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ATL's all-queer variety show ain't no drag

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Our city has A Thing for reading series and variety shows — anyone remotely zealous accepting Facebook event invites can attest that's hard to argue. Though a little over a year ago, a group of individuals led by artist TAYLOR ALXNDR sought to fill a dire void, providing a stage for queer performers who dabbled in more than drag. CL caught up with ALXNDR, creator/curator/host of SWEET TEA: A Queer Variety Show, via email to talk ambiance, nudity, and why they pay names on the bills. 

Tell me a little about how the SWEET TEA variety show started.
TAYLOR ALXNDR: SWEET TEA started as an idea a friend and I had one night at my home bar of Mary's. In the queer community, when you think of entertainment, you typically think of drag. We really wanted to expand on what queer talent really is and how artistic our community is. So, in January of 2014 we had our first show at Noni's on Edgewood. And from there it's just grown into an entity of its own!

Why is it important to have a specifically queer bill?
T.A.: We specifically and proudly call it a queer variety show because it's for the community and by the community. Too often queer/LGBTQIQA artists have to put their queerness to the side in order to get on bills for shows or to even get coverage and publicity. Our entire ambience as a show is queer, so we like to make it known what the show stands for.

How is SWEET TEA different from other lineups around the city?
T.A.: We're different from other lineups because there really isn't a true queer variety show in Atlanta. In one event, you will be treated to live music, performance art, drag, comedy, even puppetry, and much more. I think Atlanta is tired of repetitive shows where you know what the crowd will be like and who's on the bill. We like to keep it varied.

What's the curation process like for each show?
T.A.: Typically, I always ask or put out a call for new performers who want to get their feet wet. If you really look at it, there aren't many spaces for new acts to get stage time. I aim to keep the lineup fully varied and not solely a drag show, or a music show. Each show has about five acts, mostly new, and some who have performed at SWEET TEA before.

It's very cool how SWEET TEA pays performers. I know that's not the case with many of Atlanta's similar offerings. Tell me about how that became a unique sticking factor for the series.
T.A.: We actually used to do the show for free! But once we moved to our new home of Eyedrum in January of this year, we made it official that there would be a door cover. A lot of our acts put in time and work into their act and it's only fair that we pay them for sharing their craft with the audience. I think a main worry for doing door covers is that not a lot of people will show up. But with SWEET TEA, I think the audience knows where the money is going and how much is means to get paid to perform

How do rehearsals usually go? Any favorite stories from the series thus far you'd like to share?
T.A.: We actually don't do rehearsals! Haha. That always keeps an element of surprise going with the show. We do sound checks and run-throughs an hour before doors open. I usually get a gist of what each performer will be doing, and ask for examples of their work if they have any. I think the best surprise is always when performers ask how naked they can be. Haha. I'm never sure just HOW naked they want to be. Last year, during our show for the Southern Fried Queer Pride festival, one of our performers got completely naked in a piece about loving her body. It was supremely transformative.

Is there actually sweet tea available to purchase and sip at the show? If so, let's hear about the secret recipe.
T.A.: Surprisingly no! But we are working on creating T-shirts AND our own tea bags that we'll sell at shows. As for a recipe, I'll never tell. Ha.

This month's SWEET TEA show is Thurs., March 10, at 9 p.m. at Eyedrum. $5. 



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