Go Deeper Happy Hour on the Fringe: Sally Ollove

Happy Hour on the Fringe: Sally Ollove

Posted February 3rd, 2021
The Bearded Ladies recently assembled a superhero team of performers to bake a fresh ‘poison cookie’…but what does any of that even mean? On this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe, Zach sits down with resident dramaturg Sally Ollove to find out! Tune in for some insight into the role of a dramaturg, the history of cabaret, and how it all culminates in Get Pegged!

Zach Blackwood: Hello and welcome to Happy Hour on the Fringe. FringeArts is Philadelphia’s premiere presenter of contemporary performing arts. I’m Zach Blackwood, an artistic producer here at FringeArts, and today I invite you to pour something up and enjoy our conversations with some of the most imaginative people on this plane of existence. Today I’m joined by Sally Ollove. Sally is a Philadelphia and Seattle-based director and dramaturg. She’s the Associate Artistic Director of Philadelphia’s Bearded Ladies Cabaret, an interdisciplinary troupe of artists who reinvigorate and redefine the form of cabaret in the 21st century by fusing it with theatre, opera, and dance. This year the Bearded Ladies Cabaret is bringing you Get Pegged Cabaret, featuring Tareke Ortiz, Veronica Chapman-Smith, and Emyne—as well as Sophie’s Sucre—and will be presented via Zoom on Friday November 13th, and it is ‘pay what you can’. The Bearded Ladies always center accessibility in the work they do, and I’m excited to talk to Sally some more about that so hi and welcome, Sally! And since this is Happy Hour on the Fringe, our first question is always “What are you drinking today?”

Sally Ollove: Right now I am drinking a lapsang souchong tea, and I’ve got some water because it’s important to stay hydrated. 

Zach: I’m in the same boat. I had my morning coffee and, you know, dehydrated myself, so now I’m just drinking a lot of water. And then I’ve got the BLK and Bold chamomile tea which is very very nice. I really appreciate it. So Sally—just to ease in here—we’re doing a deep dive on the Bearded Ladies and on your role there. Just so everybody understands, the Bearded Ladies is probably the most important partner to FringeArts in Philadelphia; I mean we work together quite often and have found that we can both more deeply contextualize some of the work that we’re trying to do when we kind of join hands. And Get Pegged is a long-running program that we collaboratively make together. I want to zoom in on your role within the Bearded Ladies and, kind of, your practice and pedagogy a little bit. So Sally, you’ve identified yourself as possibly the world’s only self-identifying cabaret dramaturg.

Sally: Oh, it’s not true anymore! I’m so excited to say there is a second cavalry dramaturg. 

Zach: That’s amazing news! So what is a cabaret dramaturg, for all the people at home. 

Sally: So I would say a cabaret dramaturg is somebody who works with cabaret artists who are often solo creators (or creators who work with a very close-knit group of collaborators) to help them think through the structure of what they’re making and the context in which they are presenting their work. I think a good language that we’ve started using is that I’m a thought partner, so when cabaret artists come up with ideas about their work, I sort of work as a sounding board and a provocateur sometimes to get them to push further. And sometimes, with cabaret artists, that’s also a boundary setter, because cabaret artists are usually very good at being their own, like, provocateurs, and so sometimes the role is actually more being like, “That’s a very interesting direction that you want to go into. Can we talk more about what the impulses are behind that and, like, what the the kernel of the idea is to see if the, like, cool thing that you want to do (or the offensive thing that you want to do) will have the impact that that you wanted to have?”

Zach: That’s exciting, and it’s a cool line to walk, because it’s really creative and there’s also a deep kind of historical appreciation that exists within it. And cabaret history is deeply exciting, you know, in the way that it kind of follows social politics as well as history, and that’s really really cool. That’s a very cool job to have. So there’s another cabaret dramaturg in the world; how recently did this happen?

Sally: I met her only at the beginning of quarantine. I would say her work is more in the kind of cabaret that is musically based, so using The Great American Songbook and claiming new additions to The Great American Songbook in some ways. so definitely more of the, like,  piano getting dressed up at the microphone, kind of, as opposed to the sort of politically-driven, often very drag-based and theatrical version of cabaret that I do. 

Zach: Cool. So I wanna zoom in a little bit, just on the history of the Bearded Ladies cabaret,  just some background in the organization for those folks, you know, that don’t know Philadelphia’s most beloved cabaret company. And also I’d love to know a little bit of the superhero origin story of how you got involved with the Bearded Ladies. So if you could just kind of color in those lines for people, I think that’d be great. 

Sally: Sure! So the Bearded Ladies started before we had a name, and also before I was involved, so I’m telling the origin story—I do wish John was here to tell it herself—so this is my version of the origin story, which I was not present for. And I’ll talk about how I got involved in the second. So John moved to Philadelphia. Actually, I believe ‘moved’ partially because of  the presence of Becky Wright, the Director of Applied Mechanics, and the work that she was doing. They had met, ooh, somewhere, and she had been excited (she being John) had been excited about the work that Becky was doing and the way that Becky talked about Philadelphia. And so moved to Philadelphia and started auditioning around, she thought she was going to be a musical theatre performer at the time, and so started auditioning around and got cast in some things, but I think was also trying to find her voice as a queer artist and a maker. And so got the opportunity to make a cabaret piece for a pretty—it’s bad that I can’t remember this—but I’m pretty sure it was media theatre, and that piece ended up becoming our first piece, which was about…it’s called Back in the Army, and it was…I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard about it. John claims she has footage of it, so maybe I’ll see it one day. It was  basically queering songs from World War I and World War II, and it told a loose narrative. And originally John was commissioned on her own, and she roped in some of her friends, mostly people she’d met working on other shows in Philadelphia around town; so Liz Filios was in that early piece I know, and then Rebecca Knack, who is our resident costume designer, was brought on to help fix the costumes and I think ended up remaking most of them, and a whole bunch of other folks that would later form the basis of the company. So somebody brought it to Philadelphia for like a one or two night revival, and Blanca Ziska, because John was in Macbeth at the Wilma at the time, Blanca came to see that show and then asked John if they could commission the company to make a piece for their gala. And John was like, “Oh I guess I have a company. We need a name.” And so the Bearded Ladies was born. And I think, asking about the gala, all that we had heard or all that they told was that the theme was French, and so they decided to focus on the work of Édith Piaf. And that’s, sort of, I’d say Back in the Army was the Beards first show, but the piece that we made for the Wilma gala, which later became No Regrets of Piaf Affair was, sort of, I think the place where the company really solidified as the Bearded Ladies. And also that began our relationship with the Wilma, who incubated the early years of the company in a very supportive and generous way.

Zach: Can you give people just an idea of, like, the year, you know, to know what the climate is that some of these works are happening in? 

Sally: Yeah, sure, so we are celebrating our 10-year anniversary, actually, this month, and one day we’re going to celebrate that. We had big plans but then pandemic. So this was around 2010-2011, and then they’d made a couple of other pieces that premiered in the Wilma lobby, and then I met the company in 2012. I had been doing some work, just like around town as a freelance dramaturg, that had connected me with Liz Filios, who was a Bearded Lady at the time, and Mary Tuomanen, who was a Bearded Lady at the time, both founding members of the company, and they had invited me to see a couple shows. And so I showed up and I think the first show I saw was the James Bond 007 Cabaret, which I loved the energy of, and after it was over I went up to Mary and was like, “I think you need a dramaturg.” And so they, both Liz and Mary, introduced me to John. And we had a talk…at…I want to say The Nodding Head, for those people who remember The Nodding Head. 

Zach: Now it’s Mission Taqueria. 

Sally: Oh, is it? 

Zach: Yes! 

Sally: Back in the day it was a brewery. And they agreed that having a dramaturg would be an interesting thing to have involved in the company. Walter Bilderbach, from the Wilma, had been doing some work with them in that regard, but because Walter was focused on the Wilma, there was sort of a limit to how much time he could spend in the room with them. And so my first show with them was Marlena and the Machine, and it was just a good fit from the start; it was a lot of the kinds of things that I get really excited about working on as a dramaturg. And because the company has always been very interested in, like, as we’re doing a deep dive, in like very deep dives, into research and historical context. Even if you don’t always know that that has happened, I think you can feel that in our performances,  especially the older pieces that were more of what we call ‘caba-plays’. 

Zach: That’s how I came to know the Bearded Ladies! Yeah yeah, I don’t know if you remember but I was working at the Kimmel Center during FIFA 2013. I started there in the fall of 2012, and was there through a lot of like the get-in for that show, and moving into this very different space and putting that together, yeah, down in Innovation Studio. And I remember the experience of seeing the premiered work for the first time and just thinking like, “This is a  really accessible way to both learn and interrogate the history of a city, like…or, sorry, the history of The Civil War.” And I thought that it was so powerful to be interrogating history and queering history in a city like Philadelphia that has such, like, founders worship, you know. To come in here and actually challenge some of that and—not even just challenge it—illuminate some of the realities of that for people was just so powerful, and it was also a lot of fun. 

Sally: Yeah, I think that’s one of the great things about cabaret, and it’s one of the things that cabaret offers as an art form that I think is crucial to an arts community, which is it has no reverence. It is irreverent if it has reverence at all. It has it for the performers themselves,  and even they are not reverent to themselves, if that makes sense. There is a lot of self-mockery in cabaret. And I think that having that ability to look at almost anything and knock it off its pedestal I think is a really powerful tool that is available to cabaret artists in a way that I don’t see happen as frequently in other art forms. 

Zach: Yeah, and it speaks very much to the environment in which it’s in, both from a societal perspective but also from a class perspective, you know. Here we are, all these performers, performing for you, you know, in this space and this other space. And what is the relationship between patron and artist, or audience and artist, and how can we complicate that and put everybody on a more equal footing in this room so that we can access, you know, a deeper political question? And I think that’s always done with a sense of surprise and delight; it’s always mostly a pleasurable experience. And I think this gets into this kind of poison cookie conversation that we’ve continued to have, and that is kind of a dramaturgical through line or  maybe an intentional through line and how the Bearded Ladies works as a company. Yeah, do you want to speak that a little bit?

Sally: Sure it does! If we’ve done nothing else, we have rescued this amazing quote from history. As you say, cabaret has also, from its founding, and I think unlike a lot of other forms, with the theatre where it started in ancient Greece…question mark? And probably lots of other places, cabaret has a very definitive start point, and that is 1881 in Paris, and from its beginning it was deliberately a place where social classes could mix on more or less equal footing in terms of being audience members. But like, no matter where you go, class distinctions are always there. The difference with cabaret is that it became a place where the French upper classes and bourgeoisie came to the cabarets in order to be mocked by the lower classes and the artists. It was something that they enjoyed. And so it became the space where really provocative things were said by the artist on stage, and sometimes by audience members, in a way that was safe. So one of the ways I like to think about cabaret, which is both a mode of performance and also a physical space—I don’t know if it’s unique in that as an art form, but it is very much tied to the spaces that it’s in—one of the things that I like to say about those spaces is that it they are sometimes safe spaces to say dangerous things, because the way that it is positioned in cabaret is that it’s all in fun, right? Like you’re there for fun. You’re having a fun night out, so, like, if somebody says something, hopefully you’re maybe a little bit more open to hear it because you’re “just having fun.” That’s in quotes. The quote that we love from Friedrich Hollaender, who was a composer in 1930s Berlin at a time where cabaret had moved from its infancy to sort of—I guess—it’s adolescence. And I think this is the time period, when people think about cabaret thanks to Liza Minnelli, this is what they think about, is the Weimar era. And in that time you had a lot of artists who were not only developing the form of cabaret but also writing about what they were doing and what they thought cabaret was. It was a big time for history buffs. It was a big time of manifestos. And so you have a lot of people writing essays that are like, “This is what cabaret is,”, “No, this is what cabaret is,”, and “This is what cabaret is.” And one of those essays that we love is, as I said, by Friedrich Hollaender, and it’s just called ‘Cabaret’, and in that he writes this amazing line that we have used as a real touchstone of our work which is, “Under the cover of an evening’s relaxing entertainment, cabaret—like nothing else—suddenly dispenses a poison cookie, suggestively administered and hastily swallowed, its effects reach far beyond the harmless evening to make otherwise placid blood boil and inspire a sluggish brain to think.”

Zach: Cabaret is a revolutionary instigant. That’s interesting. 

Sally: Another way that we think of it is that it can be used as weaponized pleasure. 

Zach: That’s powerful, and we do that at La Peg, you know, at FringeArts. In an area where, you know, this theatre has cropped up in this neighborhood that didn’t exist right when the theatre cropped up, and now we have this very intentional and—I don’t know if it’s intentional—this incisive kind of class moment that happens in our theatre with people who  go to the restaurant over and over and over and don’t know that they’re in a theatre, that they don’t know that they’re in, kind of, this revolutionary space. And over and over, we have these experiences at La Peg, where there are folks who came for happy hour, stayed for dinner, and then all of a sudden they’re getting their bill and the show starts happening around them, you know. And I just think it’s so so powerful to think about the political role of cabaret today and the conversations that we’ve had in that environment together with people who have come there very intentionally and with people who have come there in kind of an ambient fashion. So that’s always been really really exciting. And I think a lot about the human connections that John is able to create very quickly in that environment; she’s deeply adept at both making people feel comfortable and safe and then challenging what that means, and who felt safe before that was said allowed, you know. It’s very interesting. And you’ve said before that human connections are vital and that cabaret can foster those human connections, so in a time when safe human connection is made pretty difficult (like the coronavirus pandemic) and that’s, you know, further compounded by a different conversation about racial equity in our city, everything’s just become different. But I do want to zero in on, kind of, the move to a digital space and how has the Bearded Ladies reimagined that human connection through cabaret in this digital moment. 

Sally: Yeah, I think that’s a question that we’re still thinking about and exploring, and I imagine, as so many other artists are, we’re working with what we have and what is available to us. And so I think the pivot to digital space, I think in some ways cabaret artists are better equipped for it and in other ways they are less equipped for it. Maybe ‘equipped’ is not quite the right word, but I think what makes cabaret a great fit for a digital environment is the intimacy that the artists foster with their audiences. And so I think one of the forms that seems to be thriving on platforms like Facebook Live or Twitch or Youtube Live is the ability that these artists have to create very quickly, create in conversation with what is happening in the world around them, and to speak directly to an individual person. I think, in some way,  the intimacy of using your iPhone camera and, like, letting people into your living room  works very well for cabaret artists, because there’s a vulnerability there that I think works in the favor of the artists themselves and I think also in allowing the audiences to be seen or to feel seen maybe. I think the challenge, the other thing that cabaret thrives on, is audience interaction, and there is a difference in responding to a chat, which can have a delay of a few seconds, and oftentimes when these artists are performing you know it’s a one-sided camera. And some people are performing on Zoom, and I know that this Get Pegged we’ll have a Zoom; we’ll have Zoom components where we’ll be able to see each other, but in a lot of cases, especially on platforms like Instagram or Facebook Live, it is it is one directional. And I think, especially as audience members, it can sometimes be hard to remember that the energy that we receive from the artist, they are also receiving back from us, and in these exchanges I think that, even if you push that heart button or like send a thumbs up or like send a clap emoji, it doesn’t have the same energy scent that a live exchange does. And so I think that that is something that I’m sure all performance artists are missing, but I think particularly cabaret artists working in digital forms. Yeah. And then I think we’re just constantly trying to think of, like, what are the things that are working, that we get out of this medium, that we can’t otherwise, and accessibility is one. Although, as everything, we’re not fully accessible because it depends on your internet connection and it depends on your ability to find a laptop, and so we are also thinking about other ways to create that are offline but also safe as well. 

Zach: Yeah. So I’m really excited for November’s Get Pegged, partially because we might be in the midst of a constitutional crisis which is not not deeply exciting, but I’m excited for John’s insights on this moment.

Sally: I’m sure she’s excited for those too. 

Zach: Oh my gosh! I don’t want to put pressure on her, but she’s got a particular knack for  both giving us space to feel grief in moments that are challenging but also reminding us how powerful we are and what actions we can take. How are those things filtering into conversations about that Get Pegged now? Are we thinking about the election or are we just trying to focus on maybe those themes that will remain no matter what happens?

Sally: Yeah, it’s a good question. And I should say that the reason that John is not with us today is that she is off the grid at an artistic retreat but is, as far as I know, paying pretty close attention to the news. And so I was talking to her about this upcoming Get Pegged, to prepare for this conversation, and I asked a whole bunch of questions, and the answers were mostly, “We’ll just have to wait until after the election to find out.” I know that this is probably airing—I mean probably when it’s airing we may still not know who won—but I think that’s partially what makes cabaret exciting is that actually what we’re gonna do is gonna be really dependent on what happens in a few days, and that until that happens we know who else is performing, we know who our guests are, and they will all, I think, have valuable insight or space to share that will feel meaningful, whatever outcome happens. And I think, you know, I think also no matter what happens there will be work to be done, and I think that that will probably be a theme of some kind in the evening of, yeah, of what that looks like in the next four years. So the real answer is, “I don’t know”. 

Zach: I like not knowing. I think that’s kind of, you know, even more exciting. 

Sally: I mean, one of the great things about cabaret is that it is able to be incredibly responsive to moments, and so it takes its material things that happen earlier that day or even earlier in the performance, will make their way into the performance. And so I think whatever you see on November 13th…it’s the 13th, right? I’m really bad at dates. 

Zach: Absolutely November the 13th. I think we’re all just thinking about November 3rd, so it’s kind of hard to keep track of. 

Sally: Yes. Whatever happens on November 13th, I think, will have some elements of something that happened earlier that day, I mean, even outside of the political, you know. The show will be set up on our resident music director Heath Allen’s front porch, and so I’m sure that you’ll be hearing a lot from whatever is happening on Heath’s street that day as well. 

Zach: Well, yeah, Get Pegged is November 13th of this year 2020, this endless year. Definitely come out. It will be a 90 minute show—pay what you can—on Zoom. Our artists for the evening are Tareke Ortiz, Veronica Chapman-Smith, Sophie Sucre, and Emyne. We’re so excited for all these artists to join us, and I really want to kind of deep dive on all of them with Sally today and just kind of focus on what makes all these artists so special and how they all  interface with the Bearded Ladies as a company as well. How about we start with Tareke Ortiz,  whom I deeply love and appreciate? How did you all first come in contact with Tareke, and  what makes Tareke’s work so special? 

Sally: Yeah. I think it’s funny, as you were just mentioning those people, I was like, “Oh, I hope Zach doesn’t ask me how we met Tareke.” 

Zach: Oh no!

Sally: No, it’s great. So this may not be true, but maybe it will become legend that I believe John met Tareke through some of our connections in New York, possibly through the work that we’ve been doing with La Mama, or possibly because Tareke and John sometimes share a voice teacher, a wonderful woman named Barbara Maier Gustern, who teaches all kinds of cabaret artists, does a voice workout with them. And what initially attracted us to Tareke, I think, and anyone who’s met Tareke, is the heart that Tareke has is instantly recognizable, this sort of thoughtfulness and compassion and then just an, you know, incredible musical talent.  Though as soon as Tareke starts singing, you’re immediately pulled into the world that he is creating. And we first worked with Tareke as part of our Do You Want a Cookie? project, which premiered in the Fringe in 2018, and Tareke was one of the international artists that we brought together to sort of form a supergroup of cabaret artists in Philly. And since then we’ve just really enjoyed bringing Tareke to Philadelphia as often as we can, and so getting to do that this time, without having to worry about visas, is a really wonderful opportunity. And I think one thing, you know, you and I talked earlier about, we don’t exactly know what the content is going to be, because it will be based on what is happening this weekend/next week. But whatever it is, one of the key pieces of Tareke’s work that I think will be exciting is that Tareke offers us views of America from across the border as well as a window into Tareke’s own artistic world in Mexico City. I think that’s going to be incredibly valuable and an incredibly valuable perspective to hold on November 13th, regardless of what happens. 

Zach: Yeah. Oof. 

Sally: Yeah.

Zach: And Tareke is just, you know, one of the kindest people in the whole world. Like, I think, when you talked about heart, it comes through in every moment with Tareke; you always feel like you’re the most important person in the world when Tareke is speaking to you. And yeah, just like a true delight to be around. I’m so so excited to just, you know, meet with him again through the web. And I think that’s one thing that’s nice is the way that we can form these digital communities that kind of flatten space out right now and also, you know, flatten out some of the ways that space is politicized and kind of our borders right now, so that’s deeply exciting. 

Sally: Yeah, I think also one thing that we that we share with Tareke is, I think, that sometimes cabaret is not always thought of as ambitious as an ambitious art form, but I think among the cabaret artists that I’ve met Tareke is certainly one of the ones who spends the most time crafting something that is complex, musically ambitious, with ambitious ideas and complexities to them, sometimes more slowly than you would like, but always the end result is phenomenal, so I think it’ll be exciting. 

Zach: So Tareke is, you know, like a kind of cabaret artists’ cabaret artist, but some of the other people who enter this list work in genres that are not normally associated with cabaret or kind of forms that are not normally associated with cabaret. I want to talk a little bit about Veronica Chapman-Smith’s work kind of coming to us from a really classical singing background as an opera singer and, you know, just the superhero origin story of the relationship between the Bearded Ladies and Veronica. 

Sally: Yeah, we are so lucky that Veronica lives in Philadelphia and wants to spend more time with us. We met Veronica working on ANDY: A Popera, which was our several year collaboration with Opera Philadelphia that culminated in an opera about the—let me see if I can remember the marketing language—life, legacy, and impact of Andy Warhol. And, immediately, I think we recognized there were a ton of great opera singers who worked on that piece with us, inventive and really game, and I think we gravitated towards Veronica partially because she takes anything that we throw at her and makes it magical, and that versatility is something that really drew us to her work. Beards fans would most recently, I think, have seen Veronica in Contradict This, which we did

Zach: I was just thinking about that piece as you said that.

Sally: Yeah. And so that was May of 2019, and that was our sort of interrogation of Walt Whitman. And if you saw that piece you will certainly remember Veronica’s, like, show-stopping moment where she interrogates the classic world and her role in it, as a black artist, and her both love of classic opera and her frustration with the ways in which race has been negotiated in classic opera. And I think the other thing that Veronica lands that’s unique is her love of new work and her love of new opera and, like, what can be done to push the form. I mean, she’s also got a killer voice, like, if you get to spend any time in a space where she’s singing live, do it, and I’m sure that that will translate through the screen as well. 

Zach: Yeah! I’m just…the way that all these artists kind of come together to present all of these really unique optics on cabaret and on their own forms and come together to kind of collage into this beautiful picture of the form and this beautiful picture or snapchat of a form that is boundless…I don’t know. It just reminds you of, like, the breadth of this performance quality or container, you know. That all of these artists can exist within it and be so so desperate and have also this unifying character…yeah. I don’t know. I’m just… 

Sally: I think we’re, you know, we’ve been investigating for a long time, but definitely, since ANDY, about this the ways in which opera and cabaret can overlap this, you know, this art form that’s considered a high art form in opera and one that’s—I mean, I hate these terms—but in a low art forming cabaret and, like, where they intersect. And we’ve just been really lucky to have found, in our world, Veronica, and then I also think of Cookie Diorio, two artists who are opera upper trained, who are really thinking about how opera can be a tool of intimacy in a way that feels very cabaret, intimacy and play and that irreverence that we talked about. And I think finding, like again, just lucky to be in Philadelphia where these people already were.

Zach: Yeah. Oof. So, just as we’re moving through this kind of virtual lineup here, let’s talk about Sophie Sucre, or Danielle, but Sophie’s an unbelievable, Philadelphia-based burlesque performer. Yeah, can you talk a little bit about, kind of, the content and character of Sophie’s work and, you know, how she fits into the Bearded Ladies tent? 

Sally: Yeah, so I think that this is the first time that we’re working with Sophie, and we’re really excited about it, and hopefully it will be the first of, you know, many. And I think part of what we are excited about, I think, caberetian burlesque is a, I believe, like a pillar of the Philadelphia burlesque community.

Zach: Oh, absolutely. 

Sally: A member of Peekaboo Review, for folks who know that, and she has not only been making her own work but has also been working to amplify the burlesque community, and in particular black burlesque artists in Philadelphia. And I think cabaret and burlesque sometimes fall into the same place of disregard as art forms. People look at them as fun entertainment, but they are actually amazing tools of that poison cookie, and that’s something that I think Sophie plays with, the ways in which burlesque and who is performing and the choices that they’re making in their performances becomes a bit of a poison cookie in and of itself, and then also, you know, just amazing dance talent. So I think the Beards…we’ve done some work with burlesque artists in the past and, you know, we work frequently with Jess Conda, who straddles both worlds, and I think we are excited to continue to develop our relationship with Philly’s burlesque community maybe a little bit more deeply than we have in the past and excited about opportunities, like Get Pegged and Late Night Snacks, that let us do that.

Zach: Yeah. So, just as we continue going through this list of kind of superstars here, let’s talk about Emyne. Because Emyne is somebody who…the first time I heard Emyne perform I was like blown away, like, I had this feeling that, you know, you don’t get every day, you don’t get every time you listen to a person sing. Yeah, just a real powerhouse. 

Sally: Yeah, so we will be forever grateful to Anthony Martinez-Briggs of ILL DOOTS for introducing us to Emyne, so I want to just shout Anthony out for that connection. But yeah, I think sometimes you get that feeling that’s like, “Here’s an up-and-coming artist. Let me, like, grab onto that comet as it rockets away.” And so we are excited to be, you know, a small part of Emyne’s journey. So, we first programmed her as part of Late Night Snacks last year and had the experience that you described. We were later able to offer her a residency with us, where she created a music video and then, for people who watched FEAST, Emyne offered us a music video for that as well. And I have to say, the way that we got that piece is that she texted it to me, so it’s on my phone. My toddler found it and has just been, like, restarting it over and over and over and over again, and I have yet to get sick of it which I feel, like, for parents out there is like the highest praise that I can offer. She’s just…she’s just astounding, and so get in on the ground floor now. 

Zach: Yeah, absolutely. And our final artist, and most recently added to the bill, we’re so so excited about Clayton Lee, joining us from Toronto. So how did you all meet Clayton? And Clayton was a part of FEAST as well, so I’d love to kind of hear about that part as well. 

Sally: Yeah, so John met Clayton the first time that she went over for the Performance Arcade Festival in Wellington, New Zealand. Clayton was also a featured artist there, and they really connected. And I think what John was most interest…well, I think was interested in many things, and one of the things that they connected over was…it felt like…so Clayton works in multimedia and does a lot of  work with digital artistry, and John has said many times—and I think this is true—that Clayton is doing a form of digital cabaret that…Clayton’s work is offering some of that poison cookie but doing it in this way that is intimate and audience focused.And for folks who saw FEAST, Clayton is the artist, if you watched Martha Graham Cracker’s hour-ish—it’s a little bit more than an hour—Clayton’s was the piece that used  internet images and layered to ask a series of, I think, really intricate questions, and I think was one of the pieces that I’m certainly still thinking about over the course of those hours. So I think we don’t know what Clayton is making, and we’re really excited to find out. And this is another case where Clayton is based in Toronto, so it’s another case of an artist from outside of Philadelphia who might be able to offer us some perspective from across a border, from a neighbor, so we’ll get, like, both neighbors’ perspectives on what’s happening in America. 

Zach: Yeah, and no matter what happens this election, you know, we’ll all have each other, and we’ll all continue to to make work, and we all recognize that this isn’t the end of anything but the, kind of, just a coda as we kind of continue moving forward and continue all of our collective work as people. And Get Pegged is always a space that creates communities and we’re really excited to continue to do so digitally with everybody. Well, this has been a really really lovely conversation, like I said, very overdue deep dive on the Bearded Ladies and, you know, what animates this company to continue redefining cabaret in Philadelphia as a kind of love letter to cabaret around the world. How can listeners continue to support the work of the Bearded Ladies? 

Sally: Great! Well, like I said, we’re still trying to figure out how we fit into this pandemic reality, but we did buy a truck, a 15-foot truck, and it is currently being outfitted as a mobile cabaret stage, so please look out for that. We’re now able to talk about that. We will be putting that into the world when it is safe to do so, but it is coming, so keep your eyes peeled in your neighborhood. And I think people can find us on all of the usual social media places; we’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and our website is, and you can find us there and, of course, you can find us at Get Pegged on November 13th.

Zach: We’re so so excited to have spoken to you today, Sally! Thank you so much! And thank you so much to all of our listeners for joining us on this episode of Happy Hour on the Fringe. And make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and download the FringeArts app. Thanks again to our guest Sally. If you want to find out more about how you can see Get Pegged on November 13th, and find out more about Bearded Ladies, you can visit