Friday, March 1, 2013

Meet Boylesque Impresario Matt Knife of Homo Erectus

Over the past several months, I've been attending the wildly fun, and occasionally raunchy, Homo Erectus, a monthly boylesque show at the famous Stonewall Inn. Featuring a mostly, but not exclusively, male group of new and established burlesque performers, musicians, comedians and magicians, the eclectic event is one of my new favorites.

Photo by Kaz Senju
I spoke with Homo Erectus creator Matt Knife about his burlesque career and the genesis of Homo Erectus.

How did you first get involved in burlesque?

I started fan dancing after seeing "Memoirs of a Geisha." After that I got invited to do dances with Brian King's "What Time is it Mr. Fox?" show at the Duplex. A year after that I took Go-Go Harder's Boylesque 101 class and started going to shows. I was hooked to the people, performance and the glamour.

What was your first performance like?

It was my Boylesque 101 showcase. Harder was so supportive and the audience was all of our friends, so it was safe and comfortable. Honestly, it was one of the most thrilling, scary and liberating moments of my life. Matt Knife was born!

Has your family ever seen you perform, and if so, what was their reaction?

My family is very supportive of my creativity. They are creative people themselves. What they care for most is my happiness, burlesque makes me happy so they are happy for me. My mother is a very private person, so this is the opposite of anything she would ever want to do. Being gay herself she is thrilled the show is at Stonewall. and is looking forward to seeing what we come up with.

What has been your best burlesque experience so far?

The thing that I love about burlesque is the community is supportive and friendly, so most experiences are fun. I did love performing for Stephin Merritt during Homo Erectus's "Busby Berkeley Dreams". It felt great to be so inspired but someone else's art, and then show them what I am able to do with it. It was a dream show come to life.

If you could work with any burlesque artist, who would you choose?

I am luck since I have gotten to work with many excellent performers already. It is my goal to have as many boylesque performers as I can cycle through Homo Erectus. I also have a fantasy that RuPaul will have some boylesquers on the show to help with a challenge and contribute to the fun. Burlesque is part of drag.

Do you have a signature style to your performances or a particular move?

Not particularly. I try to keep my acts diverse and different from each other. The common themes are darkness, sex, humor and nudity. I do have a goal of creating a fan dance using every kind of fan you can. 

What would you say to someone who is on the fence about seeing a burlesque show?

To just come anyway. The only way you will know if you would like it or not is to come. Even if you never see another one, you can at least say you tried. I can promise people will see more talent than they would see on a reality TV show.

What would you say to someone who is contemplating trying burlesque themselves?

To give it a try. Talk to performers, see shows and take classes. Burlesque is excellent drama therapy. It makes you look at yourself differently, challenges your insecurities and rewards you consistently. Again, you will never know if you don't try.

Tell me a little about Homo Erectus.

Photo by Dick Mitchell
Homo Erectus started shortly after my Boylesque 101 showcase. My classmates and I were addicted to performing and wanted to continue. There was no monthly boylesque show, and I have two degrees in theater production. So I had the means to fill that void. I wanted to create a safe place for a performer to express themselves and for an audience to enjoy themselves. Homo Erectus is here to challenge the gay community to rethink it's labeling system and embrace those of us that do not fit into boxes. New York gays are pressured to be a certain "type" with little compromise extended if you are not the ideal. There are plenty of places to see perfect bodies in the city. At Homo Erectus we want to empower people who feel ugly, unwanted and left out to. Show that we are here to entertain them and there are others like them. What better place to take a stand than Stonewall?

What are the themes of some of the upcoming shows?

Well, we are planning an '80s Night, A Happy Birthday Homo Erectus Show featuring duets, Steampunk, Showgirls Parody, Halloween, Geeks and a Canadian Invasion. Many, many more!

Lightning Round

Boxers or briefs? Jock straps.

Glitter or sequins? Both are needed in my life, but to quote World Famous BOB "Glitter is the poor girls diamonds".

Oscars or Tonys? Oscars, but award shows are so silly these days.

Rock or country? Rock!

Brooklyn or Queens? Both are awesome! But I live in Brooklyn.

Thanks for joining me, Matt.  I can't wait to see this month's show, Homo Erectus: The Rites of Spring which will be held at the Stonewall Inn (53 Christopher Street) on Thursday, March 14th.  Tickets are $10, plus a two drink minimum.  Get there early because the show always draws a big crowd.

Matt Knife was born when Savlador Dali kissed Andy Warhol in Studio 54. That union created the pop surrealist Matt Knife. He is often found in Dark Haunted Theaters where another time meets the present. Sassy, classy and always dapper. Matt is also a professional costume designer, painter, make-up artist and the Producer of Homo Erectus, NYC's only monthly Boylesque show.

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