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ANNOUNCEMENTS: July 8, 2021

Provincetown International Film Festival Announces 2021 Winners

The Provincetown International Film Festival (PIFF) announced today the winners of this year’s Warner Media Audience Awards, the John Schlesinger Awards, the NY Women in Film and TV Filmmaker Awards and Short Film Prizes. 

The Warner Media Audience Awards are voted on by festival attendees both virtually and in-person: Best Narrative Feature, Language Lessons; Best Documentary Feature, Being Bebe and Playing With Sharks (tie).

Mogul Mowgli

The John Schlesinger Awards are juried awards presented to a first-time narrative and documentary feature filmmaker. The awards include a cash prize of $1,000 to each filmmaker. The Narrative Schlesinger Award went to Bassam Tariq for Mogul Mowgli). Filmmaker Andrew Ahn (Driveways, Spa Night), Narrative Schlesinger Juror, said: “Mogul Mowgli is a film that explores cultural, physical, and artistic identity with passion and insight. Anchored by Riz Ahmed’s beautiful performance, the film’s bold use of sound, cinematography, and editing all come together to tell us such a personal story of an artist.”The Documentary Schlesinger Award went to Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson  for Summer Of Soul. Producer Maureen Ryan (Dick Johnson Is Dead, Man On Wire), Documentary Schlesinger Juror, said: “Summer of Soul is a spectacular cinematic and musical resurrection that restores a long-lost and essential moment of black culture to its rightful place in history. Like When We Were Kings, the film places the spotlight where it belongs – on the Black men, women and children – so they are finally fully seen and heard in their fullest majesty. The musical performances alone are a triumph but first-time director Questlove includes important interviews with those who were there – on and off the stage – to bring light to a magical time when ordinary people got to experience the extraordinary in their own public park in Harlem.” 

Storm Lake

The NY Women in Film & Television Filmmaker Awards are awarded to female filmmakers for Excellence in Producing or Directing for Narrative and Documentary Filmmaking and include a cash prize of $1,000 to each filmmaker. The narrative winner was director Tracey Deer (Beans) and the documentary winner was director/producer Beth Levison (Storm Lake).

Beans

The 2021 shorts jury consisted of: Chloe Gbai, Emmy-nominated producer and a Manager on the Original Documentaries team at Netflix; Jake Yuzna, filmmaker and founder of the Cinema program at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York; and Priya Sircar, arts advocate who most recently served as director for arts at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The winners this year were: Best Queer Short (presented by Here Media): Heaven Reaches Down to Earth, directed by Tebogo Malebogo, for its poetic cinematic language that expands the cannon of queer cinema in form and subject; Best Documentary Short (presented by Warner Media): Eleven Weeks, directed by Anna Kuperberg and Julie Caskey, for its heart wrenching, tender, and unflinching glimpse into the intimate experience of love and end of life; Best Narrative Short: First Love, directed by Florent Gouelou, for its fresh take on a familiar setting and story—a finely crafted and achingly relatable portrait of love in decline; Special Jury Prize: Meltdown in Dixie, directed by Emily Harrold, for its candid and nuanced look at race, commerce, and politics through a real small town story; Best New England Short: Senior Program, directed by Luisa Conlon, for its lovely casting and focus on queer love and aging; and Best Animated Short: Nude Triumphant, directed by Leo Crane, for its original animation that takes the viewer on a revealing adventure with robust characters

Eleven Weeks

As previously announced, Richard Linklater was presented with the 2021 Filmmaker on the Edge Award in conversation with filmmaker John Waters; Riz Ahmed was presented with the Excellence in Acting Award in conversation with film critic Richard Lawson (Vanity Fair); and Natalie Morales received the Next Wave Award for her work as an actor/filmmaker on Language Lessons. The festival opened with Jon M. Chu’s In the Heights at the Wellfleet Drive-In and closed with Emily Branham’s BeBe Zahara Benet documentary, Being Bebe. The hybrid festival ran June 16-25 virtually and in Provincetown, Massachusetts. 

The Festival is a program of the Provincetown Film Society (PFS), which is an advocate for diverse representation in film, providing year-round programming and platforms that allow voices of all kinds to be heard via film. Locally, PFS’ work positively impacts the cultural and economic vitality of Provincetown. Nationally, its work helps shape industry discussions around parity in film. Through PFS’ work, we have an ability to better understand and appreciate human struggles and triumphs, showcasing our similarities and differences in today’s diverse culture. For more information visit ptownfilmfest.org.

Call To Artists

The Cid Bolduc Gallery, 53 Bradford St. Provincetown, invites all local artists who currently have no gallery affiliation to exhibit in the Townies You Should Know show opening on July 17 and running through July 31. Drop off of work is July 13, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. or by appointment (508.487.7767). There is a $10 per piece hanging fee; up to 3 pieces accepted. The gallery will take a 40% commission of all sales. All work must be ready to hang. 

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Perfect Picnic

Photo: Jaiden van Bork

In the charming summer weather, the time is ripe for adventures into nature. Perfect Picnic in the center of Provincetown, is an ambitious and unique new business fully committed to crafting just what its name suggests: the perfect picnic. High-quality meats, cheeses, wines, olives, and more line the shelves at this one-stop shop for the adventurous and fun-loving foodies of Cape Cod. Whether you’re just dropping in to browse, stopping by for a tiny baguettini, or looking for professional assistance planning the picnic of your dreams, Perfect Picnic should be an attraction of significant interest.

Mark Mitchell, a former competitive skating coach, founded the store just this spring, inspired by New York City’s Perfect Picnic—the brainchild of his long-time friend, Wendy Weston. The goal of Perfect Picnic is simple: to make this European-style practice of elevated picnicking accessible to American consumers. And with Mitchell’s new branch, this vision is being brought to the perhaps ideal marketplace of Provincetown.

The art of the picnic is something of a throwback, Mitchell says. Perhaps there is something appealing in its freeing and bohemian spirit, something that caters to our inner desire to reject the confines of modernity. Particularly in a post-pandemic society that has left many disillusioned with technology, reclusivity, and isolation, the picnic may be seeing a comeback.

With the help of Perfect Picnic Provincetown, you too can live out your romantic outdoor fantasy, full of good food and good fun. It can even be as easy as choosing one of their pre-designed picnic baskets so you don’t have to think twice about your outing’s refreshments.

Now is as good a time as ever to hop on this trend and plan a picnic!

Perfect Picnic
258 Commercial St. &
293 Commercial St. (on the pier)
774.538.6059
perfectpicnicptown.com

 

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July 8, 2021

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Scott Cakes

Photo: Jaiden van Bork

“I sort of think of myself as being in the business of spreading joy,” says local cupcake-maker Scott Cunningham. His iconic cupcake shop, ScottCakes, is a beacon of fun and whimsy on Commercial Street—but it isn’t just any old bakery. With a light and moist base topped with stunning pink frosting, the simple yet beautiful “ScottCake” is the only offering you will find here. But for Cunningham and his customers, this delicacy made of “butter, love, and pink” is all you need.

Cunningham, a former actor and nanny from New York, came to Provincetown with a show in 2008, intending to stay only six weeks, but soon realized he had found a new home. He says the original vision of ScottCakes came to him through meditation, where he had the idea to begin selling the cupcakes he made in his nanny days on the streets of Provincetown. Operating as a street vendor for a few years, Cunnigham quickly rose to local fame, making headlines as the “Cupcake King of Commercial Street.”Despite having a valid vendor’s license, Cunningham was repeatedly ticketed by the local police and found himself preparing to litigate the matter in court. Ultimately, the case was dropped, but ScottCakes became the talk of the town, and though he was tempted to end his cupcake endeavors there, Cunningham realized he was far from finished, eventually setting up shop in the space he has now occupied for over a decade.

“It was not what I expected to be doing [for] a living,” says Cunningham, “but it’s worked out really beautifully.” For those skeptical of how great one cupcake can be, the poster on the wall says it all: “Shut up and have a mini.”


ScottCakes
353 Commercial St.
508.487.7465
scottcakes.com

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July 1, 2021

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Simply the Best

Photo: Paris Helena

Debby Holiday Makes Her Provincetown Debut

by Steve Desroches

Good friends Debby Holiday and Del Shores just finished lunch in Los Angeles. They met years ago via an introduction from singer Levi Kreis, who encouraged Shores to stay a bit longer at a benefit concert to hear Holiday sing. The playwright, screenwriter, and producer was just about to cast his new play The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife, and after being blown away by Holiday’s performance offered her a role on the spot. She resisted saying she wasn’t an actress. His response was, “Yes, you are!” She eventually joined the cast with fellow actors Beth Grant and future Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer and then Shores and Holiday bonded as buddies. Thus the two laugh and playfully tease as they settle in front of an iPhone to FaceTime about their upcoming shows in Provincetown at the Post Office Cabaret. She may be making her Provincetown debut, but she wants to share the spotlight.

Spreading joy, generosity, and love is in Holiday’s DNA, in a way quite literally. Her father Jimmy Holiday wrote the 1969 mega hit “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” first sung by Jackie DeShannon, and covered numerous times in a variety of musical genres since. Growing up in a musical family put Holiday on a path to finding her own voice as a singer and writer. Ray Charles, who she called Uncle Ray, was over all the time as her father co-wrote his hit songs “Understanding” and “All I Ever Need Is You,” the latter being a hit for Sonny and Cher, too. So, too were other singers, songwriters, and session musicians. It was a great musical education. But Holiday gets emotional as her father was “a troubled man” and worked through “his demons” with songwriting.

Photo: Denice Duff

She remembers playing New Orleans Pride shortly after the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando. It was unclear how many people would come, as organizers thought people would be too scared to go. But it was the biggest Pride celebration to date in New Orleans, bringing in a diverse crowd. And when Holiday sang her dad’s song, the crowd joined in immediately.

“Here I go again,” chuckles Holiday holding back tears. “But it was so beautiful. I realized then that was my father’s legacy that he left the world. All the pain and difficulties wasn’t what was left, but this beautiful song with a beautiful message was.”

She stops to wipe tears away.

“And those royalties aren’t bad either,” says Shores with his signature Texas twang as they both burst out laughing. “I called her the other day and said, ‘Hey, your Daddy’s song is in a Gap commercial.’ Cha-ching!”

“I bought a car,” laughs Holiday. “I bought house!”

Laughter and song are healing for sure. That’s in part the soul behind the show Holiday is bringing to the Post Office Cabaret in which she’ll sing the music of rock and roll legend Tina Turner. Holiday identifies with Turner’s “strength and fierceness” overcoming adversity, and in her shows she’ll be paying tribute to the icon with her own big sound and soulful voice. Versatile as a performer, Holiday may be best known for her dance hits “Joyful Sound,” Waiting for a Lifetime,” and her biggest “Dive” that kept people dancing in clubs all over the world. She pulls from so many styles and influences that make her work compelling. In addition to the music being made in her home as a child, Holiday also loved the work of Barbra Streisand, Aerosmith, and perhaps most of all, David Bowie.

Photo: Denice Duff

“I love, love, love David Bowie,” says Holiday. “I always said he married the wrong Black woman. But then again, it was Iman. When it comes to Tina Turner though, it resonates with me how she reaches down to her toes to grab a note.”

Like every other performer, the pandemic had Holiday performing virtually for over a year. While it kept her busy and her work out in the public, it’s no substitute for a live performance and connecting with an audience. She’d slay “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” Turner’s monster hit from the 1985 movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, and there’d be no applause. Just a ring light and an iPhone on a stand. That’s why she’s so excited to come to Provincetown to perform for a live audience. And she convinced Shores to come with her and do his comedic storytelling show Sh*t Stirrer, which she’ll be the opening act for as well, and he vice versa. It marks his return to town since 2017.

“She whored me out,” says Shores. “She was telling me about how she was going to Provincetown and did I want to go. I have to have my shoulder replaced just when I get back so it’s kind of like a last hurrah before I have to do that.”

“It’s always better doing things with friends,” says Holiday. “And I cannot wait to get to Provincetown!”

A Tina Turner Tribute with Debby Holiday is at the Post Office Cabaret, 303 Commercial St., Thursday, July 1 at 8:30 p.m., Saturday, July 3 at 6 p.m. and Monday, July 5 and Tuesday, July 6 at 10 p.m. Del Shores presents Sh*t Stirrer Thursday, July 1 at 7 p.m., Friday, July 2 at 6 p.m., Monday, July 5 and Tuesday, July 6 at 8:30 p.m. Tickets to both shows ($39) are available at the box office and online at postofficecafe.net. For more information call 508.487.0006.

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In the Eye of the Beholder

Ruben Natal-San Miguel, The End of Day is a Drag (Mind of Mendoza, Halal Food), 2019, Manhattan, NYC. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 24 x 30 inches.

by Rebecca M. Alvin

Top Image: The End of Day is a Drag (Mind of Mendoza, Halal Food), 2019,  Manhattan, NYC.  Dye sublimation on aluminum, 24 x 30 inches

Beauty is something we all respond to, universal and at the same time, highly individual. There are certain things human beings tend to find beautiful. The feeling of sand against your bare feet as you walk on a pristine beach. The smell of lilacs wafting in the breeze. The symphony of songbirds we wake up to each morning. The taste of a delicious summer berry grown in your own backyard. Or that beauty cliché, an awe-inspiring Cape Cod sunset. Beyond sensual experiences of beauty, there are those moments that touch our souls that we also call beautiful: a shared moment between a parent and child; the embrace of a lover after being away for a long time; the bittersweet ending to a favorite book or film that leaves us simultaneously sad that it’s over and overwhelmed with pleasure in how the ending is expressed.

Non Binary Virgin Mary, 2018, Brooklyn, NYC. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 12 x 12 inches

When it comes to people, beauty is not always a visual thing. In fact, it is rarely the visual aspect that sustains our attention when we find someone beautiful. It might be the way they carry themselves, their laugh, or the way they talk, or some other magnetic charm we cannot put a finger on. But even visual beauty has its variations. There are those considered “classically beautiful,” but often those traits are manufactured and not what we authentically find attractive. Although symmetry is supposedly a mark of beauty, we’re just as likely to be drawn to someone for something slightly different about them: a crooked tooth, a slight asymmetry in the nose, or a scar or beauty mark, for example.

Photographer Ruben Natal-San Miguel, whose work is on view at Gary Marotta Fine Art beginning July 2, thinks about beauty a lot, especially the kinds of beauty he feels are overlooked in American society, such as the beauty of African-American, Asian-American. and Latino communities. “I think beauty’s more like an emotion,” he says. “I think when you look at a person, you basically look at them physically, but also you perceive something of their soul, and basically that’s what I’m more interested in.”

Diana (Sick Love ), 2020, Provincetown, MA. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 16 x 16 inches

Born in Puerto Rico, the photographer is based in Harlem, New York City, but studied architecture in Boston as a young man. This background gave him his artistic sensibilities and eye for design, but he didn’t come to photography until much later. He had actually gone into the financial industry originally. But after finding himself in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11, grateful to have survived and forever marked by his direct experience with this tragedy, he made some changes in his life, including picking up a camera after years of just being a photo collector.

Ivana ‘(Most Hated), 2019 East Harlem, NYC. Dye sublimation on aluminum 24 x 24 inches

Over time, his work evolved to focus on what he calls “environmental portraits,” portraits done on the street that evoke a strong sense of place because of their unplanned nature. He has photographed in Chicago, Philadelphia, and other locations, and most notably in the five boroughs of New York City. His process is to simply approach people on the street that he’d like to photograph, interacting with them for only brief moments to ask them to pose and tell them what he’s doing. “Nine out of ten times, there’s something complimentary about them and I explain that to them. Whether it’s a tattoo or when there is something in the way they dress, or, you know, the way they stand out from the people in the crowd. I’m basically drawn to something about them that I find beautiful, and I communicate that to them directly,” he explains.

Sky & Zachariah, 2019, The Bronx, NYC Dye sublimation on aluminum, 16 x 20 inches

The photographs express incredible beauty that seems to come from within each subject and find its manifestation in their manner of dress, tattoos or other skin adornments, and attitudes that leap off the photograph, almost daring you to question their beauty, as unconventional as it may be. For the show here in Provincetown, American Beauty, Natal-San Miguel includes some images from his exhibition Women R Beautiful, which originally opened at Postmasters Gallery in New York, but was closed down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He then moved that show to a very successful online exhibition at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition, there are other images of men and women in a variety of locations, including Provincetown.

Primal Fear, 2020, The Bronx, NYC. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 16 x 16 inches

Natal-San Miguel has been coming to Provincetown for over 30 years, (spending some time he says as a “go-go boy” here in fact), and it’s on his list of places to profile, focusing on our hidden diversity. Despite his long history with the town, he is aware that it is complex and requires him to pay attention to those who live here and get the real story of how diversity is defined in Provincetown specifically. “I’m only going to go into communities that I know and have researched well before I make a project,” he says.

Looking around at other galleries, he pulls no punches, saying the artwork does not reflect the diversity that exists here. He’s interested in the range of immigrants in our town, the Jamaican community, the working class as well as the vacationers, all of it. The idea is to acknowledge those who go unseen in all sorts of communities.

Chinese Girl Without The Pearl Earring, 2017, Manhattan, NYC. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 16 x 16 inches

His work is very much rooted in a social consciousness, however, it isn’t explicitly political or divisive. For example, he has also photographed in his native Puerto Rico, where he says there has been a disturbing trend of women (both cisgender and transgender) being murdered that he wanted to call attention to as an artist. He’s in talks with Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico in San Juan about acquiring his portraits, but he is also interested in doing a portrait series there to address this. “Women need to be more respected,” he says. “I come from a family where my mother was not allowed to look at her father when she was talking to him. I saw that at five years old. So when things are getting better and you have the power and voice to do so, you know, I’m going to continue this work, I don’t know, maybe until I die!”

If there’s something you can say about the type of beauty in Ruben Natal-San Miguel’s photographs, it’s that these people are first and foremost individuals, comfortable in their own skin—at least when encountered in their own neighborhoods. The beauty of self-admiration and the commitment to expressing one’s personal style is not something that can be commodified. Natal-San Miguel says one of the things he likes to document is the unique fashion statements in marginalized communities before fashion designers steal them and make it trendy. “

Nykki (It All Comes Out In The Wash), 2019 East Harlem, NYC. Dye sublimation on aluminum, 16 x 20 inches

To me, beauty is represented in so many different ways,” Natal-San Miguel explains. “And sometimes these people, they have this amazing presence, and they’re not even aware of it themselves! So that’s part of my journey, to basically bring that out and sometimes make people realize what they have or their potential.”

American Beauty is on view at Gary Marotta Fine Art, 162 Commercial St., Provincetown, July 2 – August 6. Ruben Natal-San Miguel will attend opening receptions Friday and Saturday, July 2 and 3, 7 – 9 p.m. For more information call 617.834.5262 or visit garymarottafineart.com.

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Q&A with JUDY GOLD

Photo: Justine Ungaro

Top Image: Photo: Justine Ungaro

Studies show that laughing is truly beneficial to physical and emotional health helping to strengthen your immune system, reduce pain, and relieve stress, proving that laughter really is the best medicine. And after this past year and half of the pandemic and political tumult we could all use a good laugh. Stand up comic Judy Gold has been a Provincetown favorite since she began performing here in the early 1990s. A two-time Emmy Award winner and host of the popular podcast Kill Me Now, is elated to be back on stage at the Art House making people laugh after a year plus with lights dimmed in theaters and comedy clubs the world over. Gold took sometime time to talk with Provincetown Magazine about life in lockdown for a comic, how she deals with hecklers, and though she thinks cancel culture is bullshit, the one person in the world she wouldn’t mind seeing getting socially banished.

Provincetown Magazine: How does it feel to be back in front of a live audience?

Judy Gold: There are no words. Seriously. Stand-up comedy is such an intimate art form. It’s a give and take, and when the comedian gives and the audience takes, it is beyond exhilarating. It might sound crazy that my job is to stand onstage in front of strangers and make them laugh, but hearing that laughter is why we do it. There is nothing like it.

PM: What was your lockdown experience like?

JG: I have very mixed feelings about the lockdown because I learned so much about myself during that time. For my entire adult life, I have gone out to work after dinner. I rarely, if ever, did what most people do: eat with the family, clean up, move to the living room, watch some TV, and go to bed. I stopped. And I smelled the roses. I loved spending time with Elysa and our children, quality time I never would have gotten with them otherwise. I cooked, a lot. I binge watched shows, something I had never done before. I found new ways to exercise. I realized how much time I wasted before the pandemic. It also leveled the playing field. Everyone was in the same boat. It was nice not seeing other people’s “perfect lives” on social media. But I did get a burst of energy every night around 9 p.m., which annoyed the hell out of my family.

PM: When we last spoke your book Yes, I Can Say That had just come out, a stand up comics perspective on free speech and comedy. How has the reception been? Any attempts to have you cancelled?

JG: Thank you for asking! The book is still doing well. I got incredibly great feedback on it, and people just love the audiobook, which was featured in the New York Times Book Review. In this climate, there will always be attempts to cancel people, especially comics. It is ridiculous. Our only goal is to make people laugh. That’s it. If you don’t like a joke, too fucking bad. Move on. It’s not about you, you, you. Don’t get me started or this Q&A will take up the entire magazine!!

PM: If you could cancel one person, who would it be, if anyone?

JG: Mitch McConnell and his neck pouch.

PM: You appeared in the FX documentary Hysterical that came out in April, which explores women in stand-up comedy. What’s changed for women in stand up and what’s stayed the same?

JG: Great question. There are definitely more female stand-up comedians than ever before. And the vast majority of them are confident, sexy and not afraid to speak truth to power. When I started in the early 1980’s there would never be more than one woman on a show, if that. I would call clubs to try and get booked and they would say that they had a woman there a few months ago and she didn’t do well, so they’re not booking any female comics. And when a male comic bombed, did they close the fucking place down? No. Women comedians still get paid less. We are still judged by a different standard. I’m definitely feeling the ageism that comes with being a woman over 50. Men over 60 still get comedy specials. Finally, when there are three male comics on a show, it’s a comedy show. When there are three women comics on a show it’s a special event. Ladies Night Out! Herstrical! Funny Females! That has to stop.

PM: Have you seen Hacks? Everyone is freaking out in particular about Jean Smart’s performance as a comedy legend trying to find her edge again. What did you think of the series?

JG: I just started watching it and it’s awesome!! Jean Smart is a genius and Hannah Einbinder is just perfect. Representation is everything.

PM: How important is current day Provincetown to the stand-up comedy circuit?

JG: Provincetown is my favorite place in the entire world. I’ve been coming here since 1985, started performing here in 1992, and have owned a home here since 1994. I recorded my first album at The Post Office Cabaret. This town nurtures creativity and open-mindedness. The audiences are just incredible, especially the locals. People here know what is funny, and it’s not cheap laughs at other people’s expense. Also, we are seeing more and more tourists here since people are not afraid to come out of the closet and pretty much everyone has an LGBTQ+ member of their family or friend group. I do miss the old days when I would hand out flyers at Herring Cove and every single person was LGBT, but times change. Marginalized people have the best senses of humor. I feel so lucky to be able to perform here all summer long, and work with Mark Cortale who continues to bring some of this country’s most celebrated performers to Provincetown. Also, the staff at The Art House is stellar.

PM: Lastly, hecklers, they seem to be a nagging part of the life of a comic. What’s the craziest heckling experience you’ve ever had?

JG: Craziest? OMG! I’ve been doing this for almost four decades! I used to engage with the hecklers and rip them to shreds, and now that I’m old and wise, I’m so over it. I remember once I was performing in Marietta, Georgia in the late 80’s early 90’s, and someone yelled out, “The Jews have all the money!” And I was like, “Do you seriously think I’d be in the middle of Georgia, staying in a shitty hotel, standing in front of an audience full of straight, white people who’ve never seen a Jew if I had all the money?” Puhlease.

Judy Gold performs at the Art House, 214 Commercial St., every Friday and Saturday in July at 9 p.m. and every Tuesday and Wednesday in August at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($30/$40) are available at the box office and online at ptownarthouse.com. For more information call 508.487.9222.

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The Highs and Lows of Audience Participation

Paige Turner, Miss Conception, and Miss Richfield 1981.

SHARING the SPOTLIGHT

by Steve Desroches

Top Image: Paige Turner, Miss Conception, and Miss Richfield 1981.

Everyone reacts differently, but the collective response of an audience when a drag queen steps off the stage to pick someone to be part of the show is palpable, and somewhat predictable. Some slink down in their seats or stare at the floor. Others tighten up, getting taller, while some begin to point at a friend. On some occasions someone makes a beeline for the bathroom to avoid the chance they’ll be chosen or raise their own hand looking for a moment in the limelight. Despite any anxiety it briefly produces, the results are often worth it, say drag performers Miss Richfield 1981, Paige Turner, and Miss Conception, all of whom utilize the interactive device in their shows at Pilgrim House, with much success.

“Truth be told, if I was in the audience I wouldn’t want to be picked myself,” laughs Russ King, who for almost 20 years has performed as Miss Richfield in Provincetown. “But there is a way to do it right and you really make a connection with the audience. That’s why I do it. It works most nights. You have to remember that everyone in the audience will quickly identify with the person on stage. They’ll feel, in a way, like they’re the ones up there. That’s why the rule is no one gets hurt and then it’s funny. You can poke fun, but keep it fun. Otherwise you may never get the audience back. That’s what makes involving the audience so scary and a thrill.”

Paige Turner

A hallmark of drag shows that makes them usually more cabaret than traditional theater is the absence of a fourth wall. But there is a gate, so involuntary audience participation is of course not welcomed. There’s only one star of the show and that’s the queen onstage. However, all three performers agree that they embrace interacting with the audience to form a deeper connection, making for a better experience, not only bonding themselves with those in attendance, but it makes the entire room become a united front of laughter and fun. The biggest rule is to not be mean and to not hurt anyone’s feelings.

To make it work they begin surveying the audience right away. It gets easier with time to find just the right people. The obviously drunk, anyone who is exceptionally hyper, and someone whom friends or a partner is pointing out are instantly a no go. Next on the nix list are grumps, chatty Cathys, the clearly shy, and those with grabby hands that tug on an outfit, or even commit the cardinal sin of going for the wig. Nope. Sit down. Bachelorette parties? It depends if they meet any of the above criteria, but getting married isn’t reason enough as that can take over the show and leave the rest of the audience out. The perfect candidate is someone who is chill, smiling, and having a good time. That usually means they’ll be easy to work with, take direction, and not take themselves too seriously. And it can lead to wonderful moments. Daniel Kelley, better known as the Showbiz Spitfire Paige Turner, in the past week has had magical moments onstage.

Miss Conception

“Some shows I can get men to take their shirts off, they just do it before I’m even done asking,” laughs Kelley. “I’m all about body positivity so I don’t make any jokes about how they look. When an audience feels respected and taken care of, things can go so well. The other night I had a 12-year-old boy on stage who was wearing Pride socks and sweatshirt and had his fingernails painted. He played tambourine on back-up during one of my songs and then I gave him a Pride flag before he left the stage. Everyone loved him and he was great. A few nights before a woman came up to me while I was barking for the show saying that I was going to be her first drag show and then she couldn’t stop talking about my eyelashes. I brought her up onstage and then gave her her own pair. The moment just worked so well for the show. With everything we’ve been through I’m finding audiences reaching out so much more. People want interaction, not virtual.”

In many ways involving the audience is paying respect to them, says Kelley, something that Kevin Levesque, also known as Miss Conception, agrees with. And the vast majority of the time it goes well. This summer Levesque pulls up four people to do the hand jive in an homage to Grease. Straight or gay, younger or older, everyone is having a ball nightly. But one time in Puerto Vallarta at the Palm Cabaret she pulled a man onstage and all was going well until she sent him backstage to put on a costume, one of those inflatable dinosaur get-ups. He never came out and then she noticed him sitting back in the audience giving him the middle finger and calling him an asshole as he’s claustrophobic and the costume triggered an anxiety attack. The man eventually stormed out.

“How was I supposed to know he was claustrophobic?” says Levesque. “I’m usually pretty good at reading body language, but I didn’t see that coming. But even when it goes wrong it can be right. I brought up a man who put a turtle costume on backwards so he couldn’t really do the dance. It was hilarious. The number got totally screwed up, but it was worth it.”

Miss Richfield 1981

Perhaps the biggest rule of thumb when working with an audience is you have to commit, no matter what. Staying in control is paramount and being able to handle anything an audience can throw at you is the key to success. If person after person refuses to go onstage or if someone changes their minds and runs back to their seat, you need to make it work, say the Pilgrim House queens. King says it’s like you’re driving a bus and if you just give up it’s like leaving your audience on the side of the road. You began the journey, you have to finish it, one way or another. Even if things go really bad.

“Oh God, years ago I brought this young guy up and there was a running joke about therapy and that this was actually an intervention for him as his mother had called me, so goes the set up,” says King. “And for some reason that night I pushed him about his mother and he finally says that she had passed a couple of weeks ago. It was as if all the oxygen left the room. It’s the only time I can recall feeling beads of sweat going down my neck and back. The setup for this joke was important as it keeps coming up throughout the show. You could hear a pin drop. It took me a few minutes, but I managed to save the show. And he was a sweetheart about it. But, oh God, even now I cringe. I’ll never forget that night.”

Miss Richfield 1981, Paige Turner, and Miss Conception all perform at Pilgrim House, 336 Commercial St., Provincetown throughout the summer. For tickets, show dates, and times visit pilgrimhouseptown.com. For more information call 508.487.6424.

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REVIEW: Truman & Tennessee

Truman Capote and his dolls Courtesy of Getty Images. (Detail)

by Rebecca M. Alvin

In 1940, a 16-year-old Truman Capote met 29-year-old Tennessee Williams. Their intense relationship lasted the rest of Williams’ life, and although it was a platonic friendship, there was no lack of drama between them. Such is the subject of Lisa Immordino Vreeland’s (Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel) new documentary Truman & Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation, which opens at Waters Edge Cinema on July 2.

This remarkable record of two of the 20th century’s most important American writers uses Capote’s and Williams’ own words through television and audio interviews recorded with them decades ago, as well as voice-over readings from their respective memoirs and other notes voiced by Jim Parsons as Capote and Zachary Quinto as Williams, in a compilation-style documentary. Editor Bernadine Colish does an exceptional job bringing these elements together with evocative imagery to accompany the readings by Quinto and Parsons, including more than a few never seen before photographs, as well as more well-known ones.

Truman Capote and his dolls Courtesy of Getty Images.

That choice alone makes this an exceptional exploration of the writers’ lives. Because Capote and Williams were two writers who mined their personal lives and childhoods for nearly everything they wrote, they were used to digging deep into themselves, and so when interviewed about everything from their writing habits to their sex lives and philosophies about the nature of love, each is incredibly insightful. They also discuss their friendship, which went through some difficulties, particularly after Capote published a short story featuring a pathetic character that was clearly Williams. Their self-awareness and willingness to put themselves out there emotionally—through their writing as well as in these interviews—yields complex and layered self-portraits that Vreeland has woven into a tight 85-minute film.

While both writers are eloquent in their thoughtful comments, one thing Capote says in an interview that is particularly profound is: “There’s only one real trouble in life, and that’s to be in trouble with yourself.”

Ultimately, as we know, both writers died from substance abuse (Williams choked while consuming massive quantities of Seconal in 1983 and Capote died from liver disease in 1984), a topic both had spoken of and written about. In the film, Vreeland includes Capote’s astute discussion of alcoholism and its long association with writers as a way to slow down the perception and capacity for overthinking that tends to plague artists, writers in particular. It’s these sorts of insights that make the film so absorbing and meditative—provoking thought and hopefully conversation after watching the film.

Many of the philosophical statements both writers make in the film are taken from television interviews, most notably on the Dick Cavett Show and the David Frost Show, recalling a time when talk show hosts actually asked probing questions not geared toward promoting any particular play or book or product. Perhaps writers have more to say than what’s just in their actual writings if only the right questions are asked.

Truman & Tennessee opens July 2 at Waters Edge Virtual Cinema For tickets and information visit provincetownfilm.org/cinema.

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