For many, a stage serves as a realm of expression. Actors and the audience alike may gain new insights or inspirations, and by a show’s end, they may see their world through a whole new perspective. The LGBT community has used the stage for shows like “The Laramie Project” to show hate crimes involving homophobia. Meanwhile, drag performances involve both men and women and have served as a venue for freely showcasing queer and transgender culture.
Now, Prism, one of the college’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender–awareness groups, is taking a new route in its support of the LGBT community by bringing the voices of LGBT individuals to the stage with its first “Queer Cabaret,” happening Dec. 6. When the stage lights up at 7 p.m. in Hill Center 104, audiences will be greeted by social justice–related dance, monologues, poetry, spoken word, singing and drag performances.
Prism has been involved with an array of events including Drag Bingo, an LGBT In the Workplace panel, the college’s Campus Pride Parade and, most recently, Sex Fest 2014. Senior Natalya Cowilich, president of Spectrum, a group at the college that represents pansexual and sexually fluid individuals, and a performer in “Queer Cabaret,” said this particular show is offering immense vulnerability and intimacy for audiences to experience firsthand.
“I think that people will experience some almost concessionary kind of art, because people will be on stage and they will be showing a side of themselves that they frequently have to hide,” Cowilich said.
Cowilich said she plans on reciting a poem she wrote sophomore year about what it means to be pansexual. Pansexuality is attraction to any sex or identity. For Cowilich, she said her piece seeks to clarify the idenity of panseuxal people.
“I wrote [the poem] my sophomore year of college,” Cowilich said. “It’s about what does a pansexual look like. Because we have these stereotypical images of lesbians and stereotypical images of homosexual men, but what a pansexual person looks like or a bisexual person looks like is what straddles the line between the queer and the heterosexual community.”
According to Junior Daniel Fogarty, president of Prism, “Queer Cabaret” will serve as a fundraising production for Prism’s annual drag show. This past spring its second annual drag show, “Lipsyncing For Life Drag Show Goes To The Movies,” took place in Emerson Suites, and Fogarty said it had more than 200 people in attendance. In collaboration with the college’s VIC Radio and dance crew Pulse, according to to the Facebook page, last year’s show raised nearly $300 in donations for the Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBT youth ages 13–24.
Fogarty has been affiliated with Prism since the second semester of his freshman year and has previously held the positions of events coordinator and vice president. He said his backstory resonates deeply with LGBT expression.
“I identify as gay or queer, and I grew up in a really rural area that wasn’t too LGBT friendly,” Fogarty said. “So I was looking for a school that had an LGBT community. When I came to Ithaca, I decided to get really involved, and that is something I couldn’t do at my old school that I was really passionate about.”
At the beginning of his first semester, Fogarty met with Prism’s executive board to discuss its fall event. A concept for a “Queer Cabaret” popped up, and the executive board supported the idea. When the executive board spoke with Luca Maurer, Prism’s faculty adviser and LGBT Education, Outreach and Services Program Director, about the budget, getting the word out and planning the event, Maurer gave full support. Maurer said “Queer Cabaret” will have an entertaining and amusing atmosphere bound to hook its audience.
“It showcases a wide range of incredible talents our students have,” Maurer said.
With at least 10 confirmed performers joining the stage, “Queer Cabaret” is expected to last around 1 1/2–2 hours with intermission. Admission is free, however Prism recommends a $3 donation.
Cowilich said she sees America’s growing acceptance of marriage equality and said producing a show like “Queer Cabaret” will be that next step into viewing and understanding the LGBT community as a whole.
“Marriage equality is a really big issue in the United States,” Cowilich said. “But I think there’s so much more to that like building community and bringing people together.”