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Be open-minded for a moment. Imagine a gay man on all fours decked out with head-to-toe leather horse gear. On his back, riding him around the stage, is a large-breasted straight girl who is playing the part of a 17-year-old boy with a horse fetish.
Hot and bothered? Confused? Maybe disturbed is more like it.
That’s OK. All that you’re feeling is normal. The Dirty Show, for gays and straights and everyone in between, is meant to provoke.
“The ‘Equus’ piece is a perfect example,” said Christopher Leadbitter, the performance director of Detroit’s best attended erotic art exhibition and performance art extravaganza. The Dirty Show will feature art from more than 200 local, national and international artists on Feb. 10-12, 14, 17 and 18 at Bert’s Warehouse Theatre in Detroit.
This year’s Stripper Theater portion of the show features selected scenes from “Equus” – such as the one teased above – written by British playwright Peter Shaffer in 1973 and revived in 2007 in London’s West End Theatre, starring Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter) in one of the leading roles.
“I don’t know how many people know of the play, but it’s uncomfortable even for the Dirty Show,” said Leadbitter, who taps into his personal experience with bondage and Sadomasochism to play the role of the horse. Some of it’s fun, as the dialogue is wordy and lines are read in less-than-convincing British accents while a sensuous female delivers cues from off-stage.
Leadbitter, the former Causing a Scene Productions director (a local multimedia performance art troupe), is taking a more hands-on approach to the performances. “I want to try and tweak them in a way or guide them down the path of being more creative and experimental,” he said.
For instance: the Erotic Kabuki Theater piece he has staged. Traditionally, all roles are performed by men, but Leadbitter has introduced women to his version of the classical Japanese dance-drama. “All performers are dressed the same in beautiful kimonos, wearing white masks,” he said. “The audience won’t know who is male and who is female until later. I have created an element of surprise, mixing gender roles and expectations of what gender needs to be.”
Leadbitter has established a lifelong career as a ballet dancer and will expose the audience to a variety of talented dancers trained in pointe work, the art of dancing on one’s toes. Among the 50 to 70 performers hoping to arouse the crowd will be the legendary Deangela “Show” Shannon, who has blurred the line between transgender and drag queen as a female illusionist for more than 20 years.
“This is nothing like I’ve ever done before – and I’ve done a lot. The diversity, racially and sexually, is something Detroit really had a need for,” said Shannon, adding that she plans to take it up a notch for her second year with the Dirty Show. “Each night will be something different, but my main number is my domination number. It’s wild, it’s crazy, and it’s over the top. There will be some semi-nudity,” teased Shannon.
But the Dirty Show is about more than just nakedness. Sort of. There are many other performing acts to see, including the Satori Circus, Cirque Du Soleil-style aerialists who will use aerial lyras (hoops) and silks for their routines, and voluptuous burlesque dancers.
“This show has given me a platform which allows me to be 100 percent myself with absolutely no judgment,” said Leadbitter. “The freedom to express and explore my sexuality through erotic performance art has helped me feel comfortable in my shoes, and with those high-heeled shoes I am able to reach out to others who may feel like outcasts or who may have secret desires they want to explore.
“I still think open-mindedness is a bit lacking in our community as well as others, but I use art along with my naked ass to help people see the light.”
The Dirty Show 13
Feb. 10-12, 14, 17 and 18
Bert’s Warehouse Theatre
2739 Russell Street, Detroit