Friendly Neighborhood Lesbian Superhero
There are no men in the world of Butch McCloud only butch and femme dykes, living in the city of Missopolis. There, Butch and her band of bakers who run a collectively-owned non-profit vegan bake shop face off against the evil corporate femmes of Vulvatronics. The rivalry has been chronicled in seven episodes so far, with titles such as Attack of the Scones and The Case of the Sapphic Sapphire. The latest Butch McCloud episode, Dykes are from Mars, Dykes are from Venus opens April 8 at Clemente Soto Velez Center.
This campy live-action musical comic book started last year at the Women of Wonder Theater Café, and soon developed enough of a following to move to larger venues.
We used to think [our target audience] was just lesbians, says Tom Leger 1, the shows producer and co-writer, but its been seen by kids as young as five or six, by college professors, by straight people They all seem to like it. And theres no sex2 or violence3 its a family show.
A lesbian family, at least, adds co-writer Riley Macleod.
The show draws on and parodies the conventions of superhero comics (Butch has the ethics of a superhero, but she cant fly or shoot rays, says Macleod), pulp detective novels, and Broadway musicals. The mention of an ex-girlfriend from Denmark prompts the intricately choreographed number There is Nothing Like a Dane, and instead of Rents Seasons of Love, these lesbians measure their lives in Seasons of Drama.
The shows tagline is Your Friendly Neighborhood Lesbian Superhero, but unlike the complicated backstories involved of comic books like X-Men, new audiences dont need to know any of the previous events to make sense of the show.
Its like a TV sitcom, where everything resets at the end of each episode, says Macleod.
Because they aren’t locked into a continuing storyline, the playwrights are free to explore their current interests with each installment of the show. They only plan far enough ahead, they say, to reveal the name of the next episode4.
Its really current, says Leger of their writing process. We try to respond to current events.
Dykes are From Venus plays off the Pathfinder water-seeking expedition to Mars, with the Snatchfinder 3000 getting lost on the frigid plains of Venus5. But really, the story is just a framework on which to hang jokes about lesbian performance art, puppets, and professional skateboarders, along with some musical numbers and sock puppets.
Its kind of surprising that more downtown shows dont branch into multiple episodes like Butch McCloud. After all, once youve invested the time in creating a bunch of characters, why throw them away after one production? The recurring character phenomenon has kept Saturday Night Live running for years, but very few live theater shows have tried it. I know that the pirate-puppet musical JollyShip the Whizbang has had multiple episodes and thats about it. What else is out there? Theaters quality of live performance would seem to work against continuing narratives, since audiences would have to catch every episode, but Butch McClouds blend of sketch comedy characters and ever-changing stories could be a model for playwrights who want their characters to grow over time, but still keep their shows short and sweet.
Clemente Soto Velez Center
107 Suffolk St.
Time varies, check www.butchmccloud.com for details.
1. A man writing about lesbians? Isnt that horribly exploitive? No, its not. Tom is transgender, as is his writing partner.
2. Though there is a lot of innuendo
3. and some slapstick violence.
4. Episode 9: The Death of Butch McCloud or is it?
5. Science is not the shows strong point.