A Tribe Called Queer: a powerful, poignant evening of self-affirmation


Arts no chaserLisa Marie Brimmer’s A Tribe Called Queer: Can We Kick It?, June 12 and 13 at Patrick’s Cabaret, was a refreshing change of pace for Twin Cities performance art, a welcome exception in field characterized more by attitude than aptitude.

You needn’t be non-heterosexual to enjoy an informed glimpse of a different culture. The night affords insight into the double-bind of catching abuse for being gay and for not being White. Accordingly, A Tribe Called Queer is a powerful, at times touchingly poignant evening of self-affirmation.

Lisa Marie Brimmer, Eric Michael Highers, Mayda Slice, Anthony Michael and Junauda Alma.
Lisa Marie Brimmer, Eric Michael Highers, Mayda Slice, Anthony Michael and Junauda Alma.

Essayist Kari Mugo was the perfect opener, defining for herself and, by extension, affording the audience a crystal clear perception of what it is to realize one’s identity in a uniquely actualized culture. Hers was a quiet oration of piercingly insightful prose that gives strong meaning to the phrase “food for thought.”

Rica De La Concha was a hot mess, doing the salty, sassy, drag diva thing like nobody’s business, getting it across that like it or not, here is a life form with which, baby, you’d best be prepared to reckon. Junauda Petrus’ untitled video short with Black and Ivory’s “You and I” as the score presented a clever and quirky, surreal, poetic statement on woman autonomously conceiving of womanhood.

Lone drawback to the night was Scott Artley’s intermission public service announcement of upcoming events that dragged on until the evening’s energy leaked away like air leaving a tire going flat. Intermission, incidentally, offered a video short in the lobby of Harry Waters. Jr’s performance interview inspired by the film Portrait of Jason by Shirley Clark – Dec. 3, 1966. Not everyone saw it, including this reviewer, since it wasn’t made clear this was Waters’ contribution and not simply optional entertainment between halves of the program.

The first performer after intermission, Hector Chavarria aka “The Big Gay Mexican,” accompanied on guitar by Mayda, quickly revitalized things. Your sense of the congruous hasn’t truly been challenged until you’ve witnessed an upwards of 200-pound guy deftly prancing in delicate dance, sweetly singing his adaptation of “Que Sera Sera.”

Amusing a sight as it is, as his story of growing up in search of self-love unfolds, it swiftly dawns on you this is no laughing matter. By the time Chavarria’s done your heart warmly goes out to him.

For her set, Mayda, petite powerhouse famous for delivering serious funk with a full band, was magical in a relatively subdued acoustic offering, showcasing, along with brilliant songwriting, a new dimension, a gifted hand at wryly self-deprecating spoken word.

Anthony Michael closed with dry wit and racy choreography (set to Seth MacFarlane crooning Irving Berlin’s “Snow”), chronicling a journey marked by ridicule from his Mexican family at a young age and mainstream discrimination as an adult performer.

The evening, to be sure, was an artistic success. On the other hand, it preached to the choir, an overwhelmingly gay, White audience. Those who have trouble gleaning that human beings who don’t do the same things they do in bed are still human beings weren’t on hand to get the message.

Ultimately, it was rewarding to experience the sharply executed performances with music by DJ Roxanne Anderson, hosted by winningly adept curator Lisa Marie Brimmer.


Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.