The Fresh Meat Festival (FMF) of Trans and Queer Performance is back, dynamic as ever in this twenty-second iteration, returning after a three-year hiatus. I caught two of three programs, Programs A and C. Prioritizing safety, accessibility and inclusion means FMF has chosen to limit the audience size, and asks that all patrons wear KN95 masks. This allows for an unconventional roving format with performances taking place in various areas of Z Space’s canning-factory-turned-theater, affording us an up-close-and-personal experience.
Drag queen Churro Nomi welcomes the audience to opening night of Fresh Meat Festival 2023; Photo J Norris
Two performance areas, a stage, and an installation gallery with a performer’s catwalk/balcony above, are located in Z Space’s high-ceilinged lobby. Much of the audience stands or is seated on the floor to view acts in these spaces, lending a clubby, cooperative vibe to the proceedings.
Angie and Audrey performing their high-energy fusion of Latin and African dance, get the audience primed for fun as opening act of Program A on the lobby stage. In sheer velvet-inlay body suits and over-the-knee strappy metallic boots they cartwheel and strut. Giving us fierce faces, meeting chest-to-chest, hips gyrating, they are a well-matched and powerful duo.
Opening Program C, Comedian Natasha Muse’s hilarious set has me laughing out loud throughout. With wonderful deadpan delivery, she uses wordplay and universality to connect with the audience. Most memorable for me was her likening living with a child to, “having a tiny, naked, sticky, roommate full of life, who might kill themselves at any moment.” As the giggles start to settle, she adds, “and you would be blamed.”
Historical images of trans Black women line the lobby’s gallery wall, research for Andrea Horne’s book project, “How Black Trans Women Changed the World.” Horne gives us a tour of her muses, among them the “Socialite Bootlegger” Lucy Hicks Andersen and Mrs. Nash, a Black and Mexican transwoman known for her tamales, who was General Custer’s laundress for many years. Mother George, midwife for a thousand babies, came west from Maine in a covered wagon, a rarely acknowledged Black pioneer. Horne’s stories bring each transwoman to life, giving them the long-overdue interest and respect, they deserve.
With plants, mirrors and a quilt of brightly colored women’s clothing, artist Becca Dean creates an engaging backdrop for their aerial dance. In the foreground, along the edge of the audience floor seating there are tall potted grasses. decorated with Polaroids of Dean, vials of testosterone, and syringes.
Looking up we discover Dean atop the exhibit, camouflaged amidst the greenery and dropping handfuls of flowers and petals which float down to pile on the quilt. Tethered to the rafters, they run horizontally along the wall. Twisting as they travel side to side, they peel off a mesh jersey, revealing bare arms. Dangling upside down, they open their shirt, causing petals to cascade from their chest. Their newly remade image stares back from the mirror in which they pause to peer. Metaphors of blooming, of becoming one’s natural self, resonate with me, as Dean tumbles and soars. During the break I hear someone refer to a possible future showing of this piece, which I will definitely find a way to see.
Both programs move us to the Main Stage for their second half, which despite the more conventional formal theatrical presentation style, is as varied and exciting as the first acts. From Shawna Virago’s country lyrics to Janpistar’s contemporary dance, each performer does their artform proud. Aerial hoop performer Myles Hochman weaves their limbs through the rotating hoop, holding a stiff-torso pose parallel to the ground with only an elbow folded over the apparatus for support. They thrill the crowd with their strength, flexibility, control, and grace as they dance high above the stage.
Following a bumpy disability-focused comedy set that seems to make the audience nervous, King LOTUS BOY screens several tongue-in-cheek public service announcements featuring queer and trans persons with disabilities sharing all the strange and unhelpful ways ableist people treat them. The video about the experience of being visibly-disabled-in-public which features Glamputee/Alex Locust is particularly strong. As a former venue manager, I can see these videos, along with the LOTUS BOY’s original-song music-video, titled “Accessibility,” being very effective, as well as entertaining, training tools for frontline staff.
Her voice rich with emotion, Elena Rose (Program C) delivers her lyrical “Dirty-Handed Love” with the conviction of a preacher. She evokes the ways that the queer and trans community show up for their own, in sickness and in health, reminding us that “the work of love, the true work of love, is slow and filthy, and full of waiting up nights and changing sheets.” Her sermon ends with the prayerful phrases, “May we love each other enough to be unclean, and may we be enough,” a benediction which sticks with me as any good sermon should.
At a time when anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is prevalent across the county and hate crimes are escalating, it is heartening to be part of an FMF audience once more. To carry on nurturing new talent, investing in each other, and amplifying the voices of trans and queer artists is more essential than ever. We are fortunate that FMF producer Fresh Meat Productions continues to step-up to do this important work in our community and beyond. If you missed the live performances, they were all recorded and will be available later this summer at www.freshmeatproduction.org.
Andrea Horne's exhibit of Black Trans Women part of Fresh Meat 2023 at Z Space
Review by Jen Norris, published June 21, 2023
Fresh Meat Productions presents the 22nd Annual 2023 FRESH MEAT FESTIVAL of transgender and queer performance June 14-18, 2023 — Z Space, San Francisco
FRESH MEAT PRODUCTIONS STAFF:
Founding Artistic Director: Sean Dorsey
Managing Director: Eric Garcia
Director of Operations: Shawna Virago
Production Director: Melissa Lewis Wong
Communications Director: Sarah Taborga
Production Coordinator: Heidi Erickson
Graphic Designer: Den Legaspi / arc & type
Development Director: Zach Kopciak
FRESH MEAT FESTIVAL TEAM:
Stage Manager: Jessi Barber
Lighting Designer / Lighting Operator: Emma Rodrigues
Sound Engineer / Sound Operator: Jules Indelicato
Assistant Stage Manager: Heidi Erickson
Z Space Tech Director: Colm McNally
Electricians: Emily Paulson, Courtney Carson, Joe Krenn, Elle Ghini, Tommy Castrillo
Front of House: Kat Cole, Syd Franz, Aviya Hernstadt
House Music mix by: Héctor A. Jaime
Photographers: Kegan Marling, Gwen Park, Danny Hernandez
Videographer: Lindsay Gauthier / RAPT Productions
ASL Interpreters: Pilar Marsh and Juan Ramirez
Program A - Wed June 14 @ 7:30pm Thu June 15 @ 7:30pm (WITH ASL)
Angie & Audrey: Barrio choreographed & performed by: Angie Egea & Audrey Guerrero; music: ‘Barrio’ by Yendry
Andrea Horne: written & performed by: Andrea Horne
LBXX performed by:LBXX; music written by: Gyasi Curry, produced by Corey Walles & Aaron Edwards
Myles Hochman: Emergence choreographed & performed by: Myles Hochman music: ‘Goliath’ by Woodkid
King LOTUS BOY: Accessibility Is No Joke: Stand Up/Sit Down/Lie Down Comedy & Music with King LOTUS BOY music & lyrics by: King LOTUS BOY performers: King LOTUS BOY, The Dragon King, Glamputee/Alex Locust, Iman, JanpiStar
Janpistar: Liturgy Choreographed by: JanpiStar Music by: Miles Lassi Costume Design: JanpiStar
Program C Sat June 17 @ 2pm (WITH ASL) Sun June 18 @ 2pm
Natasha Muse: Untitled Stand-Up #42 written & performed by: Natasha Muse personal assistant: Cynthia Frusciante
BANDALOOP / Becca Dean: _____FORMER directed & performed by: Becca Dean music: Ben Juodvalkis costume design: Wailana Simcock assistant director: Melecio Estrella rigging: BANDALOOP
transcriptions01: nwaveformb created & performed by: transcriptions01
Shawna Virago: The Monk, the Showgirl & the Curveball Artist words & music by: Shawna Virago
Elena Rose: Dirty-Handed Love written & performed by: Elena Rose
NEVE: Man-Eating Monster created & performed b