Walking the Tightrope of art and community: 2Boys.tv
After an acclaimed 2-week run at Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, then at the Musée d’art contemporain, and a magical performance of their Tightrope drag + music elegy at Mexico City’s Museo de Bellas Artes, Montréal performance duo 2boys.tv are back at their Sala Rosa stomping ground for a benefit cabaret Wed. July 18.
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One of Montréal’s better-known performance art duos, 2Boys.tv’s Stephen Lawson and Aaron Pollard have been developing a travelling piece called Tightrope since early last year. Incorporating elements of drag, funeral ritual and song cycle, the piece deliberately defies categorization, and collects new collaborators wherever it goes. The musical touchstone of the piece, Alexis O’Hara (aka Guizo La Nuit, who will be hocking some of his kingly duds for the cause), has summoned a bevy of Lawson and Pollard’s favourite local artists for a benefit cabaret hosted by their comic buddy Skid More, with Danette MacKay, dancer/performer Dana Michel, and, freshly back from Paris, drag and photo artist 2fik – all to help 2Boys.tv continue with their project (Wed. July 18, 8pm @ Sala Rosa).
After a 4-month residency in Mexico City provided by the Canada Council for the Arts, Lawson and Pollard returned to Montréal rich in experiences but a little in the red from their expansive creative output. We spoke with Stephen Lawson about what the Tightrope show has meant for the artists and their practice.
2B:Tightrope explores themes specific to Latin America, such as the desaparecidos, and splices them with North American narratives of lives lost to AIDS. What was distinct about the Mexicano reaction to your Bellas Artes performance, compared to the Buddies or MAC versions?
SL: The thing to know about Tightrope is that it’s an ongoing performance work. It evolves according to what location it occurs in and which local performers are involved. One of the primary interests of this piece is to look at a way of creating involvement rather than saying ‘here’s my piece form my culture.’ Tightrope is a platform for creation and collaboration. Having done a lot of touring over the past many years, I need a different way to interact with artists, activists, and spectators.
2B: Tell us about the “Chorus of Mourners” / queens. How is drag different in Mexico City?
SL: In Mexico City, we felt we finally found the structure we were looking for. Toronto and Montréal completely informed the way we work, but we were amazed by the openness and generosity of the Mexican performers we worked with. The incredible diversity of the drag performers in Mexico City (a metropolis of 25 million people) opened up the possibilities of exploring the spectacle of difference. Mexico City used to be a series of towns, and the history of the city is revealed in all of the neighbourhoods: every part of the city you go to has its own identity. The drag artists were just as diverse: Fantasia, a queen who sang the song “Urge”, performs in drag for weddings and family functions – that’s her job! She has such an incredible voice we couldn’t give her a microphone! We had, like in any scene, your club kids, and we had an AIDS and gender activist who only performs occasionally. It was like our own community, but that much bigger and more diverse.
2B: You had the benefit of working with Alexis O’Hara, who also sings in Spanish, here and in Mexico. Which songs were different in the Bellas Artes version from previous ones?
SL: We’ve always envisioned Tightrope as a song cycle, and to give space for the spectator to contemplate absence and shadows. Mexico is an extremely musical culture, and people there know the references. There’s a Mexican pop-goth duo called Fangoria who coincidentally have a song called “Un astronauto solo flotando” which I did a lip-synch to at the top of the show. This was what Mexico was all about: serendipity, not just chance. Where you have set things in motion and your surprise is a reaction to that. Alexis [O'Hara] sang “Porque te vas” by Jeannette, which all of the drag queens knew the moves to!
2B: You allude to the Mexico Tightrope production changing your practice…
SL: What I really found in Mexico was I was able to find a personal expression. I realized that I am the Widow. I find it very difficult to talk about the Widow as a character. Much as with my drag self, it’s like an aspect of myself exploded into reality.
2B: What’s next for Tightrope?
SL: The plans for Tightrope are to do two tours in 2013, one to São Paolo, Brazil, and then one to London, UK. We’re working on those two leads right now.
Hump of the Week for 2Boys.tv
W/ Guizo LaNuit, Skid More, Connie Lingua, Danette MacKay, Dana Michel, 2fik and more! @ La Sala Rossa, 4848 boul. St-Laurent. $10-15 PWYC
Photos by Cholos Glam (Tightrope, Museo de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, May 2012)