Charm City Kitty Club presents The Sisters Quimm: Queer Fairy Tales reviewed by Sage Viscovi

Once upon a time, in a land not too far from here, dwell talking animals, evil disco queens, and transfolx in tights – but for two nights only. Such magical wishes are granted to us by the Charm City Kitty Club, a collectively run cabaret designed to foster, showcase and celebrate creative expression among lesbian, dyke, bisexual, transgender, transsexual and genderqueer individuals as well as their allies. Their goal is to serve as a catalyst for connection and a forum for discussion through the arts.

_DSC4667CKCC member, Jai Brooks, onstage

Charm City Kitty Club began in early 2002, when visual artist Kristen Anchor had just began working at Creative Alliance running CA Movie Makers. While attending a show, she and program manager Megan Hamilton met Minneapolis-native Jody Andrade whose dream was to start up a Baltimore lesbian cabaret. From there, Anchor and Andrade met up with filmmaker Catherine Pancake, Gretchen Heilman of The Village Inc., and writer Megan McShea to develop a show set for October that same year.

collageCKCC members performing their adaptations of fairy tales throughout the night

Fourteen years later, the CCKC hosts three shows a year at the Baltimore Theatre Project. This year’s spring show theme was fairy tales, and the members of the Kitty Club and its guest performers brought beloved children’s fables to life in new and unexpected ways through short skits, songs, dances, and more.

The first act to take the stage was a world music band Brinjal, who awoke the crowd with the sound of their melodic flutes, beating bongo drums, and daring cutlass sword tricks. They performed old world folk songs from  Egypt and Turkey and were joined onstage by Aubergine, a Baltimore-based belly dance troupe adorned in floral Renaissance Faerie costumes. This performance was true to the dance company’s official message, to “combine historical dance with that of magical realms, taking the audience on interactive journeys of love, monsters, shrubbery, danger, excitement, and awe.”

joyceComedian Joyce Rebar onstage

After that followed stand-up comedian, Joyce Rebar, who has performed at several venues across the country including Women’s Week in Providence, Rhode Island and Olivia cruises over the past eight years. Her act was composed of blunt stories of growing up gay, and her struggles with dating, work, and the art of aging with grace. Her frank and awkward delivery won the audience over, and she gained several knowing laughs throughout her brief act.

crysDC singer Crys Matthews onstage

Finishing off the first half of the show, DC-based musician Crys Matthews blended Americana, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and funk. Her performance was bold and complex, steeped in traditional melodies and punctuated by honest, original lyrics. Originally from Herndon, Virginia, Matthews crooned politically driven tunes regarding the LGBT community and a couple of sensual songs as well. She connected to the crowd emotionally and kept everyone dancing in their seats, giving her a very warm Baltimore welcome.

aubergine2Aubergine member Marya DeLuna with her light-up wings

After a brief intermission, Brinjal and Aubergine returned to the stage … this time props with props! Troupe director, Nina Amaya, did an Armenian dance while clicking along to the music with castanets and troupe member Marya DeLuna performed a flowing Greek dance with the use of large green, LED wings.

tylerPoet Tyler Vile onstage reciting poems

Their follow-up act was local transgender poet Tyler Vile who read a few poems out of her new compilation book, Never Coming Home. Vile is a performer and activist from Baltimore who performs regularly in the region, including DC’s Sparkle and Capturing Fire. Her poetry explored a variety of topics including recreational drugs, her gender identity, and her struggles with her physical disability. Her delivery was charming and thoughtful, and her art had a reciprocal impact, making one reconsider life personal experiences from a different context.

Finishing off the event was Brooklyn-based trans queercore trio Little Waist. They write about personal experiences, especially in navigating being female, queer, and trans, and the traumas that emerge from those identities.

“I really didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect, coming into the Charm City Kitty Club’s fairytale cabaret, but I knew I’d be seen in a way I can’t always count on, and that’s so relieving,” said Little Waist frontwoman Audrey Zee Whitesides, about their first visit as a band to Baltimore. “It was a performance where it felt like there was a chance for dialogue with other performers and the audience.”

littlewaistLittle Waist onstage

“I live in New York City, which has a larger community at least in terms of how many LGBTQI people are living here, but we don’t have anything like CCKC, in terms of longevity,” she continued. “It’s really powerful for me as a younger person to see how long they’ve kept their community vital, and I can only hope that any of the things I’m involved in back home will still be giving queers a space to express themselves a decade from now.” Whitesides also performs solo as Audrey Otherway, and currently plays in several other projects including Worriers, Mal Blum, and April Mei.

Although the transitions between acts was loose and without a crew, with coffee house-like distractions at times, it’s important to remember this is a volunteer-run organization. They would benefit from having a set crew to support them, however, the talent involved in the acts was so dominant, it kept my attention and this was only a minor issue. On the whole, the CCKC really had me purring.

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Charm City Kitty Club information: Website – Facebook

Author Sage Viscovi is a senior at the Maryland Institute College of Art and a student intern for BmoreArt.

Photos by Sage Viscovi