There are changes, and then there are changes. Sister Spit, that resolutely all-girl spoken-word extravaganza, has made a couple of alterations since we saw it last. They've added circus freaks, a hip-hop band and boys to the mix in their current incarnation, a twisted literary roadshow operating under the alias of Strombolli's Island of Donkeys and Dolls. Co-founder and novelist Michelle Tea brings this strange mélange of performance, music and reading to Chapel Hill this weekend.
By now, sharp-eyed film buffs will have caught the intentional allusion to Pinocchio in the roadshow's assumed name, but its creators tell us this celebration of the underdog in art, music and culture is equally inspired by the broken-down playthings on the Isle of Misfit Toys. The effect, according to Tea, is a celebration of "freaks and misfits, underdogs and tomcats, outsiders and infiltrators."
Such roles aren't alien to the disenchanted labor organizer, anarchist and radical dyke who has chronicled her own pilgrim's progress through the San Francisco lesbian scene in two lightly fictionalized novels, The Passionate Mistakes and Intricate Corruption of One Girl in America and Valencia.
At one point in Valencia, Tea writes about returning home, girlfriend in tow, to revisit her Catholic grade school--for Bingo night. Sex in her sixth-grade classroom proves a good antidote for years of religious torment.
Tea's writing spares no one, including herself. But despite dark scenes of prostitution, drugs and unstable relationships, Tea comes through with an unrelenting humor and searing honesty that bridges the personal and the political.
Her latest novel, The Chelsea Whistle, constitutes a prequel of sorts to those dauntingly autobiographical works. It details the dark and light revelations that ultimately propel a high school Goth girl out of the dead-end "inner suburb" of Boston's Chelsea neighborhood. Tea will read from The Chelsea Whistle during the performance.
So what's with the boys, already? Meet MC Katastrophe and MC STD (Something Totally Deep). Together, they're The End of the World, an explosive and "socially righteous" queer/trans hip-hop duo whose, um, credentials include "CandyAss," the theme song to the lesbian porn film Sugar High Glitter City. The song was nominated by the trade journal Adult Video News for Best Soundtrack--but the group lost to Snoop Dogg.
Bucky Sinister, author of King of the Roadkill and Tragedy and Bourbon, has been called "a master of contrapuntal cyberpunk." The grotesques that populate his fantastic prose slam-segue into the wistful, authentic studies captured in his poetry. Plus Sinister hosted San Francisco's notorious Chameleon poetry readings--the open mike in that city most likely to be raided by the cops.
Triangle audiences will also hear from Midwestern poet Ricky Lee. Her work has been likened to "Charles Bukowski--if the man had had a social consciousness."
Dancing, raving, chanting, changing: It all would be just another night out with the freaks--if they didn't challenge us to be honest with ourselves, and join them.