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The Big Bang
The first time the Bearded Ladies Cabaret came to Washington College, they paraded down the Cater Walk in hoop skirts and stilts in the snow. The second time, they talked to and sang with vegetables and flowers. With this spring’s visit, they’re taking on the concept of the 1950s-era nuclear family, and—with Washington College students joining them onstage—exploding it in a 50-megaton detonation of history, pop culture, and performance.
The Atomic Family Cabaret is a musical work-in-progress that will culminate with two performances on April 14 and 16, at 7:30 p.m. in Tawes Theatre in the Gibson Center for the Arts. The performances are free and open to the public, although $1 donations to the Kent County Food Pantry are encouraged. Reservations are recommended, and you can reserve tickets at http://bit.ly/23ilJGB.
Atomic Family intends to explode our assumptions about the American family: What happens if we let go of the nuclear family as synonymous with the American Dream? In a post-marriage equality world, what does queer family-making look like? Upstanding middle-class is one floor. Are you ready for the rest of the house?
The performances will be the culmination of a course co-taught this semester by Washington College historian Adam Goodheart and Bearded Ladies artistic director John Jarboe, cross-listed in the departments of History and Theatre and Dance and in the Gender Studies Program.
The class, “Atomic Family: History + Performance,” has engaged 13 students in activities like reading 1950s fallout shelter pamphlets, watching old episodes of “Ozzie & Harriet,” improvising dances inspired by the A-bomb, collecting oral histories of the postwar era, and preparing skits and monologues that combine family drama with slapstick comedy. For ten days in early April, the students are working intensively with members of the Bearded Ladies troupe—professional writers, actors, musicians, dancers, designers, and more—to turn their coursework into a weird, wild, and history-warping public performance. A work-in-progress, it will incorporate raw material in an informal showing designed to help the work grow.
The Bearded Ladies’ visit to Washington College is being hosted by the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the Department of Theatre and Dance, the Department of History, and the Gender Studies Program. SANDBOX is a co-sponsor. For more information about the Bearded Ladies, see http://beardedladiescabaret.com/ .