MESMA S. BELSARE – Oh, Mesma. Mesma, Mesma. A few years back, Karin and I were teaching a gender workshop to a group of GLBT youth with our troupe All The Kings Men. As we entered the space and looked beyond the banister to the large open room beyond, we saw there was another workshop going on, and we were told we could just hang out in a side room and prepare until it was done. None of us moved an inch. In the center of the room was one of the most beautiful women we had ever seen- an Indian woman, speaking in a calming, distinct voice, explaining the language of a native dance, every inch of her relaxed and graceful (as only lifelong dancers can be). As she moved and spoke and engaged her listeners, we were utterly captivated. I felt completely mesmerized by this woman- it was as though when she spoke, the entire room turned still for her, made room for her quiet voice… it was maybe the most tranquil moment of my life, standing in this bare giant room, silent except for the stories she told with her voice, her hands, her feet.  Peeling myself away to get ready to talk to teenagers I didn’t know suddenly seemed wildly inappropriate, like kicking over a trashcan in a quiet church.

            We came to know this woman as Mesma- Karin and I approached her shyly afterwards and were completely awkward, as though this was our one moment to meet the Queen of England we were totally, totally blowing it. I felt about 10 years old.  But she was as gracious as could possibly be imagined- elegant while totally approachable, engaged and serene and… I don’t know… honest. She was bare and honest. Later we found out Mesma is trans (it hadn’t really occurred to us before then… though this was a GLBT conference) and pushing against enormous walls in her work as a traditional native dancer. This is someone who fights, someone who engages and enlightens on many, many levels with her work, someone who comes out and stays out over and over and over. She is perhaps one of the most entrancing and graceful people I have ever met, and we are thrilled beyond belief to bring her work to our stage, and to continue to get to know Mesma and her art. 

To see for yourself, Mesma will be performing in the upcoming Bent Wit Cabaret: Grotesque on May 9th at 8pm. For tickets, hit up cluboberon.com.
 

PEOPLE WE LOVE:

At Axe To Ice we dedicate ourselves to bringing the best acts we can find to our stage and, as such, tend to have rather a love affair with the performers we book. In order to better acquaint our audiences with the people we work with and our reasons for working with them, we offer you this handy, ongoing guide to our love. This is a partial list of acts present, future, and past that inspire us, change us, or just plain twitterpate us: First up, an act we booked the second we had the theme of Grotesque! Catch them this Sunday at 8pm!


BLACK CAT BURLESQUEWe heard about Black Cat Burlesque long before we saw them. They were a unique “must see”, we were told. They were different, edgy, smart… all the words we wish would always precede “burlesque”. It wasn’t until Karin did a show at the Coolidge to mark the anniversary of Edgar Allen Poe that we were able to see them and work alongside them. Onstage, this troupe is diverse and deliciously original- they at once embrace the melancholy and yet still deliver a piece that is celebratory. (Backstage they are kind, well-organized, and inordinately agreeable- a producer’s dream!) Their passion for what they do, and the ideas they dissect, is palpable and raw—I am convinced they are delighted to revel in ideas so seemingly removed from the bounce of burlesque- convinced that the trickle-thin line they dance between obscure and inviting totally delights them—that I cannot help but get swept in to the worlds they create. And when it’s done, I have seen something totally, totally different.

For all the fluff that burlesque can get away with, we are exceedingly happy that this clever (and ferocious) troupe asserts from the beginning what is sexy to them and makes us agree before we can think twice about it.

jill.

 
Dear Boston Phoenix,

I noticed that your esteemed paper is once again accepting nominations for “Best of” awards and I wanted to address the gaping void in your categories that irks me every year- the continued omission of underground, queer, and independent entertainment that fills this city. With such strict labels on categories, there is no hope for performers and producers like Vanessa White, Artistic Director of Babes in Boinkland, who produced a show for a second consecutive Christmas season that was attended by over 7,000 people (!) and funded on little more than life savings and the faith of a cast that worked at The Slutcracker because they loved it. There is no room for All The Kings Men, who for 8 years have pioneered a new genre in the queer scene, and seem to be recognized all over the country except for Boston. Though there is room for The Steamy Bohemians in comedy categories, these singer/musician/producers have pioneered the way for neo-vaudeville in Boston, and have certainly done it on more than their incredible comedy alone. There is no room for the legions of burlesque dancers, drag performers, aerialists, physical performers, puppeteers and other creative original artists in Boston who create their ongoing vision every day. And there is no room for shows like my company’s Bent Wit Cabaret, which is dedicated to producing the best variety in this great city and committed to working with these artists with a striking point of view. 

All of these performers and producers have no funding and work for free or gamble rent whenever a show comes up, or trade amongst themselves in this flourishing community we have created. There is no sponsorship, no bluehairs, no promotional and media budget. Imagine writing a show, sewing your own costume, writing a press release, balancing a budget, creating a website… it’s amazing the skillsets you gather when you’re only you, but to be an artist you have to be all of those other things too, and work a day job to pay rent on top of it.

Boston is often compared to, and found lesser than, New York City. I choose Boston. I love this city. Here we can produce the art we want to produce. We can have a voice and a point of view, and make up the rules without fear. The independent art and theatre community has been for too long bypassed for “real” theater- and for a group of people that is so proud to continually cultivate the landscape of Boston’s flourishing art scene, it is a slap in the face to not have a place to compete in the “Best of Boston” categories. We create original, creative, affordable entertainment in this community and we rightly deserve a place in your nominations categories. Without us, I sincerely believe Boston would not be the same great city. I ask that you consider including our presence in your nominations. 

Most sincerely,

Jill Gibson
Producer & Performer 
Axe To Ice Productions

FRIENDS AND COLLEAGUES- Please pass this on to whomever you like, and let's see if we can grab our place in this fair city!
 
The following was written a couple years ago by me and updated recently to reflect more perfectly my lofty-though-visceral goals for the upcoming show series I've created with Jill Gibson, "Bent Wit Cabaret":

"We must stop crying out for a "New Theatre," waiting to be rescued by the genius of another, and look at the work that is being made right now by every artist in the field, and demand excellence, demand transformative storytelling, demand a clear and striking voice!  This "Inventive Theatre" can be found in nothing more than hard work, dedication, and a thoughtful commitment to the creative aspects of communication." - Karin Webb 2005

I want to someday be the Director and major actor/creator for a company (my company- why not start here?!) that puts out performances equal to "The Ziegfeld Follies" in spectacle, "The Carol Burnett Show" in comedic content and character variety and commitment, and with the inventive quality, skilled training, and ensemble vision that Pina Bausch brought to the stage.


Help me...  Play with me...  Support me...  Join forces!  I am here to grow, to win, and to bleed in this game!

Over and Out Love,
-KPW (aka: UnAmerika's Sweetheart Karin Webb)
Co-Creator of Axe To Ice Productions