Philly’s Bearded Ladies start trucking with the traveling Beardmobile Love Tour, rolling into a street, park, parking lot, or garden near you.
Philly-based performance art goddess and cabaret doyenne John Jarboe and her band of renown have forever sought new ways in which to bring their daring, diverse live efforts to the masses most efficiently. With that, The Bearded Ladies fought off a year’s worth of pandemic blues, concocted a traveling Beardmobile and built up a set of dates on its May 2021 Beardmobile Love Tour following city guidelines, performing at reduced capacity with all drag-centric events outside, socially distanced, masked, including performers, across the city. Filled with the Beards’ old friends: Jess Conda, Cookie Diorio, and Eric Jaffe. And new: Ursula Rucker, LaNeshe Miller-White. While the dates and hosts are listed below, dosage MAGAZINE and I spoke with Jarboe about all that she dared to discuss.
A.D. Amorosi: How much of the idea of queer performance truck comes from Covid? How much from your overall hippie-dippy cool cabaret caravan concept? Elaborate on its creation, please.
John Jarboe: 75% pandemic. 25% obsession with traveling cabaret dreams. In 2019 we worked with Christopher Ash and Messapotamia Lefae to create a one on one lip-sync experience in a small trailer and we were pre-pandemic dreaming of expanding this so it could drive around town. In 2015 we made Bitter Homes and Garden on a trailer bed so it could be hooked up to a stage and moved from garden to garden. The Beards have also always longed to be truck queers, but never had the confidence until now. But mostly we were dreaming about how to give Philly a socially distanced hug and to adapt our annual cabaret festival for pandemic performance.
A.D. Amorosi: Tell me please about the hows and whys of its event creation? Sticking with what the Beards do best, while making sure you traveled into new territories with new collaborators. Discuss the curation?
John Jarboe: We love to sleep around. We love dates, partnerships, one-night-stands, and going steady. Some of the shows are just about celebrating artists we love and giving them a space to perform with low risk in a pandemic. Some of the shows are designed to work with artists and organizations whose values we share and or admire. Giving them the chance to use the truck to do an open mic, host a dance show, or a skateboarding event with music. We are super grateful to our funders who have made it possible for all the shows to be free and also for us to gift the use of the truck to partner organizations. We are learning so much!
A.D. Amorosi: The reach here, for the truck’s events, very smartly and very freshly touches on new friends and collaborates. From LaNeshe Miller-White and Ursula Rucker to the Asian Arts Initiative’s Unity and Vichte Boul Ra to an afternoon of Indonesian arts. Please fill me in.
John Jarboe: The shows with partner artists and organizations are amazing. The partner helps curate and weighs in on which Bearded host they think will be a good fit with their vision. Sometimes they use our house band or bring their own. It’s such a gift to get to meet so many new artists, connect with old friends, and offer a show that is for organizations and artists in the places where they work, live. The truck is a whole new layer of intimacy. It comes to your street, park, parking lot, garden, and features artists from your community. And hopefully allows us to see each other and celebrate all the amazing artists and organizations in this city. There will be a second round in the fall of shows we had to postpone to reduce our Covid risk, so keep looking out for announcements about those!
A.D. Amorosi: What is the great motto, the great lesson to be learned from everything collective going on in May with the Beards plus the truck and how does this advance Jarboe’s central equation where art, artifice, sex, fun and rock n’ cabaret goes?
John Jarboe: The truck is a huge team effort. I’ve been working with Cat Ramirez as a producer and an amazing staff and tech team to navigate this immensely complex project. Noelle Diane Johnson, Anthony Martinez-Briggs, and Emily Bate were early visioners around the values of performing on the truck and creating partnerships. We have had to reimagine and reschedule this festival multiple times already. Our adaptive muscles are bulging. This Love Tour is in the spirit of The Bearded Ladies work as hosts that was on display in recent projects like Laye Night Snacks and Feast. But this time, we are also being hosted by the communities we are visiting and the organizations we are lucky enough to partner with.
The Beardmobile Love Tour dates
Start Your Engines – May 2
The Beardmobile Love Tour’s first event with Virgil Gadson (Lil O), hosted by Eric Jaffe.
Project HOME – May 6
An afternoon of vogue, lip-sync, song, performance, and open mic featuring residents of the Gloria Casarez Residence and The Project HOME family, hosted by Sam Rise.
Drag Mother’s Day – May 9
Bring all the children and all the mothers and daddies and guardians for a show celebrating queer family, hosted by Eric Jaffe and Jess Conda.
Love Jawns – May 13
A project from Yolanda Wisher and Philadelphia Contemporary that fuses poetry and music performances featuring Ursula Rucker, DJ Junior, and films by Wren Rene.
Black Femme Magic – May 15
An entire evening curated by LaNeshe Miller-White featuring Noelle Diane Johnson, Karen Smith, and Caitlin Green, hosted by Cookie Diorio.
Opera Philly – May 19
A performance hosted by Cookie Diorio featuring T-VOCE, Opera Philly’s all-city youth choir.
Tak Kenal Maka Tak Sayang (To Know Is To Love) – May 22
Sinta Storms, Modero & Co and Bearded Ladies offer an evening of Indonesian Dance, Gamelan, and poetry all devoted to the saying: Tak Kenal Maka Tak Sayang (translation: To Know Is To Love), featuring Modero Dancers, Katherine Antarisko, and the Gamelan Orchestra, hosted by Anthony Martinez-Briggs.
Love Tour Host Show – May 27
Hosted by the Beards’ own John Jarboe and introducing the Beardmobile host team.
Unity at the Initiative: Queer Skate Day – May 29
A queer skate day celebrating Asian Arts Initiative’s Unity at the Initiative with live music and performance, hosted by Sam Rise featuring Vichte Boul Ra, Icon Ebony Fierce, and Messapotamia Lafae.