“CREEP CUTS” WHAT: Cabaret and drag show from Evan Spigelman and Dylan Hunter with karaoke hosted by Kimberly Clark WHEN: Thurs.-Sat. in March; karaoke 9:30 p.m., show 10:30 p.m. WHERE: Mudlark Public Theatre, 1200 Port St. ADMISSION: $10-$20 (sliding scale)
I first came across Evan Spigelman when he was a “draguate” of Vinsantos’ New Orleans Drag Workshop (which I covered for the New Orleans Advocate as well as here), and I was struck by how his performance in particular stuck out in an evening of incredibly varied performances.
It wasn’t until later that it became apparent that this was the first formalized drag training for Spigelman, despite his Big Easy Award-winning turn in the title role in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch back in 2011.
He bills his latest venture, “Creep Cuts,” as a “cartoon cloud of dada and drag.” In the show, Spigelman performs as Mz. Asa Metric opposite En Between (played by Dylan Hunter) as “New Orleans’ premier electro-cabaret-dada-freak-drag-extra-hyphenated-caffeinated- duo-from-out-of-the-blue-o.” They create a show filled with sketch comedy, lip synch and original electronic music to create a wholly new form of drag cabaret to confound the senses. Bonnie Gabel of the Pelican Bomb calls “Creep Cuts” ‘Virtuosic’ and says it ‘… challenges our perceptions of drag.’ I should add the show is preceded by a karaoke hour hosted by drag performer Kimberly Clark.
In this expanded version of the segment that ran on the March 17 episode of “PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV (102.3) — complete with new day and time, Fridays at noon! — Spigelman touched on all of this work, ending with interesting insight on his work with LOUD at a time when LGBTQ youth seem in particular peril these days.
Cory Greenwaldt (aka Slinderella) rehearses his act.
INFO: WHAT: “The Dollhouse Revue,” hosted by Nicole Lynn Foxx and featuring Slenderella, Wednesday Bonet Iman, Ivy Dripp and Pussy Hertz WHEN: Friday (May 27), 10 p.m. WHERE: Golden Lantern Bar, 1239 Royal St. ADMISSION: Free
As part of a series we’ll call “Exit Interview,” I’m cleaning out the reporter’s notebook from my coverage of Vinsantos’ New Orleans Drag Workshop Cycle 4 Draguation (for PopSmart NOLA, including a look at the rehearsal and show, and for the New Orleans Advocate), starting with thoughts from Cory Greenwaldt — aka Slenderella. Slenderella makes her professional debut Friday (May 27) in the “Dollhouse Revue” show at the Golden Lantern in the French Quarter. Here, in his own words, Greenwaldt discusses how he came to the workshop and his drag persona:
“Draguation night was one of the most liberating nights of my life. I’d have to say that it was on par with taking my final exams during my last semester of university. We spent two months constructing these drag personas and acts, with the help of Vinsantos, all for one special performance for our families, friends and fellow drag lovers. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything … however, I do wish the air conditioner was on full blast. We were melting backstage.
“Not only did the Drag Workshop provide a positive space to expand our creative minds, but it also gave us a networking platform. The class had such a diverse crew of talented people. Whether they were experienced performers, makeup artists, body painters, costumers, sound engineers … everyone brought something to the table. I learned valuable tips of the trade and how to properly communicate with future promoters, event coordinators, which in turn will help me with my future gigs/performances. I basically owe everything to our Headmistress Vinsantos DeFonte!
“He would probably snicker if he heard my say this, but he really was an inspiration to us all, which is why I wanted my performance to reflect that. At times during my number, I found myself giving him most of the attention rather than the crowd. He was front and center with the biggest smile on his face and I couldn’t help but show him how grateful I was. He’s one of the most talented artists in the New Orleans community, and I’m incredibly grateful for the time and effort he put into this. I can’t imagine the patience it took to get a bunch of artists to finish things on time!
“The character Slenderella is a play on how skinny, and well, slender I am. I used to be very self-conscious about my slender frame, which is why I wanted to use Slenderella to help me feel comfortable in my own skin. However, she really is an extension of my personality. Silly, bubbly, a bit ditzy, and a laugh you can hear a mile away. I chose to do the song ‘Primadonna’ by Marina in the Diamonds because it perfectly represents Slenderella (and myself) as a whole. It truly represented my inner need to be perfect in an imperfect world — which can be dangerous at times. I’ve learned through the creation of Slenderella and the Drag Workshop that not everything is perfect, and at times, I just need to loosen up and have fun!
“Prior to the workshop I studied art history and architecture through the University of New Orleans and Charles University (Univerzita Karlova v Praze) with a concentration in Central and Eastern European art and architecture. I finished my studies and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in fine aArts on December 18, 2015. In all honesty, I wanted to do the workshop in order to find a creative outlet for myself. I’ve always had a passion for the arts but never really found an avenue that best suited my creative abilities. Drag became a way to express my inner creativity and personality through a developed persona, while earning some dollar bills. It turned into a way for me to create a living piece of art and become a fierce drag performer.”
Hinton captured the craziness in the dressing room as performers furiously applied makeup and costumes to prepare for their big debut in front of the packed house at the AllWays Lounge on St. Claude Avenue.
Each of the 10 performers presented a distinct drag persona, which I sneak-previewed earlier. I’ll have a more expanded look at the show and interviews with some of the performers to kind of clean out the reporter’s notebook, but here’s an excerpt from the Advocate piece, noting the participation of the tall, lanky Cory Greenwaldt, who put his 6-foot-3 frame to silly affect:
Greenwaldt said he was looking for a way to feel less self-conscious about his slender 6-foot-3 frame, and thus invented Slenderella — “silly, bubbly, a bit ditzy, and a laugh you can hear a mile away.” Slenderella swayed and flopped her away around the AllWays Lounge stage, wrapped in a long white wig, a white leotard with matching stockings and a blue plastic miniskirt — all to the tune of “Primadonna” by Marina and the Diamonds. “It truly represented my inner need to be perfect in an imperfect world, which can be dangerous at times,” Greenwaldt said after the show. “I’ve learned through the creation of Slenderella and the drag workshop that not everything is perfect, and at times, I just need to loosen up and have fun.”
Working the AllWays Lounge stage to the sounds of “Bring On the Men” (from the Broadway musical “Jekyll & Hyde”) on a recent weeknight, the aspiring drag queen struts and preens and glares at the audience, shifting from the main stage at various times to the piano at left or over toward the right. When she’s finished, Kedavra’s audience — fellow students in the fourth iteration of the New Orleans Drag Workshop — applaud wildly both out of support and awe.
As the applause fades, a voice booms out from the back of the room, up in the sound booth.
“I actually have some notes for you.”
It’s Vinsantos DeFonte — aka the New Orleans performer Vinsantos — who oversees the workshop and never misses a detail. This is where the “nearly” in “nearly flawless” is revealed.
“I feel like you straight up stole two of Jassy’s moves,” DeFonte says, noting for starters a cartwheel that Kedavra did, almost as an afterthought. But it’s a move heretofore only done by Jassy, one of the other classmates, and DeFonte is clear about each act of the 10 students being singular and unique. No borrowing allowed. Jassy smiles, almost as if to say, no harm done. Still, DeFonte concludes with, “I’m just letting you know you stepped on some drag toes.” With that, and a note to use the main stage more, Kedavra’s last rehearsal before the class’ “Draguation” day on Tuesday (May 10) looks promising.
That Kedavra seems promising shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. Her creator, 26-year-old Dane Baxter, also happens to be one of New Orleans’ most popular and in-demand body-paint artists — a fixture at BUKU Fest, Voodoo Fest, Jazz Fest, you name it, whose social media presence includes more than 31,000 followers on Instagram. (He took his drag name from “Avada Kedavra,” or the “Killing Curse” from the “Harry Potter” series. He’s a fan, and has the shoulder tattoo to prove it.)
Several of the other classmates also are known as creative in other areas as well. There’s Angie Zeiderman, who as Angie Z was voted one of New Orleans’ most popular burlesque performers (and a talented vocalist) but in this workshop has created the hard-rocking persona Shebrew Internationale and will lip-synch to Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” And there’s Logan VanMeter, who as Danger Rockwell is one of New Orleans’ few regularly working boylesque performers.
Then there’s Cate Swan, an in-demand makeup stylist by day who on Tuesday night will transform into Tarah Cards, dancing a crazed dance to Diamanda Galas’s “I’m Gonna Live the Life.” And, perhaps most unlikely of all, there’s AJay Strong, a recently transgendered male who will revisit his previous feminine life onstage as a whip-cracking Boy Gorge performing to Marilyn Monroe’s “Teach Me Tiger.” This run-through is being done without costumes, but it’s their last time to get their act just right.
This Cycle’s class is a study in diversity: There are men, women, transgender, white, black, gay, straight, performers from other disciplines, and newbies. Like many drag queens, several tuck their junk, while others pump up their boobs, and yet another creates the illusion of junk — with a codpiece.
“My drag family was always a healthy mix of men, women and trans folk that were exploring their identities on and off the stage,” DeFonte says. “I’m glad I was raised in this kind of drag world. If there’s one thing that drag should not be, is narrow-minded.”
While there are plenty of complete newcomers to any kind of stage performance, the New Orleans Drag Workshop also gives New Orleans artists a chance to tap into something different, to add another arrow in their creative quiver.
But it’s also helped fill New Orleans nightclubs with fresh drag talent; “draguates” of the workshop over the past three years include Hannibelle Spector, Liberaunchy, Dasani Waters, and Neon Burgundy, a performer and producer known for such shows as the monthly “Gag Reflex” show at the AllWays Lounge.
“I’ve had many talented performers pass through the Workshop,” DeFonte says, but also notes, “The best thing about the Workshop is that it is completely transformative. It works for the people involved, including myself, on so many levels. It’s definitely a confidence builder. Whether or not a student chooses to pursue a career in drag, they leave the class changed.
“The group dynamic really creates a family style bond,” DeFonte adds. “Each of the cycles have their own connections, and most of them draguate having made life-long friends.”