Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Interview - Matt Knife of "Homo Erectus"

Photos by Christopher Gagliardi

After attending the first anniversary performance of Matt Knife's monthly boylesque show, Homo Erectus, at the Stonewall Inn, I sat down with Matt to talk about the show, his burlesque experiences, and what's coming up for Homo Erectus in year two.

First of all, congratulations on hitting your one-year anniversary of Homo Erectus.  I had a great time at the anniversary show.  I liked the fact that you brought back The World Famous *BOB* to emcee the event, as she did during your first show.  How did you two meet?

I met *BOB* at the first annual Boylesque Festival last year she was hosting.  *BOB* used to produce a show exclusively for new performers, so asking her was a natural choice.  She is so funny, professional and supportive. So we had to bring her back!  I just feel that the show needs her energy, love and humor.

When you started Homo Erectus a year ago, did you ever think it would still be going strong?

Honestly I was not sure what would happen.  I just wanted to create a regular space for boylesque to grow.  I started this out as an experiment and entered into it with a open heart and mind.  I have been overwhelmed by the support from the burlesque and LGBTQ community.  So I think that both communities needed a show like this.  

What inspired you to start a monthly boylesque series?

I wanted to expand my own craft of costumes, performance art and fine art.  I also wanted to support boylesque performers who maybe were not getting booked as often as they should.  Homo Erectus is a great space for us to experiment, grow and shine.

Over the past year you've worked with some amazing talent - dancers, musicians, magicians, drag queens, performance artists.  What would you say were some of the highlights?

Performing for Stephin Merritt was really surreal.  I have been a huge fan of his music for years and I had wanted to realise his music theatrically for just as long.  That month's show was a tribute to his music, and all the performers were fans, so it was a dream come true for us all.

The Halloween show was a jewel in my mind.  I love Halloween, so naturally combining burlesque and that holiday makes me happy.  That was the first big show.

"My Furry Valentine" was another fave because I love furry men and I wanted to honor them with their own show.  The bear community has been very supportive of Homo Erectus and I love that.  We will be doing that again soon.

It has been great developing a relationship with Fein and Dandee, they have played the show several times.  Dandy Darkly and Scary Ben have also been great collaborators.  Broadway Brassy was a real fun time.  Will Clark and I have been working on several projects together since he hosted.  We will be co-hosting the August 15th Homo Erectus.

Oh course Tigger's hosting and act all went over very well.  He will be joining us again this fall.

One of the things I've enjoyed is seeing your less experienced performers develop over the year. What is the best part about nurturing new performers?

Honestly, I am still a new performer.  I love helping people, challenging them to be better artists.  So anything I can do for them I will.
It's been my observation that the burlesque community is remarkably supportive and sharing. I've seen a number of performers and producers from other shows at Homo Erectus performances, usually right up front.  Who have been your mentors from the burlesque community?

Yes, the community is very sharing and supportive.  But I do feel that we are real with each other too.  Most of us are aware that it is nice to hear you did well, but it is also great to hear things to improve on.  

I have been doing costume design and wardrobe work for thirteen years, so I am new to the performance element of theatre.  I was lucky to have a great teacher in Go-Go Harder and his Boylesque 101 class.

Before I took his class I was frustrated with NYC, the gay community, the costuming world and my own perspective on all of the above.  My last year of grad school had wreaked my self-esteem.  I was really starting to question my value as a human.  I met Teddy Turnaround who told me about Harder's class.  Finding burlesque was the best thing that could have happened to me.  I found a my tribe of freaks.

Who are my mentors?  Just to warn you we have entered the "Name Dropping Portion" of the interview, so excuse me while I talk some people up.  Go-Go Harder was my first mentor.  Lucky Charming and Teddy Turnaround are my support unit alpha.  Tigger is the Godfather, and big support.  *BOB* has been an inspiration to all of us.  Lewd Alfred Douglas has been a great support with "Uncle Monty's Mollyhouse".

Joe the Shark and Cherry Pitz of Hotsy Totsy Burlesque have been invaluable.  They have brought me in two shows to brianstorm, co write and star in two shows.  All things I had wanted to do, but didn't think I could.

Jonny Porkpie's Pinchbottom's Pretencion really raised the bar to me as far as burlesque plays are concerned.  I was truly inspired.  We are working together a lot in the next few months.

I know you're tied into the greater burlesque community outside New York as well.  Are there any performers, from anywhere around the world, that you would particularly love to work with?

I have been really lucky to work with several men from all over.  I met Jacques Patriaque at the 2nd Annual Boylesque Festival.  He is from Vienna, and we hit it off.  I am hoping to go to Europe and perform with him.  I also think him plus Lewd Alfred and I would make a great burlesque period trio act.

Boylesque TO of Toronto are a big support, they were act two of my April show.  We always love when they come to visit.

I got to meet Waxie Moon at the festival.  He was a big inspiration to me when I started.  Waxie is not afraid to push gender and mannerisms.  I am hoping to meet him again and would love to have him at Homo Erectus.

Now to the really good stuff.  What's next for Homo Erectus?  What do you have coming up the rest of the year?

I am very excited.  July 11th is our Patriotic/Satire show.  August 15th is a burlesque play called "Timewarp" It will be a journey through the 20th century.  Sort of a Bill and Ted meets Doctor Who situation.

I am hoping 2014 some months with have two shows instead of one.  We are trying that out in September.  One show is "Back to School" hosted by Jo Weldon and will feature a boylesque group number.  The other is a Geek's Out show hosted by Iris Explosion featuring the hottest performers of NYC nerdlesque.

October is the HUGE HALLOWEEN SHOW!!!  November is "The Bizarre and Surreal."  December is still a mystery.  

There will be a lot more where that came from!!!!

The next Homo Erectus show will be July 11th at the Stonewall Inn.

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