Tell me a little bit about Alphabet Soup, and the idea behind it.
I came up with the title because I have several friends who are queer, LGBT, QZY, and we’ve all had frank discussions with the kids about why they have two daddies, or three mommies, or whatever the configuration is. There are so many ways to be queer–and there are so many letters that it’s just a crazy soup of identity and genders, so I thought Alphabet Soup would be a really accessible title. We’re all in it together. There’s one big soup of humanity. One big queer family.
Is this the premiere?
Yes. This is the first time I have presented a queer-specific family program, and I’m really hoping to do it again. I feel like there’s a need for our different tribes to gather together with our children and be the families that we are, out loud, in public. I’ve been programming for a very long time and have been involved in programming many family festivals; my goal is that the adults have as much fun watching the programming as the kids do. I think that we underestimate children’s capacity to understand things. Kids that have queer parents or parents that have queer kids are more sophisticated than the average, because they have to deal with more. They have to navigate more as a family.
Who comprises the event, and why specifically did you choose these artists?
I chose Dynasty Handbag, who has an illustrious career. I’ve seen her perform a lot, and she has such an awkward funny character, and I feel like kids can relate. They have those awkward funny moments as kids and queer kids, and we have to deal with all of the awkwardness that being queer entails in the world, so I felt queer adults and children could relate to her sensibility.
She kind of reminds me of Pee-wee Herman, and she has this permanent childlike essence that exudes from her, a sense of wonder about herself when she performs that’s very beautiful. I feel like kids of all ages will just get a big kick out of Dynasty. She’s hosting the show, and then the other person I invited–who I adore–is Gregory Barnett.
It’s important to note that a lot of the artists participating come from the alternative queer club scene and a lot of parents come to these clubs, where we all play. The club is like a playground. I came out of the club scene myself as a performance artist, and the hardest audience you can ever have is either an audience at a club or an audience of children. So I thought, “what better artists to invite than those who have come out of the club?” Gregory, in addition to the club scene, is an accomplished choreographer, performing go-go boy, and teacher– he works with children, teaching dance and gymnastics. One of his dancers is Diamondback Annie, an extraordinary performer from that same scene. There will be drag kings and drag queens and everything in between.
Since this is called Alphabet Soup, Gregory will be teaching the kids the dance from the Village People’s megahit from 1978, “YMCA.” It’s a dance that has letters, that the parents already know, that is a gay anthem. It’s a hope song of gay culture. We’re making a video that teaches the dance, and we want the kids to learn it.
El San Cha has an album that just got released, and she is a really wonderful vocalist in the tradition of Mexican rancheras. I wanted to have a sing-along, and we’re in Los Angeles and I’m Latina, so I wanted to include the flavors of the city. She’s so charming that I thought she’d be wonderful.
And finally Crafternoon LA, which is my baby, is having a craft table where you can make costume elements that you can then wear when you’re in the show, doing the dance.
What does the show mean to you personally, and what in particular do you want to convey to your audience?
Everybody is welcome to this program. What I want to convey is that we all like to have fun and we all want to sing and make crafts. It’s about the family. A lot of times people go to these events and it’s the only time they get to spend together because they’re busy working all the time. It’s important to me at family events that the whole family has a good time, together. I think that it’s important that there’s a space where queer families can go and just be their absolute queer selves in broad daylight on the plaza, and feel safe. We need not just our GP event, but more and more safe spaces, because our safety as queer people of color are being threatened right now.
Drag Queen Story Hour is part of this event, as well, and that’s an organization that presents in 87 different libraries throughout the country. We have drag queens teaching queer kids about literacy, and I wanted to highlight that they’re at the forefront of literacy. The organization was founded by Michelle Tea, a lesbian parent—I wanted to make sure to include queer parents.
We also have Rafi Simon, another queer parent who writes as Pseudonymous Bosch. His books are like mysteries for kids and young adults. Rafi is a writer and has two twin girls that are ten years old. I thought it was important to make sure that future generations of little queerdos have literature.
How does this tie into your other works?
I’ve done a lot of workshops, education workshops at The Getty Center for The Getty Family Festival. I was inspired by working in these family festivals, and I thought, “wouldn’t this be wonderful if this was a specifically queer family festival for queer families?” I wanted to provide something challenging and interesting to the kids. People may think it’s an alternative family festival with these club performers in the art scene, but this is the new normal—what normal looks like now. I’m not doing anything that is not normal to us. I think through my programming, I’m setting out to show that this is completely normal, and everyone’s gonna come out and everyone’s gonna have a good time. This is what normal looks like in 2018.
Also, chosen families are important. Even the notion of what a family is has been expanded, and we’re leading the change and all these artists have expanded definitions of what they do in their respective art forms. It’s gonna be a really exciting show—come dressed up in your queer Sunday best!
It’s an honor to be invited to curate a program like this at GP, and I am just so excited to be able to help bring a free queer program to my beloved city in broad daylight. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to support artists and queer families.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
By Celine Kiner