Under One Roof
(Justin Vivian Bond)
When writer/performer Dan Fishback (thirtynothing) saw a problem in the downtown performance scene, he decided to talk about it. In public. In March 2012, during a discussion at the legendary La MaMa theater on East Fourth Street, he spoke up about the lack of opportunity for a new generation of queer artists.
“I found myself complaining about how these young queer performers weren’t being supported by the theaters that 20 or 30 years ago would have been actively supporting their careers,” he says. “The theaters where our predecessors had developed work were not always the theaters now where risky, dangerous, young queer performers were finding opportunities.”
Fortunately, La MaMa’s director of programming, Nicky Paraiso, was in the audience and agreed with Fishback’s critique. He even had a solution. “He said, ‘Why don’t you curate a series of young gay performers here at La MaMa.’ And I said, ‘Sure…why don’t I?’”
Cleverly called Squirts, this unusual presentation of new artists kicks off this week at La MaMa’s East Village space and will feature a total of 18 performers over six nights. While Fishback’s original idea was to feature only younger performers, it quickly evolved into a mix of young guns along with their seasoned elders to fill what he calls the “queer intergenerational gap.” Thus, pros like Justin Vivian Bond will on the bill with relative newbies like Khi Armand. “Justin is simply spectacular in a way I’ve needed somebody to be…like a lighthouse,” says Armand, who is thrilled to be a part of the program. “It’s so great being with some of my all-time heroes of the stage and that they’re willing to share it with me, too.”
Another burgeoning artist in the series is Buzz Slutzky. “Being on the same stage with more seasoned performers creates a clear link of creative lineage and cultivates community, both between performers and audience members,” says Slutzky. “I think Dan has done a fantastic [job] of identifying this generation gap and going after a solution.”
With such a lively mix of performers, Fishback says that audiences should expect the unusual. “It’s not going to be stories about coming out,” he notes. While most of the performers are queer, the topics they’ll address through various forms of expression (videos, multimedia, movement, monologues) will be wide ranging—everything from immigration to militarism to drug addition. And Fishback himself will be at the center of it all, playing a new role—that of the host.
“I really don’t want to draw too much attention away from my artists,” he says regarding his hosting style. But when pressed on icons who inspire him, he recalled the first queer person he saw on TV; Scott Thompson from Kids in the Hall. “So I’m going to be channeling Buddy Cole.”
Squirts: New Voices in Queer Performance at La MaMa, 74 E Fourth St (btwn Second Ave/Bowery), Jan 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 10pm and Jan 6 and 13 at 5:30pm; $15. Visit lamama.org and danfishback.com for more info.