The co-founder of Our Fabulous Variety Show talks about the evolution of the arts nonprofit, which will host a Leap Year fundraiser on Saturday, February 29, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett, how drag culture has come to the forefront on the South Fork and what the future holds for OFVS.
By Kathryn G. Menu
With over 20 shows under its belt, Our Fabulous Variety Show has emerged as an arts nonprofit dedicated to all kinds of performance, from improv to singing and dance and even drag. When you and Anita Boyer first dreamed of founding this organization, is this where you imagined it would take you?
Never in my wildest dreams! The first show we put on in 2010 was a one-time performance and we really didn’t envision a full-fledged theater company emerging from that. We just kept putting on shows, started to work with more youth, became educated on how to work with youth, had demand grow for our shows and our programming and the rest is history. I like to call it a magical happening, because it happened almost organically and without us really striving for it, just working very hard for it to be the best that it can be.
Drag culture is something currently being celebrated, with Drag Queen library readings and performances across the South Fork. What was your first introduction to drag culture locally and why was it important for you and OFVS co-founder Anita Boyer to incorporate it into the Our Fabulous Variety Show programming?
My first introduction to drag culture locally was Danny Ximo of RaffaShow. We met doing a show called “For No Good Reason,” at Guild Hall and then he joined some of our OFVS productions as a dancer and actor. When he showed me videos of his Liza Minnelli impersonation and the other iconic divas he impersonates, I was so impressed. Then my boyfriend and I went to one of his drag queen performances at Page Restaurant in Sag Harbor and I got to see the real deal and it was mesmerizing. Danny is an insanely incredible performer. After that, Anita and I invited him to perform in our early variety shows and we continue to perform together nine years later. I also have been a huge fan of Rupaul since about age 12. I remember watching his music videos on MTV and VHI as a young girl and admiring the beauty, ferocity and power that drag queens often have.
Last year saw some of the older and original students of OFVS graduate high school and move onto college. It’s clear the OFVS family is just that — a family. What do you think bonds this group so tightly together?
I think it’s threefold: the longevity and the amount of time we spend with our performers not just throughout a rehearsal process but over the years; the fact that we have a lot of siblings and parents from the same family who work with us either in a production or performance capacity; and the ensemble building we do each and every workshop and rehearsal. That is one of the most important parts of creating or performing in a theatre production for me. We spend a lot of time building community, trust and love towards our fellow cast mates through warmups, icebreakers, birthday celebrations, and making sure that everyone feels included and like a valuable part of the team.
There is always a decent amount of whimsy in the original productions OFVS stages and a lot of student input in the content of the show. How important is it to you, as an arts educator, to have students become a part of the writing process?
Huge! One of my missions as an arts educator is to empower people to find their voice and share it with the world. They often don’t get asked their opinion in school or have the opportunity to express themselves through various art forms. At OFVS, we build a lot of our shows on their ideas, their original thoughts and what they currently care about or the issues they are concerned with. What they come up with is always so fascinating and a peek into their brilliant minds.
On February 29, OFVS will host its Leap Year benefit fundraiser at The Stephen Talkhouse. What aspect of the nonprofit will the benefit support? What are your needs right now?
This fundraiser will help raise funds for us to find a permanent home and studio space of our own. We have never had a home base, we are constantly renting studio space from dance and fitness studios, churches, and community centers. I think we could offer a lot more educational programming with our own space and maybe even do more shows. And it would be great to have an office to run the business side of things and to store all of my files from the last nine years! The fundraiser itself is going to be a fun night of pop up performances, music, and mingling while raising money for our theater company.
Tryouts have already begun for the group’s annual tap show. What can we expect this year?
This will be our 6th annual tap show and it will be filled with tons of new routines and show stopping dances with new scenes and vocalists bringing all types of entertainment to the stage. We will welcome back tap professional Aaron Tolson and his company, Speaking in Taps. It will once again celebrate the history of tap dance in America with some fabulous new twists and turns.
For more information, visit ourfabulousvarietyshow.org.