A Timeshare Presentation For Troubled Audience Members
As soon as I entered The Parlour to attend Buffalo Bailey’s Ranch for Gay Horses, Troubled Teen Girls and Other: A 90 Minute Timeshare Presentation, I became a customer. A gay horse greeted me with a nametag and a marker, and asked me for some very sensitive information regarding my identity and my finances—which he then wrote down on my nametag. Buffalo Bailey herself (or maybe her creator, Bailey Williams) handed me a glass of wine, and told me that the show (which runs through January 27th, as part of The Exponential Festival) would be better if I were drunk. I didn’t tell her that I already felt a little drunk.
The world I had just walked into was already starting to have an effect on me. The guitar riff for Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up The Sun” played on loop as potential customers arrived, foreshadowing the piece’s many delightful, absurdist redundancies. I contemplated the cardboard fire pit, the inflatable cactus, and the bandana patterned pennants. And then the music decayed into silence, and the presentation began.
Buffalo Bailey wasn’t always the proprietor of a Ranch for Gay Horses, Troubled Teen Girls and Other. She informs us that only a few years ago, she was just like us—stuck in a dead end day job, answering foot fetish advertisements on Craigslist, watching television reruns and masturbating in bed. However—even in a world dominated by 1099’s (said with a sneer), there is hope. With an investment of just $150, we could become Timeshare owners. We could leave the harsh realities of the city behind. We could take advantage of all the “amenities and facilities” the Ranch has to offer—including a Jacuzzi that is Coming Soon.
A narrative is introduced to illustrate her point. We meet Troján (Alex Rodabaugh), a young gay horse with a BFA in Dance who is weighed down by student loans and a lack of purpose. Troján’s emotional and financial dependency on his boss, Bear Stearns (Derek Smith), leads him on a spy mission to Buffalo Bailey’s Ranch—where Troubled Teen Girls undergo Equestrian Therapy, and Gay Horses run free.
The performance that ensues is bizarre, off-putting, and utterly spectacular. Buffalo Bailey’s Ranch for Gay Horses, Troubled Teen Girls, and Other is 20 minutes outside the city by car, 45 minutes on horseback, and entirely in its own theatrical universe. There is love, betrayal, loss of innocence, and plenty of angst—but the ensemble is always ready to remind us that we are watching a 90 Minute Timeshare Presentation, not a play.
Promotional materials distributed by the Ranch on social media provide an excellent introduction to the world we see onstage. Everyone is trying to sell you something. No one has eyebrows, can they be trusted? All smiles are forced. Queer virtuosity is on full display—Alex Rodabaugh’s choreography, Agustín Lopez’s animation, Kate McGee’s lighting design (and Other), the magnificent theme song by Tessa Skara and Derek Smith, the magnificent cape and wig by Emily Oliveira, Andy Kuncl’s one man band, Jack Raymond’s high belt—I could go on, but I don’t want to ruin every one of the piece’s many surprises.
Underneath the spectacle, there is a sense of doom. Buffalo Bailey tells her customers early on, “You are here because you want to escape, but you don’t know where.” Bailey Williams (the playwright, who disguises herself brilliantly with bad makeup and glittery cowboy hats) does not spare her audience in the slightest. I walked out of The Parlour asking myself, what is being random? What is having purpose? Is there such a thing as a good bank? Is it a good thing to be brand loyal? Can dancing save your life? I thought about the commodification of queerness, about commodification as a path to acceptance. Maybe there is no Xanadu, no utopia at all, not even a truly safe space anymore. But for the low sum of $150 (actual ticket prices are $20 general admission, $15 for artists), we can pretend.