Chandler Daily, curator of Play Party at Patrick's Cabaret, explains the term bluntly: “A play party is a party where people are having sex.”
This doesn't mean that you should show up to Saturday's show expecting an orgy, but there will be performance art that pushes the envelope in ways not commonly seen in local, above-ground venues.
A Chicago-native and second-year student at Hamline University in St. Paul, Daily's intention of transforming a play party into performance art has been a long time coming. “The vague idea of organizing performance art around queer sexuality is something that has been a long-time dream of mine,” Daily says over tea and lunch at the Seward Cafe. “I do a lot of sex education work in kind of an activist sort of context.”
Daily identifies as an assigned female at birth (AFAB) trans person, and prefers the pronouns they, them, and theirs.
“I knew that I wasn't a girl, and I knew that I hated she/her pronouns,” Daily explains. In their mind, the only other options was to identify with he/his/him, or they/them/their. For Daily, the second option just felt the most right.
“They/them/their just feels natural and doesn't feel forced or weird,” they share. “So it wasn't really as much of a decision or a political choice as just like, 'This felt weird; that felt weird; this doesn't feel weird.'”
Play Party will allow six artists, chosen by Daily, to share original work through the lens of their queer and trans identities. “The important thing about my show to me is it's about sexuality,” Daily insists. “It's not about the queer experience, and it's not about bringing awareness or educating people. It's about queer people watching other queer people do sexy things, expressing something about themselves, and sharing and exploring and celebrating those things that often get policed out of our communities because we want to look like the Modern Family gays who are so prim and don't have a sexuality.”
The opportunity to carry out such a subversive piece of theater was granted by Patrick's Cabaret guest curator program, where artists are encouraged to submit their own performance ideas. “I knew that Patrick's Cabaret was the only place that I can do something like this,” Daily says.
This Saturday, the ultimate goal of Play Party is for queer and trans artists to be provided with a safe and encouraging space to express their sexuality free from fetishization and exploitation. The featured acts will cover a wide range of performance, culminating in an piece where Daily will partner with Mistress Evie, a local bi-gender dominant sex worker, in a subverted forced-feminization scene.
Other performers include members of the suspension bondage troupe A Stitch of Trouble, who appear regularly at Ground Zero and have been involved with events hosted by local shop Smitten Kitten.
“The idea behind the performative aspect of it is that suspension bondage is very very difficult, advanced, and dangerous work,” Daily says. “So, people who are interested in bondage and who are interested in kink can appreciate watching something that is very challenging that only a very small group of people have the skill set to do.”
Liv Rose, another featured performer, will be sharing erotic poetry. Daily also anticipates that Rose may include some singing and storytelling.
Local performance artist Nico has put together a piece exploring play between pornography and choreography. (Nico shares Daily's pronoun preference of they/them/their.) “They're very successful at making you feel that they're vulnerable, and that they are being exposed and bare,” Daily says of Nico's stage presence. “You feel invested in watching whatever they're doing, because you feel like it's happening just for you. It might have been scripted down to the last letter, but you would never know that.”
Daily's own piece with Mistress Evie is a BDSM role-playing scenario that will be theatrical, explicit, and sexual. While this type of BDSM is an interest of Daily's in their personal life, they are quick to explain that this particular demonstration is extremely different. Daily describes their relationship with Mistress Evie as artistic and professional, pointing out that they aren't just sex partners who are taking their normative sexual activities to the stage.
“I wouldn't just straight-up do this full costume, total elaborate role-playing scenario with like, furniture in my regular life... it's not like, a window into Chandler's bedroom, it's very different,” Daily says with a smirk. In this case, it's all about communication, and relies on performance marks.
This performance could potentially thrust Daily into an extreme state of vulnerability. “I know myself pretty well, and I'm pretty experienced in practicing with BDSM, but I don't know how being in front of a bunch of people doing that will change that for me,” Daily says. “The whole scene kind of climaxes toward the end... That's the exciting thing about work like this and the guest curatorship. Nobody really knows what's going to happen. It's very free.”
Though it's only one day before the performance, the artists have not done a complete run-through of the show. There are things that will occur that simply can't happen twice, which is both scary and exciting. For example, Daily will be having their armpits shaved onstage in a display of aforementioned subverted forced-feminization.
“If I knew everything that was going to happen, and had my hand in all these different parts, I think it would make the art worse,” Daily says. “I think the art is better when it's allowed to be as off-the-cuff as it wants to be.”
IF YOU GO:
7:30 p.m. Saturday
Those uncomfortable with sex or nudity are encouraged not to attend.