”—passionate, exuberant and zany. Bianco plays with gender lines like D.R.E.D., changing from masculine to feminine presentation within seconds. Delicious.
It takes guts to stage queer performances in a country where being publically gay or lesbian is an anomaly. Eyes Wild Drag not only performs, but with spunk, glitter, and pizzazz has created a community in which they are understood, supported, and celebrated—an incredibly fabulous way to create a revolution.
The Road to Gender Performance Revolution
Six years ago, after watching “Venus Boyz,” Gabrielle Baur’s documentary about drag culture in New York City, three friends were inspired to form their own performance troop. They had no role models to fall back on, no performances to compare to, beyond the few they glimpsed in the movie. They simply felt strongly, as queer individuals, that they wanted to explore gender on stage. That was their starting point. They made the rest up as they went along. And Eyes Wild Drag was their name.
At first they looked to their native Italian culture for inspiration. They used traditional forms of pantomime and cabaret to create a story of redemption for gender-variant individuals. In the process they subverted traditional gender roles inherent in those forms. They continue to do this while being thoughtful to their message, incredibly entertaining, and wholly charming—if not downright steamy.
As the troupe started to perform in club and cabaret venues around Italy, they quickly realized they had a problem. A large portion of their audience was baffled: What were these three people, with glued-on facial hair and/or high heels and wigs, doing on stage? Some people took offense, probably out of sheer shock from the novelty of it all. As Senith said, “We were creating new ways of being in society.” Lesbian feminists questioned the need to portray male characters, and drag queens laughed at the idea of a woman as a “female” impersonator.
The members of EWD realized that they needed to create the queer culture that would embrace their performance. They were already cultural pioneers, now they were becoming activists. They began with drag-king workshops. Afternoons were spent educating participants in how to incorporate “male” gender performance into their lives.
Enlightening small groups of people at a time was helpful, but the workshops fell short of reaching their entire community. So they got more clever. They knew that if an Italian audience sees foreigners performing in drag, they would more readily accept that type of performance for Italian artists. With this in mind they set about inviting a slew of international artists to Italy. Each artist they hosted was a hit and brought EWD closer to congregating their ideal audience.
The troupe became more ambitious. In 2009 and 2011, they hosted a transgression extravaganza called “Genderotica.” This daylong event included a drag show, workshops, and photography and video exhibitions. Artists from all over Europe and the United States showcased their work at the festival. Italian LGBT guests and their friends attended in droves and drank from the gender-bending well that EWD provided for them.
Bring in the Faux Queens
During our interview, EWD reiterated multiple times that although they have enlightened many, drag in all its shades it still something new to many Italians. Regardless, the trio continues to push the envelope. Starting last year, EWD began to educate their community about the faux-queen concept. In February 2011, they brought a little New York City flair to Florence, inviting the notorious Victoria faux queen party from Stonewall Inn to present. They coupled the performance with a photography exhibition about faux queens from around the world. To say it was successful is an understatement. Over a thousand people came—and surely left spotted with glitter and an appreciation of drag performance in all its shades.
“A little magical moment happens between us and the audience when we perform,” said Spruzzy. “And that is the most important thing.”
Like any dedicated artists, Senith, Spruzzy, and Bianco find all means necessary to produce and showcase their work. Next time you are in Italy check their website for performance dates. If you are lucky to be on the East Coast this coming June prepare yourself to be dazzled. EWD is stretching the wings they patched together in Italy and embarking on a tour to spread their message of queer vitality to the world.(www.eyeswilddrag.it)
Garbo was one of the greatest screen idols of all time, but she didn't start out that way. In fact, when she got to the studio they didn't know what to do with her. Was she the strong woman? Vamp? Wayward woman? She proved she was a little bit of every woman....and completely onto herself. In this video Joan Crawford talks about how Garbo became her own type.
So for everyone out there struggling to figure out what makes their business or their artist brand unique pull a Garbo and be your own type!
Have you pulled a Garbo in the past? Inspired to do so now? Let me know in the comments below!
Sometimes you have to make a decision: do you want to do this the right way or not at all? Everyone who works with me know that I don't f-around. When I do something I do it right. I've done other performances of Garbo Dreams
before, but I thought: What would happen if I give this project my full effort and energy? Two months ago I made that leap and have kept that commitment going strong each day. I've said no to a lot of other work, gotten up at six every day to have maximum rehearsal time, and assembled an incredible team that inspires me daily. My dad always said: "It's not the shot at the buzzer that counts, but every shot, every defensive move, and every effort made every other minute of the game that matters." Indeed.http://garbodreams.eventbrite.com/
Sunday, April 28th 2013
Doors and Campanile Fizz Cocktails at 6:30
Performance promptly at 7pm through 8:30pm
Beekman Bar and Books
889 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10022
Written and performed by Lauren LoGiudice
Directed by Greg Cicchino
Voiceovers by Christopher Catalano and Sarah Dacey-Charles
Sound Design by Greg Russ
Dialect Coaching by Stuart Williams
Movement Coaching by Barbara Mahler
Costume Design by Britta Uschkamp (Paris)
Pre-show music by Karen Bach (Denmark)
A very special thank you to all the wonderful who have supported this project!
Cornell University, The Field, CAVE Arts Space, Essex House, Silverstein Properties, Theater Resources Unlimited, Dramatists Guild Norwood Arts Club
A successful advertising executive, Shelagh stood on a mountaintop in the Himalayas and asked: “How can I use my experience and passion to feel fulfilled in my life?” In that moment she felt a voice inside her say: “Don’t worry about it. Keep doing what you are doing and the answer will become clear when you are ready.”
The answer came on a beach on Labor Day weekend when Shelagh had the inspiration to create an all-natural cider that would represent freedom, purity, and passion, and and give drinkers a sense of free spirit and health. She later named it Cliffton Dry and based the logo off of a design she made in the sand. Three weeks after the holiday Shelagh filed the paperwork to establish Cliffton Dry as a business entity. One year to the day after taking this action she received her wholesale license to begin distribution. While going through the licensing process everyone -- she emphasized everyone -- told her she would never get it and even if she did the process would take years. She ignored them, sourced apples for her product in upstate New York, put together the first batch, began promoting the brand, and crossed her fingers that the license would come through soon.
“I figured if nothing else my friends and I would have a lot of cider to drink.” She took a risk and was rewarded; you will soon find Cliffton Dry on the shelves at Whole Foods.
Did I mention that besides taking inspired action to fulfill a dream, Shelagh has also managed to create an alcoholic beverage that is HEALTHY?
“I made this beverage for people to feel good. It is made from all natural products and from the first press of the apples, so higher quality than anything else on the market. For this reason it doesn’t make you feel hungover or bloated. It is light and fresh, and since it is carbonated it has a celebratory feel.”
I got to test the enlivening affects of Cliffton Dry at an opening I produced for my latest photo collaboration “Greta Dreams” (link) based on my solo play “Garbo Dreams.” Shelagh contributed Cliffton Dry to our cause because our missions are congruent. People went crazy for the cider and an entire case was drunk well before the party was over. Cliffton Dry has a light, fruity flavor and doesn’t come on too strong. The bubbles feel like a party in your mouth.
“I made sure that the bubbles and the citrus notes were the exactly perfect to get the effect that I wanted: the feeling of freedom while surfing with friends in Capetown.”
Creating Cliffton Dry has been an incredible journey for Shelagh but it hasn’t been easy. Like most people who blaze their own trail she finds herself incredibly busy steering her ship, manning the cargo, and entertaining the guests. Also, like most people who are creating something new and innovative, Shelagh says that the process doesn’t feel like work. It is challenging, but one that is up to the task for.
It is comforting to know Shelagh, another person in the world who is creating their own own way by sheer bravery, intelligence, and commitment to quality. We aren’t walking the same path, but as I continue on my journey there is someone else out there who is holding their own light and become more luminous by the day.
This story is making it's way through the fashion media world: http://glose.fr/2013/02/22/a-valentines-guerrilla-performance/http://vanessa1.com/fashion-fusion-vanessa1-fashion/http://vanessa1.com/vanessa1-fashion-next-stop-fashion-week-london-paris/http://www.lingerietalk.com/2013/02/15/britta-uschkamp/how-to-get-noticed-during-nyfw.html
But, you my precious reader, heard it here first:
A Valentine's Guerrilla performance / February 13th 2013
As part of britta uschkamp's lingerie presentation-tour in New York, she collaborated with actress Lauren LoGiudice to highlight one of the pieces from her new autumn/winter 2013 collection 'silence & the silver screen...'
The multi-colored silky, drapy lingerie pieces are inspired by old Hollywood, as well as the red jacket with kilted silk overlay and tulle trim which framed Britta's designs. This jacket (which by the way had a fabulous feather collar) re-envisaged the (film) original Daisy Buchanan's cape in the infamous party scene. The umbrella and balloons accompanying the look were a whimsical nod to the soon-occurring Valentine's Day.
Starting out at the Jane Hotel, the pair sauntered up to the entrance of Jeremy Scott's show at Milk Studios and caused quite a stir. The spectacular arrival created an impromptu street catwalk, with photographers on both sides rushing to capture the concept. Not surprisingly, within minutes both Lauren and Britta were interviewed by the Village Voice and the New York Magazine.
The journey continued via subway with many photographers hot on the trail and ended with aplomb at Lincoln Center. The spectacle's arrival caused a media blitz from both print and broadcast mediums.
The duo dubbed it a "sustainable performance," using the existing energy and resources of Fashion Week to present their concept. www.brittauschkamp.com
Meet Alla Nazimova, actress and owner of the most infamous hotel of the 1920s. What
started as a private estate for private exploits ended up as a public spectacle in financial
It's amazing what happens when a year goes by -- you figure out a lot more about who you are and what you bring to the table. 2012 was a HUGE growth year for me in that respect, so by the end of it I looked at my reel and was taken by how it didn't match what I discovered. I immediately started getting the ball rolling on having it re-cut. Was the effort worth it? My gut says a resounding YES! At the very least it feels great to align what I'm putt out there with what I've discovered about my place in the world. Bring on more change and re-cutting in 2013!
I recently asked brilliant creative genius coach Samantha Bennett about setting goals for 2013. I may set them, but as the year goes on, how often should I review them? Her response was so helpful I'm letting you in on the goods, with her permission, of course.
And if you want to check her out here is her website: www.theorganizedartistcompany.com
. Lots of helpful goodies there!
Hi Lauren --
What a great question!
And my very short answer is: as often as seems necessary.
My other answer is to focus on the goals that stay constant no matter what activity you're engaged in.
These tend to be more "feeling" goals and "outcome" goals, like:
- My goal is to ask for what I want, no matter what...
- My goal is to stay relaxed and trusting, no matter what...
- My goal is work smarter, not harder....
- My goal is make at least one new friend every day...
- My goal is to make sure I'm bringing in $40,000 every month...
Picking one or two of these kinds of goals gives you a question to ask yourself whenever you're presented with a new idea or a new option, and that will lead to better decision-making.
Also, these kinds of goals tend to insure that you'll be happy during the process of your work and put a little less pressure on the outcome.
Happy New Year!
Myself and the incredible Kelsy Chauvin, Britta Uschkamp
, and Genavieve White came together to make this fun little webseries with stories (and dirt) about quirky characters from old Hollywood. We will be rolling it out in the New Year -- look out for it!
In the past year I've met some inspiring people who have made their vision into a reality and I would like to share their stories with you here.
I recently moderated a panel for New York Women in Film and Television that featured Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, the two filmmakers behind Sexy Baby, a groundbreaking film about sexuality in modern culture. Their story is an example of how effective it is to put your energy behind your inspiration. Things happen!
Here is their story:
"We met working at the Miami Herald: Jill was a reporter, I was a photographer. One night I had an assignment that involved photographing in mainstream clubs on “college night out.” Most of the clubs had stripper poles in them and girls were gyrating on them. I was taken aback, not because the behavior was shocking (I saw my fair share of wild behavior in my clubbing days), but because they were trying so hard to get attention and to be sexy—all the while looking like they weren’t having any fun at all.
I called Jill the next day to see if she could help me articulate what it was that I witnessed that I found so disconcerting. She looked through my photos, and what struck her was the fact that as half- naked as the girls were, the guys standing around seemed un-phased, like: “Been there, done that, see it every day.”
The two of us were fascinated by the topic, and we decided there was some type of story in it. Initially we pitched it to the newspaper as a feature story, but after doing a bit of research and pavement pounding, we realized there was a film in it. And then Jill pushed us to actually do it! We soon moved to New York."
The film was a success at Tribeca and then later had a theatrical run in both New York and Los Angeles. How is that for taking the leap?