For a second year in a row I spent an evening hobnobbing with the best and most glamorous drag queens, go-go dancers, and contortionists, aerialists, and stilt walkers as a volunteer for the Theater Offensives annual ClimACTS benefit show and auction. It’s a hugely over the top queer circus extravaganza. The evening all takes place under the big top of the Big Apple Circus, which is in town for the next couple of weeks.
In preparation for the night I made an appointment to get my hair done at my usual salon. Call time for us volunteers was 4:30pm and I just made it before it started to rain. Hopping into the changing room tent I greeted my fellow volunteers and friends. Given how much fun I reported having last year, a good number of friends signed to be volunteers this year. The tent was packed with people tightening down corsets and adjusting garter belts, bending their bodies into all sorts of shapes as warm-ups for their acts, glitter was being applied most liberally by all. I had brought three outfits, unable or unwilling, to make up my mind about what to wear. In the end I decided on a vintage pea green hand made sheath dress with pink flowers around the collar, silver shoes and plenty of bracelets, mascara, glitter, and eye shadow. I also wore new tights I bought on my way to the show. So, when were tights redesigned to go all the way up to just below your boobs? How unnecessary and uncomfortable. Jason showed up and stole the show with a black mini-skirt, bright pink tights, three inch high heeled boots, a pink wig and a muscle t that said “stonewall was a police riot”. Masha didn’t look to shabby either in pink fishnet stalkings, silver skirt and black corset.
After we were all dressed we stared, rather unabashedly as the dancers, performers and drag queens got dressed (or rather undressed), stretched and warmed up. One guy came into the dressing area in black slacks, black shirt and a red tie. Initially we all thought he was just a volunteer in a pretty slick looking out fit. But before you knew it he was stripping down to his undies (red, satin undies with a black ruffle) and pulling on black high heeled boots and a red shinny corset. Jason proclaimed that he basically wanted his whole outfit. I kind of agreed. It was fabulous and totally unexpected.
For Mahsa and I our jobs were serving hors d’oeuvres during the mix and mingle opening party before the show. It was so entertaining! We passed mini hamburgers, tiny chili dogs, pulled pork sushi (interesting is a kind way to describe that!), fried veggies, soft pretzels and more. It was fun to have a job that required us to be out on the floor talking with people and taking part in the fun. I got many compliments on my dress and shoes.
There was an open bar, which meant people were getting crazy sloppy, silly drunk. This also meant the volume of the night kept going up. The DJ played a hot mess of dance music and the go-go dancers broke it down along with the contortionists and acrobats. It was so much fun.
Eventually the guests were ushered into the big top for the main show. Luckily this meant our job was done until dessert was served so we got to take in the whole show. This included watching an amazing contortionist bend and role around the center ring, a live auction that included an appearance by Project Runway winner Christian Siriano and the auctioning off of such things as trips to Africa, back stage parties with Andy Rickter, and walk on spots on How I Met Your Mother. Crazy times. The show also included a performance by the Theater Offensives True Colors Out Queer Youth Theater Troupe. What stunningly amazing young people! They did an amazing montage of telling each others stories of struggling with the bigotry and hatred they have faced being out queer youth. They even sang True Colors, which I’ll admit it, brought a tear to my eye. They are just so brave!
The show closed with the aerialist from the Britney Spears Circus Tour (among other things) performing. It was breath taking! People actually tried to bid on him. It was cute. After the show it was time to pass dessert. The dildo shaped cookies were back this year accompanied by cotton candy and tiny donuts. I ate my fair share of donuts, believe me. Alas, this year I didn’t get a cookie.
It was with aching feet and an over full belly that we made our way to the dressing rooms to change into clothes more appropriate for biking home in. Oh, it was exhausting but it is also the most fun event to volunteer at that I know of. Plus it supports an amazing cause the works to subvert the mainstream through supporting radical performing arts.