On The LALA Cabaret

By Kat Purcell

At some point someone says “…and here you are” – and suddenly I don’t want to be seduced anymore.

A variety show format is not new to Twin Cities as I understand it, nor cabaret nor works in progress showcasing. What is special that we experience sometimes lies in our ability to perform simply for who is present to witness and only for that purpose.

There are open coolers with free beer on the stage, and yet we remain locked in our seats for most of the evening. I am perhaps siloed into the types of audiences that require no prompt to vocally respond to the action in the playing space. I do not regret this. Particularly, majority straight white audiences tend to prefer respectful silence. They look for traditional laugh track prompts that are non-verbally laced into the rhythms of presentation. What kind of culture is this? Is it natural? I do not regret this either. Every tradition reveals something to us if examined closely enough. We could imagine it another theatre exercise. We could hear ourselves holding our breath collectively and sitting rigid. We could meditate upon we demand of the giver, the vulnerable, the exhibitionist, the story itself—before we deign to reciprocate. We could steel ourselves the most difficult, stoic block of humans possible and dare the clown to move us. But I hazard the silence is merely passivity and fear. But I hazard that I am biased.

I revel in that I am not sure if I am supposed to weep when Anna Marie Shogren moves to The Cranberries’ “Zombie” in long, textured hair blending into costume pants nearly the same color—because I am knowing sorrow that comes from deep inside myself. When will it stop? And utilize my strong able body to support Anna Marie as the dance crawls through the first two rows of our bodies seated in the risers.

I remember my own comedic, desperate poems about killing household pests when Rana May professes to be god of insects. What time day did you write this, Rana May? I was numb in a Brooklyn studio apartment in 2010 around three in the morning.

In “Can I Touch It” Ifrah Mansour films ghosts performing ritual in a repetition that seems to go nowhere.

Casual scientists are fake Einsteins and a go-go dancer serenades us. A fog machine reveals that he is a parody of himself, of us, of the queer, of himself.

A work in progress when framed just so by the viewer can provide the same experience as any other time + space + context + witness that is presented to us as some semblance of finished.

The opening of the first act is appropriate for this evening of LaLa Festival’s performances. The singers enter in virtual silence and gradually I perceive that they are humming to each other. To us? To the witnesses? Margot Bassett Silver and friend, you have a virtuosic grasp of rhythm. What is more important is that we respond traditionally. What’s more important is the uncertainty and joy we have for Those Pauses. I know what to do but know that I am not supposed to.

The entire evening has a milling, anticipatory feeling without the usual hot-new-show buzz? Does that make sense? It was refreshing to know almost no one in the room, little easily predictable, and an excitement for out-of-towners. I’m usually busy connecting with people I already know and support. I’m usually busy feeling excited for what I know will come. The casual mystery feels like home, feels like younger days, feels communal.

Kat Purcell (they/them) is a trans artist and activist newly moved to Minneapolis, MN from New York City. From intensive classical training to agit-prop street art performance to lighting design and production management, their diverse & comprehensive experience has led them to the conclusion that art and performance are the key to galvanizing the healing and activism of communities. Their main artistic influence stems from both literary pursuits and from their training at the London International School of Performing Arts, a pedagogy which utilizes the techniques of classic street theatre to guide students in the creation of their own theatrical language. Kat’s interests include language plays, epics, theater of the grotesque and choral work. Kat is also a passionate activist, with a focus on prison abolition, immigrant detention and fighting for the bodily autonomy of queer and women folk.


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