Drag is more popular than ever thanks to our problematic fave RuPaul’s Drag Race, but even the illustrious Ru girls have to perform in cramped bars with low stages and poor site lines. As more and more people flock to gay bars and nightclubs to see queens, kings, and everyone in between, the performers still find themselves changing in backyards or dimly lit hallways. Now that drag is hinting at becoming an industry, performers of all types are starting to take the art to higher stages without the help of WoW Presents.
Snack Theatre is one such example. Produced by horror glam drag queen Angelica Sundae and sometimes bloody burlesque star Rara Darling, Snack Theatre is an immersive bi-monthly show at the Chelsea Music Hall theatre in New York City. The show occupies a similar school of thought as Sasha Velour’s Nightgowns. Both feature more experimental styles of performances than “mainstream drag” and take those style of performances out of the 1am bar context they commonly exist in. At Snack Theatre shows start at 8:30 pm as opposed to midnight, there are plenty of seats, and everyone can see the performers weave together acts for themes like Dollhouse, and Let Them Eat Cake. The event takes the freaky performers of the queer underground out of the of dimly lit bars and nightclubs and puts them in front of Manhattan tourists.
WUSSY spoke to Darling and Sundae about the value of properly showcasing alternative queer performers as the pair built a prop for the third Snack Theatre show this Friday. Read on for an edited version of our conversation.
What was the inspiration behind Starting Snack Theatre?
Angelica Sundae: We literally got together one night, had drinks, and started talking about ideally what it would be and it centered around a lot of feeling like our performances weren’t being highlighted the way that we thought they could be.
Rara Darling: and deserved to be.
Angelica Sundae: and not just us but a lot of our friends, a lot of people in the community that put so much work into putting together a performance and then it ends up in not the most glamorous or capable space to show it off in its full capacity.
Rara Darling: I think a lot of the drag/burlesque that’s being highlighted right now, and not all of it, is very specific. You get a lot of death drops and a lot of “YAS KWEENS” and all of that, which is great! I think there’s space for everyone and don’t get me wrong I love a good death drop, but that’s not what we do.
Angelica: and that’s not what a lot of people do.
Rara Darling: We wanted to create a space and a platform for all sorts of not just drag but performance styles in the cabaret world to be elevated and given high production value and a big audience like it deserves.
And why the context of the Chelsea Music Hall instead of a gay bar, or even a nightclub?
Rara Darling: Well, Chelsea Music Hall gives us the production value that we thought was necessary for a show like Snack Theatre. They’re giving us professional lighting, professional sound, we can make the stage (look) anyway we want to. It gives us the ability to build big props that can be used. They give us a backstage area! They give us a dressing room that has tons of space and lighted mirrors. It really feels like the star treatment.
Angelica Sundae: We definitely wanted a seated show experience versus nightclub vibe.
Rara Darling: Snack Theatre is a hybrid of a theatre show and a cabaret show. There are singular acts but it’s all tied together with a cohesive narrative, so we want it to be presented as a theatre piece that’s something a little different, something that people had never seen before, and I think we’re succeeding.
How does performing change when you do a performance in a proper venue as opposed to a bar or nightclub?
Angelica Sundae: I think as performers it motivates people to conceptualize a little more. I don’t want to sound like I feel this is what people should be doing but I like the fact that we can provide an environment where it’s like “do whatever you want, like blow it out of the park, props, dancers, we’ve got all these lights, use your imagination. Create the utmost fantasy that you’ve always wanted.” A lot of other spaces and smaller clubs just don’t have the ability to blow up your idea. I think a theatre space setting is encouraging to get out of your shell, do something more, do something bigger, or do something you never thought you could do.
Rara Darling: Don’t get me wrong I will never feel above performing in little dingy bars. It’s part of our culture it’s part of our history and that’s super important but I think it’s not enough. We deserve to be seen. We deserve to be elevated. We’re amazing and what we do in the back of dingy bars doesn’t give us the proper amount of….
Angelica Sundae: It’s not even about recognition, just highlighting what we do to its fullest extent. There’s definitely something really raw and amazing about the smaller bars that we all are working in all of the time and to be able to take that somewhere else is fun.
Rara Darling: and we want more people to be able to see it. We want to be able to make this a career for people to make money and live comfortably off of this. I don’t accept that if you do drag it’s a hobby, or if you do drag then you will be poor for the rest of you life. There needs to be space for us to grow and for us to become very successful and I think Snack Theatre is trying to create a space like that.
Snack Theatre Presents: Meet Me On Mars is this Friday, July 19th, at The Chelsea Music Hall. Doors are at 7:30. Tickets are $22 for General Admission and $33.50-$44.50 for VIP. You can buy them here.