On the first Tuesday of every month, SOMArts presents The News, a series in which queer Bay Area artists perform new theater pieces. This month’s edition saw the artists ironically dedicating their segments to what they hate most. The audience was encouraged to shout calls of disdain rather than applaud in order to show their shared hate for the subjects presented. On June 4, topics ranged from “rapture art” and depression to white girls and dramatic Kickstarter videos.
The show’s hosts, Philip Huang and the drunken Peter Max Lawrence — who sported a string of pearls and a dress with a hemline stapled to a scandalous height — introduced Jaime Cortez first. Cortez adopted the role of the keynote speaker at the “Conclave 2013 Baptist Retailers Association,” a missionary sent to the Bay Area in an effort to convert the “corrupted” public. He satirized the concept of religious art using the example of a sculptural fountain in Alameda depicting frog-child hybrids, most of whom were condemned to a life of damnation in the algae. Cortez mockingly exclaims, “This is rapture art!”, attempting to drive the public to salvation by referring to the one frog-child saved by the graces of God. Cortez went on to further ridicule religious art in transcendence works, in which figures evaporate from their daily activities to meet God.
Phatima Rude then arrived on stage dressed as a mime, appropriately playing a silent violin as static with intermittent words filled the theater. After flipping off the audience at the conclusion of his work, Phatima noted that the accompanying script for the piece was the text of a suicide note he composed five years earlier.
The mood shifted dramatically with the hating-on-white-girls performance of Tessa Fleming, who offered a dramatic rendition of The Weather Girls single “It’s Raining Men.” As thick eyeliner poured down her face and the song faded, Tessa began to remove her costume — beginning with her lengthy blond pony tail — before finally removing her lacy thong as she exited the stage entirely nude.
Kolmel WithLove, the creator of The News, then revealed her hatred for Kickstarter in a parody video in which she thanked viewers “in advance for giving more money than they can afford” in order to support her artistic endeavors while she lounged in a Jacuzzi drinking wine.
Daniel Redman, an endearing figure, then emerged onstage and acknowledged the uniqueness of The News as it encourages performers do something they truly hate rather than the overplayed dictum of doing what you love. Redman pitted his hate against the hit single “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer, apologizing to the audience if they happened to know the words. He primarily resonated on the absurdity of the line “Lift your open hand / Strike up the band and make the fireflies dance / Silver moon’s sparkling / So kiss me,” causing the audience to boo while simultaneously laughing uproariously.
The final act, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” by Kevin Seaman, brought four deranged-looking drag queens to the stage, embodying a schizophrenic version of Jan from The Brady Bunch. Shown in therapy, Jan is resentful of the attention focused on Marcia and has begun to hear voices, as she suffers from “middle child syndrome.” She is instructed to find a new style, leading the drag queens to adopt robotic movements as they collectively try to find Jan’s identity.
The performances were teeming with inside jokes — which risked being off-putting to newcomers to the series. Audience members would shout at the artists, receiving cutting retorts in return. With the thunderous heckling that succeeded each performance, it became clear that The News has developed a dedicated following of members of the queer community.
Contact Sasha Chebil at [email protected].