UA-49237883-1 Show Your Majesty Every Time You Walk

Footage from performance in Oakland,California
footage by Courtney Webster 
music by SSTR

Photographed by Kiam Marcelo Junio
this is the story of your red right ankle blarghity

Wu Tsang and boychild in conversation with Michelle Puetz


Posted August 5, 2014


Michelle Puetz, Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow at the MCA, sat down for a virtual chat with Wu Tsang and boychild to discuss ideas of play, collaboration, and Justin Bieber. The MCA presents their new collaboration, Moved by the Motion, Aug 6.

Michelle Puetz: I’ve been thinking a lot about collectivity and collaboration, and the ethos of collectively building and sharing ideas is something that has always struck me in your work, Wu. Can you say a little bit about the process of collaborating on this performance—how it started and how it has evolved?

Wu Tsang: The performance is an ongoing series and also part of a larger film project that I’ve been working on with boychild. It initially evolved out of “playing” around in rehearsals for the film—sometimes we play to get into the character and story—and then we decided to explore it further, to examine and disrupt the roles we inhabit as director and actor.

MP: I saw the installation of the film project, A day in the life of bliss, when I was in Berlin—it’s incredible. What kind of play are you referring to? Do you switch roles (explanatory/active)?

WT: In the beginning I was still working on developing the story and script in Stockholm and I asked boychild to help me to better understand her performance/movement. So we began exploring how her movement could tie into to her character (named Blis) and the story.

boychild: Yeah, play became a useful medium to communicate with each other.

MP: Aah, play has to be one of the most—if not the most—useful way to communicate! boychild, how does the movement in the film and in the performance relate to the story? How did you adapt bodily movements to ideas or plot developments?

bc: First, in these exercises I developed a “vocabulary” of movements that I already use to help Wu understand what each physical articulation means to me. As he developed the character and the script, we worked together to create a series of performances, many like my own boychild performances, and adapted them to the story.

MP: I was struck by the final dance/movement sequence in A day in the life of bliss. How did this evolve?

bc: In the final scene, Blis comes home from the nightclub and has a “victory dance.”Wu describes her as being “in her power.” It’s this state of being where there is full trust in your expression and emotion. It’s this final state of bliss that I seek in my performances.

WT: Yea, the last dance is definitely like the grand finale, after the character has overcome her obstacles of the day. Blis is kind of a classic sci-fi hero. I wanted to use genre to help ground what is otherwise a pretty experimental performance art film. boychild’s movement also inspired the narrative arc, because I had in mind the feeling of the ending, based on her performance, I worked backwards, asking myself, how can I build tension through plot so that this moment really pays off?

MP: Yes, this is so evident in the physicality of the movements and their expansiveness in the space … but there was something quite melancholy about it for me as well.

bc: I think there is something very melancholic about victory, coming to the end of something requires self-realization and change.

Wu Tsang + boychild on the set of A day in the life of Bliss, Berlin 2014 Courtesy of the artists

Wu Tsang + boychild on the set of A day in the life of Bliss, Berlin 2014
Courtesy of the artists

WT: Something that really inspired me about boychild’s movement, which is one of the reasons I wanted to work with her on this project, is the way that her emotions seem so connected to the movement—like there is this direct connection/expression of feeling that is not based in language. As a director, this is something I am always hoping to achieve with the actors/performers I work with.

MP: Are any of these boychild performances available online?

bc: Most of the performances that are live are only documented on phones! Which is why I’m so excited about this project—I think that Wu has an incredible talent to reproduce the energy and emotion that is an evasive aspect of the live performance.

MP: Yes, the performance in A day in the life of bliss was brutal because it felt so wild and as though it was evolving as it was being recorded. How “scripted” or rehearsed is the movement in that film or in the performance, and how much does it shift and change/base itself in improvisation?

WT: With both this performance and the film, I think it’s equally important to have a script and to allow space for improvisation. The script is meant to guide everyone (including the cinematographer for example) to get on the same page about what’s supposed to be happening at any given moment. This structure gives us more freedom to interpret, each in our different roles.

bc: The rehearsal for those scenes only existed as live performances in clubs and as conversations and the “play” exercises that are now a full performance of its own.

MP: I just started reading Seed to Harvest by Octavia Butler, and as a result have been thinking a lot about past and future worlds, telepathy, networking, and what it means to be human (or rather, what it will mean in the future), which connects to some of the ideas that I’ve been mulling over after seeing A day in the life of bliss. What have you been reading/watching/listening to for inspiration?

WT: Definitely reading a lot of Octavia Butler, China Mieville, William Gibson, Fred Moten, and I’m also inspired by my cowriter Alexandro Segade’s work.

bc: Yeah, we’ve been eating up Octavia Butler.

WT: I’ve been researching a lot on biometrics, face recognition technology, and HRI (human robot interaction).

bc: I’ve been watching a lot of Justin Bieber and pop performances in preparation for the final set of shooting.

WT: Oh yea!

MP: Recent Bieber?

bc: Recent.

MP: His messy rawness?

bc: His live performance, pop performance. In addition to Lady Gaga a few years back, Beyoncé at the Super Bowl, and Miley’s live tour.

MP: Excellent, thanks you two!

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Angelica Ross: Using tech to empower the trans* community by Matt Simonette

Angelica Ross says that she’s all about helping her trans sisters and brothers “up their game.”

Speaking at a July 20 workshop at Center on Halsted, where she introduced community members to the concepts behind her new organization, TransTech, Ross said, “It’s expensive to live the life that we live. It’s not about judging, it’s about improving your game.”

Ross, who until June ran the employment program at Chicago House’s TransLife Center, hopes TransTech can help them do just that. The organization will try to train and educate trans people in tech-oriented skills such as coding and graphic design, and channel those skills into their own businesses.

Members of the trans community face especially difficult financial and vocational odds. Many, like Ross, have faced discrimination and hostility at their jobs, provided they are lucky enough to find employment in the first place. Precious Davis, who introduced Ross at the workshop, said that trans individuals are four times more likely than the general public to be subsiding on an annual income of less than $10,000, which is significantly lower than the federal poverty line.

But Ross thinks that technology has the potential to help trans folks avoid falling into the traps of poverty. She is currently hunting for funders for TransTech, which follows business models she said are frequently employed by beauty school students.

The main ingredient participants will have to bring to the table, Ross added, is determination. “These skills are all things that can be learned.”

The key concepts powering TechTalk are empowerment, education and employment, according to Ross, who told Windy City Times, “I see programs that teach skills but not empowerment, programs that don’t ask folks, ‘Do you know that there is a system? Do you know that there is privilege? Do you know that there is power?’”

The feeling of being without one’s own power or agency is one Ross has worked hard to overcome for many years. A native of Racine, Wisconsin, before her transition, she entered the Navy, where a group of her fellow officers held her out of a window to coax her into saying whether she was gay or not. She late received an “uncharacterized” discharge. “It wasn’t an honorable discharge or a dishonorable discharge—it’s just kind of like I wasn’t there,” she told her workshop audience.

She became estranged from her family shortly after she made the decision to transition. “I promised myself I would never live my life for someone else,” Ross said.

She had difficulty keeping jobs, losing both a waitressing position, after a fight with a co-worker, and a job at a make-up counter when fellow employees were uncomfortable about sharing a bathroom with her. She realized that her brightest prospects for affording medical care she would need for her transition would be through sex work. “I never thought I would find myself in the adult industry, but I found myself there.”

Ross became involved with an adult website based out of Hollywood, Florida. The stint as a model didn’t last long, however; the website’s owner frequently asked Ross to do technical work on the site and she soon found she had a flair for computer work.

She began teaching herself computer skills using tutorials she found online, and she and her then-partner were able to parlay her knowledge into their own adult site, but the relationship and the business dissolved. She eventually ended up working at an Apple Store, then went to work doing coding for Apple from her home in Wisconsin.

Being able to work from home, on a computer, was beneficial, Ross said. “In days I was feeling not so confident because there was a forest growing on my chin, I could still log on and work.”

That independence from a traditional workplace is an important aspect of the TransTech model. “The whole basis is people can access [the work] from wherever they are.”

Ross said she has no regrets about the adult work and looks on it as a stop along the path to her real calling. “Going through that process was a process in understanding my own value. I had to say to myself, ‘These are my circumstances now, but I am worth more than this.’ No decision a trans person makes is easy.”

Indeed, she sees TransTech as having the potential to help benefit trans persons who might find themselves in situations similar to hers: “One of my hopes is that TransTech can develop harm reduction strategies around sex work, so maybe they can run a website and just do webcam work, instead of having to go out on the street.”

Ross’ main goal now is talking to individuals and organizations willing to help bring TransTech to fruition. “I need to find people with the means to donate—when the White House calls and invites you [to the LGBT Innovators Summit on July 7], you go, but I had to front the money for that ticket,” she said. “I have to watch what I spend and cut corners, but I’ve been there before.”

She knows that she’s fortunate to have a diverse enough skill set that she won’t go hungry, and hopes TransTech can help other trans folks reach that same place: “Laverne Cox said at the Creating Change Conference that trans women need to be shown love in public spaces—we need someone to say, ‘I am here because I love you.’”


Molly Brennan and Malic White for Salonathon Wrong Turn!

Friday night with thirty minutes to go before the doors to the Neo-Futurarium open, a line already snakes down Ashland and around the corner onto Foster. With patrons ranging from traditional theater-types to bros to hipsters and various types in between, it’s readily apparent that “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” (TML from here on)—the longest-running production in Chicago, which recently celebrated a twenty-fifth anniversary—is still drawing in crowds and then shaking them up in the Neo-Futurists’ signature style. 
Many know what to expect from the sometimes hectic, rapid-fire “30 Plays in 60 Minutes” structure of TML because they’ve seen it before and many more have only heard secondhand what they’re in for when attending this unique production. After entering the theater, audience members are promptly given a “menu” which lists the name of thirty individual plays, each with a unique number before it. In order to move the show along, audience members are asked to yell the number of the show they’d like to see next in the moments immediately following the end of the previous play. This results in an excited barrage of numbers being shouted from all corners of the audience in between each vignette and serves to not only jolt the audience but to amp up the action on stage as well. 
With titles like “The One Time I Didn’t Hate Kids.” and “I don’t need any help.” these brief plays range from sight gags to physical comedy to one-liners to occasional forays into the deeper aspects of the human condition. Each delivers in its own way—though the quirky comedic bits tend to work best, especially when coupled with a more oblique reference to emotional implications. 
Both the menu list and the cast change from week to week, resulting in a world-premiere every time the show is run. This gives the proceedings an air of improvisation even when it’s scripted. The actors expressly don’t play characters and though their personas might change from scene to scene they’re always fully themselves, allowing the audience to connect with them over the course of the one-hour running time. 
In August and September, the Neo-Futurists are collaborating with Salonathon (a weekly performance night at Beauty Bar) to feature a series of underground artists’ projects in the hour before TML called “Infiltration.” The first artist—Kiam Marcelo Junio—opened the series the Friday night I attended and gave an especially provocative performance involving lots of earth, water, glue and glitter. The nearly nude Junio criss-crossed a tarp laid out in the center of the performance space, tossing dirt about and looking at audience members with varying levels of intensity while a voice-over track played thoughts around traditional society and change vs. permanence. If Junio’s performance is any indication, “Infiltration” will be well worth the pre-show wait. 
And if the audience comments I overheard—ranging from sheer admiration to confused anger to questioning wonder—were any indication, this is exactly the kind of exposure that underground artists affiliated with Salonathon are seeking. (Zach Freeman) 

At the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 North Ashland, (773)878-4557, $10-$15 at the door or $14-$19 online. Open Run. “Infiltration” runs through September 26.


Taylor MacTaylor Mac (Lucien Samaha)

When you think of drag, you probably imagine, big wigs, high heels, fake Lizas and Judys, and a kind of one-note campiness.

But a lot of performers are demonstrating that drag is much more than the narrow stereotype. One of the most inventive of those artists is Taylor Mac. From his five-hour-long masterpiece,The Lily’s Revenge, to his critically acclaimed turn in Bertolt Brecht’s Good Person of Szechwan at the Public Theater in New York, Mac has proven himself one of today’s great theatrical artists, period.

For Mac, drag isn’t about hiding his identity — it’s about exposing what he looks like on the inside. “When I’m wearing my jeans and my t-shirt, that’s when I’m hiding because I’m trying to blend in with everybody else.”

A 24-Decade History of Popular Music is a decade-by-decade revue of American pop music — from the 1770s to the present — in which each of the country’s 24 decades gets its own hour. Over the next year or so, he’ll put all those decades together into one vast 24-hour musical extravaganza.

So how historically accurate will this 24-hour history be? “Oh, there’s liberties!” Mac laughs. “The 1770s is about how America was founded on booze, man-boy love, and dandy revenge.” Funny as that sounds, it’s not so far off. “ ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ was originally sung by the British to make fun of Americans, saying that they were dandies,” Mac explains. “The British lost a battle and the Americans forced them to dance to ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ over and over and over again. And that’s how it became an American song.”

Taylor Mac performs live in Studio 360 accompanied by Matt Ray on piano and backing vocals.

Bonus Track: “I Want To Go Back To Michigan” live in Studio 360

00:00 / 00:00

  1. If Your Kisses Won’t Hold the Man You Love
    Artist: Taylor Mac

    Live Performance

  2. Snakeskin Cowboy
    Artist: Taylor Mac

    Live Performance

  3. Life is Just a Bowl of Cherreis
    Artist: Jack Hylton
    Album: Music of the Lost Generation
    Label: Vintage Masters
    Purchase: Amazon
Live from WCPT studios for Out in Chicago talking bout the Neo-Futurist and Salonathon collabo INFILTRATION! Come back this week for more!

WATCHMEN #1 (Sept. 1986)Art by Dave Gibbons & John HigginsWords by Alan Moore


Lullabies, the new book by international bestselling author Lang Leav will be released September 16th, 2014. Pre-order at all major bookstores. To get a special discount now, purchase online at Amazon, and The Book Depository.


Sid Branca - Hit from sid branca on Vimeo.

Remember that time when Robin Williams crushed at Town Hall Pub…

Remember that time when Robin Williams crushed at Town Hall Pub…

Robin Williams died Monday, I met him once briefly, sat with him at a show here in Chicago. It was truly awesome, here’s how I remember it…

It’s a strange thing to say, but I remember exactly the most exciting text message I’ve ever gotten in my life. It said: ”He’s here. He is sitting with me” - Quickly followed by: ” Come over. It’s just us. I’m freaking out.”

I must have read them fifteen times and minutes later I was inside the faux wood paneled, someones Grandma’s basement, perma-dim of Town Hall Pub on Halsted, sitting at a little round table with my brother and one of our child hood heroes, Robin Williams. 

Bobby Minelli
We had heard that Jena Freidman, our friend and the host of Entertaining Julia (Sunday night at Town Hall Pub where we often performed at and never missed) had befriended the legendary comic, and the word was he might swing by. He had been around Lakeview, performing with local comics while in Chicago to do Ellen, but there was really no reasonable way to assume he would be there among the early evening Halsted jubilators, two day drunks and Wrigleyvillians. Not at Town Hall, where the lost boys and girls that made up the performers of Entertaining Julia were ourselves, often surprised with what we got away with… It just wasn’t really thinkable.

So when my brother Mark, a singer songwriter who was to be the last performer that evening, went early to set up and test sound, it was with little expectation he would find himself alone with the man whom had, time and again, enveloped us from a small TV while we lay on our stomachs on the family room floor in Ohio. 

I walked in, and though I’ve never known myself to be particularly nervous around people, was kind of a wreck. He was eagerly polite and was quiet and self contained and he looked not a little uncomfortable. I got up to get a drink almost as soon as I sat down and like a fool, I asked one of the most publicly embattled substance strugglers in pop culture history, if he wanted a drink - christ almighty I’d blown it already. He laughed once loudly, an outburst, and then replied, “I do, I want ten, but I’ll take a coke.” I brought him a coke, he already had one but accepted the second and I felt not so much a bafoon because he was so kind. Soon, mercifully, as the place filled up with Chicago comics and their friends, Jena started the show. 
I love Town Hall Pub, it has been a home to me for many years and I truly cherish the strange Sunday Night Church of the Lost, that is Entertaining Julia (still bartended by the show’s patron saint, Julia Pishko, and still the one of the best shows in the city). Back then nearly everyone I knew met there on Sunday night. Daniel Cooper, local Blueman, my best friend, and drummer in our band that constantly attempted to turn the place out, and Gerrit Lewis who would eventually found Pipeworks Brewing Company, and dozens and dozens of comics, many of whom are working prominently all over the country today. I actually had an inside joke with our crew referencing Ginsberg, in Howl, “I’ve seen the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by pitchers of PBR, a good juke box and a dark room with a microphone,” or something like that, I was much younger and apparently way into quoting the beats? Yikes. Anyway, I can’t specifically remember everyone who went up that night, but I do remember watching Williams watch them, and being wildly proud that he was getting to see Chicago’s comedic weirdos in their element.

Every major metropolis is a cultural center and has an artistic community, but I think it is the rare combination of storied tradition and a irreverent disregard of such, that creates the environment for an art form to grow. Groundbreaking comedy is one of Chicago’s finest characteristics and it sure doesn’t start in movies like Groundhog Day, it ends up there yes, but it starts at places like Town Hall Pub. I’m not a comic, but like I said, I was proud of everyone. 
Williams delighted in the performers that night, who, like always at EJ, varied in experience age, race and gender. He cackled at Puterbaugh Sisters, nudging those of us next to him with each increase in vulgarity, and he seemed truly awed to find two young ladies completely willing be every bit as filthy as he himself had been known to be. The same was true of Jena, who’s deadpan, “you guys” before every joke, always made the audience guilty by association whenever she inevitably, casually (and hilariously) trivialized AIDs. I remember he seemed genuinely grateful to her for the invite! I remember him marveling how funny he had found Hannibal Burress’ the night before at the Lakeshore Theater and throughout, he laughed, was attentive, and full of genuine support every time a new performer went up. I noticed something else too, he laughed at their jokes, the way we all did, because the room was electric with excitement and it served the comics well, but when he really laughed, when he boomed, it was because he was thrilled, by what they were trying to do, he was so visibly empathetic and understood comedy so deeply, that he was watching their actual endeavors. One time, when a joke fell very flat, he howled and said, “the balls on that one.”
Bobby and Mark Minelli
Something I will absolutely never forget, is when my brother got up to play, Robin became silent and as Mark, started to play he grew stiller, and as Mark began to sing, I remember his eyebrows raising as he turned to look at Mark’s girlfriend Emily… she just nodded. It was one of the most proud moments of my life. Robin Williams, impressed by my younger brother. He listened to the whole set, and on two occasions made up lyrics in Spanglish and gently, ridiculously, danced a salsa while sitting down. By the time Mark (who had been near vomit nervous and had to pee the entire show) finished there had been a second wave of people who arrived shuffling, panicked and squeezing, on the heels of the text messages of revelation they had no doubt received from friends already present. So when Jena made mention of an elephant in the room, named Robin Williams, the room was insanely crowded and all had begun to let themselves hope that maybe he might take the small eight inch step up onto that dirty carpet stage. 
Robin Williams walked to the front of the room and as his feet hit that stage he was off. Sure I’d grown up adoring him, sure I’d rented Comic Relief specials on VHS over and over again, sure he was the Goddamn Genie and Mrs. Doubtfire and Dead Poet Society made me feel cool for loving books, and yes I’d worn out my copy of Good Will Hunting, all true. But that was Hollywood, that was the movies, it was, we all knew, set up, on some level an illusion. And then right in front of my eyes, it wasn’t. 

He was like lightning. Elemental. He rose from the excitement that had been building all evening like a benevolent Poseidon upon a sea of laughter. The Puterbaugh’s had left dozens of props strewn about the stage and he must have used every one of them twice. And when my brother darted past the stage, finally succumbing to nature’s call, he stopped and yelled, “Hey brother! You were fucking awesome!” After that, well I just went batshit (and incidentally, my brother used that quote on the backside of his Album). He crushed, and then re-inflated and crushed again, and we were, all of us, comics, musicians, drunks and misfits, kids rolling on the carpet in the family room, enveloped by Robin Williams. 
I realize now, that part of the man’s magic, perhaps his truest magic, was that in that chaos, he made you feel safe. His empathy was palpable, however unlikely, it was mutant, huge. Whatever madness was happening, he wasn’t there to hurt you, he was there with you, to be joyful, awed and amazed, at our miraculous ability as humans, to be silly. 

The worry with a story, is that once you tell it, you lose the way it was and remember it the way it was told, and maybe, that moment becomes a victim of exaggerating tendencies, and I’ve heard the phrase man created laughter because he alone endures suffering enough to need it. But I don’t know of Robin Williams suffering, I didn’t know him, and I’m still not convinced I should write any of this down out of fear I’ll corrupt the moment. What I do know, is that I saw him entertain my friends in a tiny bar in my city, and I saw them entertain him. I saw him be big, bigger than I’ve ever seen anyone be and be small and shy moments later. I’m sad he’s gone, really sad, and maybe we have, or will, see the best minds of our generation (or our parents’ or our country’s or whatever) destroyed by madness, starving, hysterical, naked and so on… as far as Robin Williams goes, at least we saw it, and him, hell, if you were there you know, I could never exaggerate him anyway. I could tell you he turned into a Genie and flew us to the moon and back and it really wouldn’t be untrue. 
Contributing Writer: Bobby Minelli

Contributing Writer: Bobby Minelli
Bobby is a Chicago artist/performer, frequent attendee and huge Fan of Entertaining Julia.