By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
With black makeup caked around her eyes in a raccoony fashion, and hair askew, electrocution-style, Dynasty Handbag indulges in neurotic rituals and interior monologues that are hilarious, brave, and a little scary.
The creation of performance artist Jibz Cameron, Dynasty is jazzing up Dixon Place's Hot! Festival with VERTititGO, a hyper-noirish tale of a woman pressuring a private dick to find a missing person, though she's not sure who that person is. (Could it be all women? Food for thought.) Rather than call security, the largely lesbian audience has been eating up the piece, which dares to be grotesque and silly, with the nimbly funny Cameron coming off like a human Gumby with a head injury that liberates her soul.
The California-born performer went to art school, but ended up on the San Francisco music scene, where her between-songs musings led her to the New York performance world and the birth of the daffy Dynasty. The character has made such inroads—like winning downtown's Miss LEZ contest in 2005—that Saturday Night Live has ripped off the name for their own recurring character, and while Cameron's attempts to find legal recourse have left her incredibly frustrated, hopefully she can use the extra rage in her work.
Our recent talk went like so:
Me: Congrats on the show, Jibz. Are you striving for profundity or just trying to be wacky?
Jibz: I don't know what that word means. "Seriousness"?
Me: Reaching for a larger message.
Jibz: I know exactly what I'm trying to say, but I don't care if people say, "It was hilarious," and that's all they get out of it. It's a feminist message. I know a lot of women in my mom's generation that had a lot going on and got stuck in weird social structures that killed their dreams. To not do that, you have to be a lesbian or an innovative bitch that no one gets along with.
Me: Or both! In the show, you play a flower who boxes and a dream-filled waitress serving "crapple pie," among other possessed creatures. Do you ever get embarrassed up there going to such extreme places?
Jibz: Yes. I'm ashamed of my feelings. [Laughs.] I feel like that's what I like in other artists—what they think and feel, and the truth. If that can be funny, that's awesome.
Me: You're almost like a teen girl putting on a show in her bedroom for her dolls and accessories.
Jibz: It's pretty much how I was and still am. I was the kid that thought she was in a movie, with the camera always following her. It didn't come from a creative place, but from a weird, terrifying place. I was never shy. I didn't get what I needed, so I was desperate. But I was always naturally able to be onstage. I had to go through negative, shitty times of depression that killed that spirit of wanting to perform, and then it came full-circle.
Me: Ooh, negative, shitty depression? Do tell!
Jibz: I had some behavior that was dysfunctional—bad relationships, drinking too much. I still performed, but I feel the more at peace I am, the more I can focus on my work. Otherwise, you're just talking about how shitty everything is.
Me: Did you ever attempt suicide?
Jibz: Sort of. One time, I bought a bottle of pills. But slow death is something I look forward to.
Me: How did you get out of the depression?
Jibz: I take a lot of drugs.
Me: As long as you're still here, tell me how you feel about Dynasty being described as a "schizophrenic nut ball" in Dixon Place's program. "OCD" also leaps to mind. Is she?
Jibz: No. The character is more like my thoughts and feelings. Saying "OCD" is putting a label on it after the fact. I just do what comes out of me. It's a heightened version of myself. The stage seems safe. You can do a lot of shit. It's exciting to mess with people that way!
Woman, Thou Art Loose
In lieu of crapple pie, let me serve you a slice of the lesbian family dramedy The Kids Are All Right, particularly one plot aspect that initially made me queasy in my pants. (Spoiler alert! Do not read the next graph—though it's all in the trailer anyway.)
At one point, Julianne Moore's character starts cheating on Annette Bening by engaging in wildly passionate sexual activities with a male person. (Yes, the sperm donor wants to donate again!) This seemed improbable since her character had been established as lesbian—not bi—and I've never known someone in a same-sex couple to stray for a hot opposite-sex encounter. It really doesn't happen any more often than Mel Gibson buying a share in a kibbutz. Was this movieland's way of pandering to the hets by watering down a gay story courtesy of a schizophrenic nutball? Well, Moore later explains to Bening that she's still a lesbian and her indiscretions weren't about the sex at all; she just felt neglected and needed to be appreciated. I sort of bought the contrivance. Do you?