This episode, Eric Garcia talks about his drag performances and keeping a gritty low budget drag show in a changing San Francisco. We discuss his performance company, Detour Dance and their evolving mission and maturing body of work. We also talk about his work for Sean Dorsey, an acclaimed dancer and head of Fresh Meat Productions, a company devoted to transgender and queer arts. Finally, we get into identity and how Eric is using dance to explore himself as a person of color and as a gay man.
Hi everyone! Welcome to the Undefined: A Profile of a Generation.
[Theme Music Begins]
I’m your host, Marissa Comstock. This show is located at the UndefinedGen.com, where you can find links to our Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with episodes available through Soundcloud, Itunes, and now Stitcher. And again I’m still experimenting with format, sound quality, and also improving my own skills as an interviewer so please contact me with feedback, post on social media whatever! Any suggestion you may have, get at me.
This week I talk to my very good friend, Eric Garcia. We went to grade school together and we lived a few blocks away from each other in high school. I giggle a lot in this interview so I apologize. Eric is one of the funniest people in the world to me so it’s hard to keep it together. Eric is a dancer, he started his company Detour dance, his junior year of college with his friend Cat Cole. it’s been very successful, they put on a few performances a year with the help of grants and contributors just like you. Eric has danced with many other companies.
He’s a program manager at Sean Dorsey’s critically acclaimed FreshMeat Productions which is a performance company devoted to transgender and queer arts. It is the first and only company of its kind in the United States and they do incredibly moving performances based on issues affected the Queer Community. They also do a film festival every year in June before Pride weekend. Eric also hosts these awesome niche, drag shows at a bar called the Rite Spot in San Francisco. I’ve had the pleasure of attending one of them and it was hilarious, gritty and raw. All the good things. So this interview, first we’re going to get balls deep in Eric’s Drag show. Then we’re going to talk about his company detour dance and it’s mission as a dance company and how that mission and their performances have evolved. Then we’ll discuss identity and some of the things that Eric is exploring in himself through his performances.
I have a lot of clips from his shows that I’ve added in so I hope you enjoy! Without further ado, let’s meet Eric!
Alright, so just to paint a picture, I have audio from Eric’s last drag performance which he did after the interview and cohosted with a woman who I believe is his roommate. Her name is El Be. It was a country themed drag show, fittingly called Drag the Ho Down. Eric looks stunning with the tussled, just-rolled-in-the-hay, blonde wig. Huge blag eyelashes, a pink country dress with a pink petty-coat underneath pull just high enough so you get a glimpse of his crotch with black panties. And then! Let’s not forget the fishnets and heels and beard. Here we go!
[Recording starts playing of Eric performing at his drag show]
[Wooing and cheering]
Eric: Soooo [more claps] I’m doing a ball count in the corner and I’m 3 what about you guys? I’ve got 3. Testicle. Drag Show. So this next drag queen is hiding for their introduction. They don’t need an introduction actually because they’re my other half. Comeeee. So let’s give a big… Let’s give a big.. uhhh… ehhh.. what’s a country theme?
[Someone in audience yells Yeeeehawwwwww]
Eric: so we’re going to give a big yeeeehawww to Miss El MNOPRSTUV Q. One, Two, Three.
[Audience yells yeeeehawww]
Marissa: So Eric! Let’s talk about your drag show
Eric: It’s uhhhh we like to call it, like, a curated cabaret of people that are like interested in doing anything drag. Like, doesn’t have to be any of those things that what we think of drag. And like, there’s this already incredible drag scene in the city and I feel like, [laughs] I’m their like weirddd like zit on their back. [laughs] Like the drag scene in San Francisco is already alternative and they’re doing amazing stuff and I’m like yea, I’m part of it.’
I’ve been in this topic, actually, of nostalgia, um, nostalgia of San Francisco and being a young person and having moved to San Francisco in… hmm.. 2007, and being like, already have some feelings about how much it has changed. But really not knowing how much it really really has changed for my elders, or whoever has been living there longer than I have. And so, this idea of missing a city, missing a culture that I was never really apart of and so doing this event really make me feel, in this really tangible way, like this is like that thing that I love about San Francisco. It’s a free event, it’s fucking weird, like you’re walking down Folsom Street and you see a bunch of weirdos dressed in like horrid drag and making tons of people laugh and it’s like yea, it’s a sweet little gem. And we don’t like to advertise it much without.. minus facebook but we don’t get any news [laughs] and yea it’s like me struggling to hold on to something and being really nostalgic for this time that I wasn’t really apart of.
Eric: And being inspired by what’s already happening in this city like I said, there’s like this already like amazing, robust, weird, drag scene, art scene, contemporary dance scene in the city and I’m just like, clearly so inspired by it.
Marissa: Wait what is the name of your persona?
Eric: So, it changes every show just because I can’t decide but it’s usually Schmeg Bundy [Laughs]. that’s what it usually is. But I haven’t landed on one. Last one was Taylor.
Marissa: Just Taylor?
Eric: Yea, just Taylor. ummm. This one, I don’t know yet. I was thinking Gummy Lisp or something like that.
Marissa: Oh that’s good.
Eric: But just, you know, Country Themed. But yea, it’s going to be an evolving thing. We’ve done, this will be our 5th one.
Eric: Um. But we usually do, the very first one was because of my 25th birthday two years ago and it was fucking hilarious and like the turnout for that was incredible. They put a chair in the middle of the bar front row for me and I was just like… Melting off my seat because all my friends stepped up and they all don’t do drag. They’re all just regular performers that meant that they delivered [laughs] so well! They were like, highly choreographed, so theatrical.
Marissa: Because your brother I saw was like on the list.
Eric: Yea [laughs] yea, he totally showed up in drag. Having a gay brother in the city has been a blessing and we usually go see drag shows. Back in like 2011 to like 2014 we were like seeing drag shows every week. We were just like, going out and being hella gay together and now he’s doing drag numbers in my show when he can. It’s fucking hilarious. And so like our mom is in the front and she’s like ‘I love you. you’re so good at everything. [laughs] And I’m like what is happening while I’m in a jockstrap twirling tassels off my ass cheeks. It’s like the most seedy, underbelly of drag ever. Like, I keep my beard on. [laughs] It’s a bunch of hilarious people.
We did a Valentine’s Day show.
Marissa: I went to that one!
Eric: Oh Sweet! That’s right. And Mia came to that too!
Marissa: Really? This year? Oh! I went to the one last year
Eric: Yea we didn’t do a Valentine’s day show this year, this will be our first one for 2016. The theme is Ho Down.
Marissa: This next one?!
Eric: Yea, the full title is ‘Drag the Ho Down.’
Marissa: Drag the Ho Down [Laughs] That’s awesome.
Eric: It’s clever.
Marissa: I’m so slow. I had to say the whole sentence.
Eric: Write it down, get it.
Marissa: That is clever.
Eric: Yea, we’re hesitant to call it that but we already did. It’s a facebook event now. [laughs] We were like, this might stir up some people [laughs].
Marissa: Well your political career is totally over.
Eric: Shit. Well ya, know, it’ll be a safe space for people to explore whatever that is.
Marissa: You know what it is before you come.
Eric: Yea, it’s at this like, amazing little gem, as you know, it’s at this straight, it’s not even a straight bar but it’s definitely not a gay identifying bar.
Marissa: There’s tablecloths.
Eric: There’s tablecloths and the people who own it are incredible. Her name is Annie and it’s called the Rite Spot on 17th and Folsom and she just like loves us and brings us back and is like ‘More, more’ and I’m like okkk.
Marissa: Well it packs the bar and you, like, the Valentine’s Day one, I invited everyone I knew and I’m not joking, 25 of my friends showed up and half of them couldn’t get in because it was so packed. and I was like “Awesome! Eric!”
Eric: Yea that was the first time that ever happened. Usually it’s like. We’ll get a bunch of randoms, going to get an after work whisky ginger.
Marissa: oh really?! yes.
Eric: And we’re just like those crazy queers [laughs] dancing on the piano and playing ragtime forever.
Marissa: I know, it’s so from the past but it’s perfect for drag.
Eric: That’s what made me fall in love with it and reach out and it’s across the street from the theater I perform at pretty frequently. It’s across the street from ODC in the Mission so we’d always go there for drinks after the show. For my birthday I was like wait! I want to do this amazing drag show and then I reached out to Annie and she was like fuck yes! So a bunch of my friends are not drag queens. I think we’ve had like two professional drag queens come and do it.
Eric: Yea. And like, when they perform everyone is like “OH MY GOD!” and I’m like “I’m the host” and I go up there it’s like “cough.. cough.. cough.. clap.. clap” [laughs] like I can hear cars driving. It’s the worst.
Marissa: I was so moved by Pepto Bismal.
Eric: She’s coming back! Her theme is Pepto Bizmarquee. She’s a crowd fav.
Marissa: When she poured peptobismal over herself.. I felt things
Eric: While eating fried chicken
Eric: Yea, no she’s a really good burlesque performer. Yea, she’s one of my favs
[Break to Marissa Narrating]
With that we’ll cut to the end of Pepto Bizmarquee’s permformance. She’s covered in blown-up balloons. She’s dancing around popping them, till only 4 are left. Two for her boobs and two for her ass cheeks and black tarp is on the ground covered in lunch meet.
[Recording of performance by Pepto Bizmarquee at Eric’s Drag Show]
Claps, Cheering, wooing
Eric: Pepto Bizmarquee!
[More Clapping and Cheering]
El Bey: I was going say, In case you missed it, it was straight up lunch meat, not white chicken breast. Straight up lunch meat.
Eric: It was popcorn chicken.
El Bey: And Corn. So there is a reason that we no take an intermission after Pepto Bizmarquee. Tip you motherfucking bartender.
Eric: And your drag queens!
El Bey: Enjoy some drinks and food. We’ll be back in a fewwwww.
[Back to the Interview]
Marissa: Yea! Let’s talk Detour Dance.
Marissa: You started Detour Dance in 2009 with your friend
Eric: Yea, her name is Cat Cole. yea so we met in undergrad at USF. University of San Francisco. Um.. And I have so many mixed feelings about Detour Dance. It’s like my baby that’s now entered teenage years. It’s like pimply and ugly to look at and I’m what the fuck did I start?! And now it’s like asking me for money and I’m like fuckk I can’t pay for you. But I love the crap out of that company so hard. [laughs] and if feels like it’s really important and I just get rid of it. It’s too late. It’s grown up.
Marissa: you can’t abort it
Eric: Can’t abort it [laughs]. This company has changed a 100% since we first started it. The name alone, i’m just like, why? [laughs] Detour Dance was like my 19 year old brain being like ‘yea!” that is a great idea! And now at 27 I’m like there could have been other choices. Branding! Branding.
We first started it in 2009 as students. We were basically like, taking… She was one year above me in school and um… our professor was teaching us in separate classes and we both got cast in this piece that one of the faculty members was choreographing. through that process and through the teacher knowing us and the separate classes are like you guys should meet! You have a pretty similar aesthetic. and we were like sweet! And then like, pretty immediately they were like we have this cabaret. They’re called student cabaret which is like the school produces a student to make an evening length show. But yea, So they were like you should apply for this so we submitted an application and they were like, “yea you two, you’re accepted. Make it work!”
So the first piece was called inhabiting spaces and the idea of that was reframing the mundane and looking at really, otherwise boring day to day encounters or spaces and then like putting a new lens on it. And that concept turned into a 20 minute piece and that turned into our mission statement, for lack of a better word, for the company
Marissa: so transforming the mundane
Eric: yea so like, that was the structure for the piece and that ended up being what was really the motivating force or vision for our company that kind of idea of reframing the normal or the overlooked. And from that we made a bunch of works. We started a company. We got fiscal sponsorship which basically meant we could use their non profit status to apply for grants and to be eligible for a little bigger pockets of money like 2000 versus 4000 and they also managed our money. If we ever received a granted or if we wanted to pay somebody we we do that through that organization. It’s a pretty amazing partnership.
[Cut to Narration by Marissa]
This next recording is an excerpt from a performance by detour dance a couple years ago that I attended called Filaments
[Recording Begins. Two people stand on either side of the speaker throwing flour at her while she speaks.]
… Only he wasn’t really sleeping, oh no, he was pretending to sleep because he knows he looks like an angel when he’s sleeping and not like the anti christ he really is! And even though I knew he was faking. I went along with it. Call me crazy. I don’t know. Anyway. He started talking and he gave me some line about some old lady he lives with and he then asked if he could go back to my place. And I told him! I don’t invite strangers to my apartment and then he looked down at his crotch and then he looked back up at me. And then he said, “It’s big, it’s beautiful, and you’re going to love it” and I said ” Oh. Alright.” [breathy] [Laughs]. And as he walked me back to my apartment on that gay night of nights for a moment I felt like the luckiest drag queen in the world and I fantasized and I was like this is it! Oh yea. This is the man I’m going to marry! [Pause] I would be the one to show him the virtues of a loving a heart but you know what he did? He took that heart and he tossed it on the floor and with his little satan hooves he jumped! He jumped hard! The truth is, when we got back to my apartment, he grabbed me, threw off all of my clothes. Enough with the fucking flour! [laughs]
[Back to Interview]
Eric: A couple of years ago, the piece that you’re talking about filaments where this women is delivering this monologue, so this performer is named Erin and she’s been at this company for three years now. Four years. She was delivering this monologue about… [laughs] She was delivering this monologue from this movie called Tricks or Trick or something like that. And she is, it’s about a drag queen who may be in drag or not but is on a bus but across from them is this person they find really attractive. And this person is pretending to be asleep because they know they are really attractive when they are sleeping [laughs] so the drag queen is really taken by this person and so he like looks up to the drag queen and says, “yea this is my cock it looks good huh?” and they’re like yea. And they go home to hook up immediately [laughs] And then like, one thing leads to another and the drag queen gets cum in her eye.
[Cut back to recording from Filaments performance]
So I’m like licking his balls and then next thing I know, he cums in my eye and he’s out the door. Gone. You ever get cum in your eye? Hmmm? [Laughs] It burns. So there I am, lying in the middle of my bed, completely naked with an eye full of cum. and I’m thinking to myself, oh no. And the next morning when I called the number he’d given me earlier, it’s the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. And would you believe they’d never heard of a mark miranda? [pause] Am I bitter? Absolutely. They said, you’re just another phone number on another cocktail napkin shoved in the bottom of his pocket.
[Back to Interview]
Eric: So, while she’s delivering this really tragic monologue there’s like 6 performers around her pelting her on the face with corn starch
Marissa: yea! I remember that now!
Eric: And it’s really depressing
Marissa: It really burns. I feel like that’s real.
Eric: I wrote that. First account. [laughs] Once we made that piece and that, that was kind of like a huge shift for me just in terms of what kind of art I want to be making. Really thinking about aesthetic, really thinking about what, the design of the evening rather than like OK, I want to make, some abstracted contemporary dance to this one concept I was really excited about. Cool, I’m going to reframe the mundane. That happens already with modern dance or performance or like any visual art or music, that is what, this is kinda the epiphany I had. Art does that for you already. Having a mission statement that just does that isn’t interesting [laughs] I’m already stating the obvious.
That piece was just like, in terms of this whole drag identity and drag culture that I’ve peripherally been apart of. It’s like yea, I’m queer and I’m also brown and I’ve ignored those two parts of me very significantly and almost traumatically like my entire life and so maybe this could be a good time. And my collaborator Cat is also brown and queer so we were both kind of like, let’s tap into this and see what gold we find and that led to some serious restructuring on how we create work. and that filaments piece was like our first attempt to use text and really think about what the light source could do on stage and having music and song and all these different components to what performance could be rather than it just being like… fluid weird abstracted music that meant so much to me but inviting 100s of people to come and be like “good job, Eric” wasn’t enough. God bless all the people who said I was good because I look back at those work and I think Holy Shit! that was horrible!
It’s been a huge shift in the way I’m thinking about performance and so we don’t even call our company a dance company anymore. We call it a performance company because of the amount of skills and the types of um, the disciplines that we work in are not just movement. That feels pretty, like it’s we’re definitely heavily influenced by contemporary dance but there’s definitely a lot more at play. And so like I said we’re incorporating song and we have a sound designer and we have, like, a bunch of performers that play instrument.
We had a show since then in December and that piece was called beckon and that piece was like, really intense! And like you were saying, this idea of madness and it’s like, I think, It’s something that I, um, kind of have decided would be something that would be something I move forward with in terms of creating performance is this like relentless truth, truth-telling, and like balls to the wall, really absurd experience. Its going to be really loud, not in terms of volume but just in terms of opinion.
Our new mission statement for the company, I think it’s as simple as we create art that matters through performance in the film so that there’s this like, serious, like, serious questions being asked and providing an opportunity for the audience to come and really have a visceral response whether it’s like extreme discomfort or laughing or having a moment where they are like holy shit, i totally understand what they are talking about. Before for like 6 years, everyone was like “good job!, good job, good job” and it was like sweet! And then what? What are we doing with this art? Putting on dance shows is not cheap. yea it’s a lot of money. you’re dropping at least 20,000 dollars. That’s like the smallest little. You have to pay for performers and rental space, and rehearsals and all this stuff just like adds up. So like to drop like 1000s and 1000s of dollars for just like ‘good job’ is just like. And not that I’m making are for that validation but it’s like I’m getting older and my bank account is getting smaller. [laughs] so it’s like, if I’m going to invest in a performance project it’s going to stir some shit for people.
[Cut to Marissa narrating]
This next clip is from Detour Dance’s performance called Beckon which was done after the restructuring of the company. This excerpt features a woman walking around a man. Speaking about him like he’s a plate of food, using language that people use to exotify and stereotype.
[Recording from Beckon]
… We have a really fun dish for you today. I just love fusion food! It’s such an exciting mix between sweet and spicy. And it’s so exotic! And festive! And sassy! This organic meat can be hard to find. Most stores sell the ghetto, non-organic version of this meat. This one has probably been injecting himself with drugs or hanging out in the streets or doing donuts in an empty parking lot. No bueno! Pay the extra money and get the organic meat! Remember! Everyone! This is important. Brown on the outside! White on the inside! You don’t want it too dark though. Bleh! If it’s too dark and you’re chewing on a dark brown piece, just throw it up, spit it, and send it back to where you came from! You dirty piece of shit go back! This dish works well with a nice cabernet or if you’re feisty a shot of tequila. I mentioned earlier some fruity and sweet tones. They are a perfect balance to the spicy and hot-headed flavors in this dish. You don’t want it too fruity though. If it’s too fruity, I like to take a meat tenderizer and beat the fucking fruit out of him until the excess juices just ooze on out. Don’t be afraid to get messy. Just beat the fucking shit out of him.
[Continue with Interview]
Eric: And so this most recent piece was about being a latino. or being a person of color and being queer and then, all through the lens of like, um, like, what’s the word that we use? The piece was called Beckon and it was like unwanted attention and so like, catcalling or being fetishized or all these ways that people kind of come in and out of this desire. That’s the word! Desire. All these really complicated levels of what desire can be. The piece was structured like a domino effect and each person kind of like infested the other in these really insane ways. like there’s this one scene where this latino character is standing dead center on stage and this other performer is describing him like he’s a plate of food and she’s like ‘ew! He’s really spicy and hotheaded and like really festive and you might not tell that there’s oriental seasonings in here and just like going off oh he’s like a nice brown skin. when you cut open that skin it’s nice and white on the inside and just going on and on about how he’s not brown enough and super hot-headed. Like playing into these tropes of what it is to be brown and gay. By the end of it she’s like, maniacal, if there’s too much fruit juice in here just beat the fucking shit out it till it’s a bloody pulp and drag it behind your car and go home you faggot. She’s like screaming at this plate of food so it’s like really intense and like, the lights go out. and everyone is like ‘what is my reality?’ like that a majority of you don’t have to go on and experience that type of treatment or behavior or whatever. This performance is an opportunity for you to like get a little diss of what I feel. Its like obviously exaggerated and hyperbolic and over the top but that’s to like, I’m giving you your money’s worth. [laughs]
You know what I’m saying? You’re not coming to sit there and droop in your seat. Like I want to give you something to chew on and get upset about. Someone was like, ‘you’re racist!’ and I was like no. I’m not racist. and he was like ‘you hate white people.’ Like, no I don’t hate white people. This is just the story that you have never heard. This is my day to day story. This is your first time hearing this story. That doesn’t mean I’m anti white. It just means I’m brown. And yea it was like, so many people at the end of the show were like, ‘oh my god.’ my mom was like ‘are you ok?’ all like, and people were like ‘thank you for finally doing that.’ It was like such that type of conversation and like for months i’m still getting emails from people. Like ‘holy shit I’m still processing that work.” So this kinda of has been a signal to me that this really hyperbolic, really like magnified, highly like, crafted performance and like really polished kind of way of delivering this performance is, tells me I”m doing something right. Yea! it’s creating some sort of ripple.
Marissa: Yea what have been the performers response to that? Do they notice the change in like the projects?
Eric: Oh absolutely, um, and with each project there’s like a new cohort of people and it’s like a huge, along with this shift and vision with this mission being like more socially engaged, we’ve also been trying to work more as an ensemble. So I as a director, I’m interested in developing and maintaining and providing an awesome experience for my company members so that they want to stay because I can’t pay super well like most companies. Not most companies. There’s a few companies that pay pretty well. I can’t offer that but what I do offer is a chance for them to each have, or be a stakeholder in the company so like that means creating movement. And I give them, like this most recent project I gave them each 10 questions to answer. They were all really intense and personal and we all talked about it. [pause]
And we did these monthly workshops that are separate from any performance or project and we’re just all leading each other and try out ideas and just like, our most recent workshop I had them create a dance film in under 5 hours. Every five minutes the director was rotating and every 15 minutes the performers were rotating so it was designed to be an impossible task and it’s just like these situations that were like put in as an ensemble. It’s kind like team building but don’t tell them that [laughs] You know but like making them feel like we’re a little family and if they have to leave and they want to leave that’s cool and I support them. And then there’s like, you know, love forever but I want to have a group of people I’m making continual work with. So with me giving them really intense things, they step up and they’re like, there’s a level of trust that I try not to take advantage of or try not to ignore. I’ll, like, come in with like, a notebook full of random ass prompts. They’re like, I want you to stand there and like scream or whatever. I want you to eat this apple while dry humping. or whatever! Generally it’s like okkkk and they’ll do and it’s like really awkward why are we doing this?? and then we’ll have the conversation. And what’s the best case scenario is when a performer is like ‘hey, I have an idea’ like with that, I have this other spin off…
Marissa: oh that’s cool!
Eric: … Structure.. so I’m like, ok this tells me. And then, god bless them all, they’ll like tell me. Nope. No. [laughs] They’ll tell me they’re not doing that. [laughs] How is this serving the structure? How is this serving the piece?
Eric: Yea, it’s like that to me is a really successful company because I’ve been apart of sooo many companies where the performers is just like, you get told what to do and like that hierarchy is like [pause] a really old model! And like you just do what the director says and there’s no input or like little to no input choreographically and you’re just spitting out these moves where you have no idea what you are doing and the audience is there and they’re like “good job”.
Also! I hand out free whisky before every show [laughs] and like please! drink. It will make this more digestible. [laughs]
I have like two bottles of like whisky on a table with tons of shot glasses and people as they’re walking in just take shot.
Marissa: that’s awesome
Eric: And just like sparkling water for those that… [laughs]
Marissa: so like, do you also, like, pull in the audience? Are you doing that more now too?
Eric: I have yet to do that. I did this piece on Valentine’s day actually, this February with my boyfriend. We got asked to do this piece together. To create a piece. And what I did was… so in this idea. in this vein of making a piece that really ignites something in the audience or makes them feel really invested. whether that’s through a visceral response or getting them up and moving. I had the audience get up on stage in a circle and the second I said, everyone get up! They were like ugghhhh. And I was like awesome! Sweet. I’m really nervous, too. You think this is fun?! [laughs] So i got everyone to sit on stage and like my boyfriend and I, the whole show was revolving around Valentine’s day so you have to have cheese. You have to be like super cheesy about it.
Eric: And so we each had a message for each other but we played a game of telephone with the audience so I went to one edge of the circle and told the audience like hey! this my message. And it was like, ‘I want to go to New Orleans with you’ or something like that. And Weily was like.. I don’t remember actually. And so like, and then we came together we did a duet. And while we were doing the duet they were passing the messages along. And then the audience, like when we finished our duo we went to the audience that had the message and they would like tell it to me and it was obviously way fucked up, mine was like ‘I want to take you to New Orleans’ and the person like, the whole group warped it into ‘will you marry me?’ [laughs] and so everyone thought I was purposing to my boyfriend. and I was like No!
Marissa: Rewind! Rewind!
Marissa: Get back in your seats!
Eric: Get back in your goddamn seats!
Eric: No, god no. and then we like turned back all the lights and brought out little camping lanterns and taught them a song in Spanish. It was based off of our little trip we took to Cuba a month prior. So yea! I’m definitely more interested in how performance can keep evolving if that means bringing people on stage. My next idea is for a a piece is taking people on a scavenger hunt through the city and giving them like these clues or prompts or meet me at certain places or like these happenings to occur. So it’s not at a theater, you’re interacting with the city, you’re interacting with people in order to keep progressing through this performance experience. And like, renting like, an example is like renting a conference room in the financial distract. As if I’m hosting a meeting and just bring up 10 people and deliver some sort of performance and then send them on their way to the next one.
Marissa: That sounds so fun!
Eric: Yea! That to me is where our company is heading. i’m getting some attention from funders. Some attention from different presenters and people who are interested in dancing in the company. So it definitely feels like a really supported shift.
Marissa: So you work with Sean Dorsey, he’s like incredible. He’s transgender and started Fresh Meat Productions. And it’s an acclaimed transgender and queer dance company.
Eric: Yea! So i got this job when I was in undergrad. I applied for this internship. So Sean Dorsey is the artist director of Fresh Meat Productions and Fresh Meat Productions is this non profit that does queer and transgender arts programming. So under that umbrella we have the San Francisco transgender film festival, we have Sean Dorsey Dance, which is the resident dance company, and then we also have this annual performance festival called Fresh Meat Festival.
So when I first saw his work, I was like blown away! Obsessed. I had just started entering the dance scene. And was coming out USF. And i was like totally weird and email him and was like ‘hey, hi.. [laughs] can I be your intern?’ but they kind of were just like, yea! Come on in. So like for a year, I just worked for free. Just like super jazzed. I was a sophomore or junior in college. Then after that they just offered me a job and I’ve been with them for like 6 years now.
That job has been, it has propelled my career so far forward it’s not even funny. Because they’re a non profit and my title is like production coordinator which is also synonymous with like programs director or like whatever or like production manager. So I basically help them with their three major productions every year and I help them with basic day to day admin stuff and I help them with like video editing and working on their grants with them and like support materials and I’ll work on their website. And all the stuff I was learning through fresh meat and Sean Dorsey was directly applicable to Detour dance.
So that’s how I was able to really develop my skills as not just a choreographer or artistic director but like, as a business person and as an executive director and just kind of.. [pause] and just like really propelling myself forward and also like, being a part of this amazing organization that put on these events that are sooo much fun and so powerful. And to talk about community, the people who show up for these events. you’re in this room and there’s like 3 or 400 people and you’re just like what? it’s just like buzzing and there’s so much love. I don’t know! It’s like back to that this is what San Francisco is. This is what I was really attracted to, this is that, like, thing that we all miss that thing we are all nostalgic about. It’s happening right now. We like, coming together and celebrating queerness and like, and so many different forms in film and dance.
It’s just like, yea, i feel so lucky to be apart of that community. This is all why I stick around in the city. I’m not doing it, i’m not rich. Fresh meat pays me fairly well. And i’m like yea! Paycheck to paycheck. certainly detour dance is not paying me! I get to pay my collaborators really humble stipends. All these things, um, drag, I’m a millionaire from drag!
Marissa: It’s your cash cow
Eric: I think we make collectively like $75. with all the drag. [laughs] yea! it’s this type of like contextualization. And like global perspective that makes, has been informing a lot of why I do the things I do. And just the word privilege just finds it’s way into the conversation of just like how privileged I am to be able to run a dance company and like be apart of this non profit and just like help anyway I can with anything I can with production management. And like I get to go to a straight bar and put on a dress [laughs] booby tassels for a bunch of people. What is my life?!
Marissa: It’s amazing!
Eric: It’s amazing! And it’s like definitely, its not like something that has fallen in my lap and I’ve worked my ass off to make that a sustainable way of living. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The alternative scares me! [laughs] Office job. I can’t. I just would be soulless. I could not imagine. I couldn’t imagine that. This way, this piecemeal job situation. The communities i’m involved with and networking and just the support systems and the like-minded weird aesthetic. it’s just so goddamn rich and so satisfying and so important and not to ramble forever.
It’s been interesting the last few years looking at identity. Looking at my identity. I mentioned this at the very beginning. I thought, I, I, If no one asked me or talked to me, I would have just gone through the world thinking I was white. And thinking that my gayness is just a secondary thing or my queerness rather. Um. [pause] because I am, I haven’t had to really look at it. Coming out was a big thing and that was really validating and scary and all these things. And all it meant to me at that time. Ok! I’m gay. cool I’m in San Francisco and I’m carving out my own life and that’s all I need from that. And now, sorting that all out has been huge in how I go through the world and how I make art and what communities I choose to be apart of. And what communities I can say hey! Not anymore! Thank you. I don’t nee that. It’s not fulfilling me anymore and what I found humorous or I found worthwhile in high school isn’t necessarily the case anymore. It’s formed my politics. It’s formed my self care. It’s formed who I choose to engage with and who I choose to love and um, who I choose to live with. It’s just like part of it now and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It feels like a much more informed lifestyle. A much more interesting lifestyle. yea, its being grateful for the privilege and opportunity to chew on it and then make art about it and have people be subject to that.
[Cut to Marissa narrating]
So that is the end of this weeks show. As always, thank you so much for listening. Visit our website at theundefinedgen.com for links to some of the things mentioned in the show. I absolutely love Eric and if you’re in the Bay Area, I highly recommend going to one of his shows. They’re interesting with beautiful music and amazing dance and you’ll be left with something to think about. Next week I talk to my neighbor, Tia Lebherz. She’s a communications and outreach manager at Water Now Alliance where they work between water companies, private companies with water saving technologies, and other activists to create conversation and then action to save water on the West Coast. She has also worked for Food and Water Watch where she worked to ban fracking in Monterey County and she will weigh in on the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement between 12 pacific rim countries that was signed this last February. So! Have a great week and tune in next time!