THEATER REVIEW: A Tribe Called Queer: Can We Kick It?

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You’d think communities of color, populaces historically dealing with discrimination would be the last to stigmatize or ostracize people simply because they are different.  You’d be wrong.  You’d similarly think white, gay folk, long targets of homophobia, would be beyond looking askance on gays of color.  Again, you’d be wrong.  Facts heightening the significance of Lisa Marie Brimmer’s A Tribe Called Queer: Can We Kick It? It’s performance art curated by Brimmer, showcasing roughly a half-dozen artists who keenly focus on, as the press release puts it, “Queer People of Color (Q/POC) within the Queer Community and Communities of Color” at renowned venue of gay advocacy Patrick’s Cabaret.

“People of color”, Lisa Marie Brimmer said in her email, “often find themselves ‘othered’, parodied and singled out in queer spaces.”

This, of course, is to say nothing of how they feel in straight spaces.  Ultimately, the evening, first and foremost, as about self-affirmation. A multidisciplinary artist herself, she reflects, “As one of the few queer performers [last fall in Sha Cage’s Blacker the Berry],  it got me thinking about something similar for queer people of color. I’m using queer here as an umbrella term to embrace all my siblings that fall into the ever beautiful and expanding LGBTQIA+ umbrella. In the past few years I have had the opportunity to perform alongside other Queer performers, and it is my feeling that in those spaces it can be challenging to tell your own story without feeling you have to, or are speaking for your collective.  I can be myself as a black lesbian offstage, but getting onstage there can be this fear that you are not enough. As the one black lesbian, I don’t just have to worry about being a competent artist, I’m also the brown artist. There can be a ton of pressure.” She adds, “Sha Cage put together this wonderful assemblage of women of color and I was awestruck at the energy in this room full of bodies with potently shared experiences in the world. There was this common language- that although some of our stories differed in details, the who-what-where’s of our stories were shared in this courageous spirit and sense of why. That why was the empowerment of being in community with bodies that go through same or similar wars and joys. That why was the experience of sharing a room with other creatives that looked, felt, struggled, wanted, loved, feared like you. This was powerful for the performers and for the audience members. I think we were all surprised by the impact of something that was also so personally legitimizing.”

The reasonable expectation is a sense of self to be just as legitimizing to manifest in A Tribe Called Queer. The even enlists Hector Chavarria aka “The Big Gay Mexican,” Rica De La Concha, Mayda, Anthony Michael, Kari Mugo, Junauda Petrus, and Harry Waters, Jr. with DJ Roxanne Anderson.

“I brought people in for various reasons and based on various connections. I did an open call, to get access to artists I don’t already have connection to, and in doing so caught bigger fish than planned. I’m so excited to have Mayda and Hector Chavarria involved. I saw Junauda’s film that she will be showing at an Occupy Homes show. I have known Harry Waters, Jr. for years and knew he would so be down for this as he consistently promotes values of community for queer people of color. Incorporating Roxanne Anderson is a dream – they do so much work in the community that the ask was a no-brainer but the yes was breathtaking. I got on the queer artist phone tree and gained two new, mountainous friends in Rica de la Concha and Anthony Michael. Rica has been an awesome conversational partner as we’ve been really getting down to the grit of what this work is and can be. I’m so excited by all of the rich performative aesthetics being addressed and the breadth of identifications and experiences.

Lisa Marie Brimmer is no stranger to strong artistic accomplishment in her own right.  A writer, performance artist, community organizer, and arts administrator, she’s twice a two-time Givens Foundation for African American Literature fellow. She’s also received a Playwrights’ Center Many Voices Fellowship. She contributes to Gazillion Voices Magazine and is a member of Savage Umbrella Theater company. Her work has been has been featured on Minnesota Public Radio and KFAI. There’s much more to her track record, but you get the idea – this is an ambitious undertaking spearheaded by an artist of undeniable consequence

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