Previewing a performance art show, sight unseen, can be a bit of a gamble. Take Tragic Magic, running one night only at the Miracle Theatre this weekend. Three New York-based artists will each perform a brief set—one of the performers, Glenn Marla, has been described in the press both as a "downtown prophet" and an "obese transvestite in tights." Well, which is it?
Only one way to find out, and given that the annual summer slump has shuttered the doors of most local theater companies, now's as good a moment as any to take a chance on something new.
Marla, Heather Ács, and Silas Howard are currently touring the West Coast, working their way south to San Francisco's Homo a Go Go. The performers promise a platter of queer performance art, ranging from Marla's drag-influenced comedy to Howard's more traditional storytelling.
"We're definitely targeting queer audiences but the shows are not queer, per se," Ács tells me over the phone from Seattle. "My hope is that there are certainly themes that connect [the shows], but we're all very different performers. Anyone that comes to see it is going to take something away from some or all of it."
Of the obese drag queen cum downtown prophet, Ács says, "Glenn is very good at using humor to get at issues that are very difficult to talk about. [He's] male identified and trans but he's very queeny and colorful and fabulous, and his work is very sneaky."
Howard, meanwhile, is a former member of the seminal punk band Tribe 8 and a movie director who made a film about Billy Tipton, a jazz performer who lived as a man but was discovered, after his death, to have been biologically female. Howard's piece, Thank You for Being Urgent, deals with his work on the film, and the intersection of the queer punk scene and Hollywood.
"I'm not interested in the type of art that is so conceptual that no one can understand it," Ács says. "My goal is to do something that's nonlinear and experimental, but that invites the audience in. We're really all just interested in telling stories, and there are a lot of different ways to tell a story. The world we live in is very complicated, and the stories that we're telling are stories that are not often told."