The local drag community has gone virtual in the form of a tri-weekly show: “Flame Night Fever.” The latest incarnation subtitled: “Spring Fever” went live on May 28 hosted by Tilia Cordata and Kitschy Scofflaw with stage-management by Lea Davis.
Continuing in the spirit of Thursdays being historically a queer night, Flame Night Fever serves as an outlet for local and out of town performers to gather and celebrate their art with the community. Featuring both drag and burlesque performers, the company each submitted videos of their performances that were presented through a live stream of the event in which the audience tipped through apps like Venmo and PayPal.
“It can be a challenge since everyone has to take on the role of videographer, producer, and editor,” said Sarah Chaneles, the day-time counterpart to the illustrious Kitschy Scofflaw. “We really encourage everything from a fully edited ‘movie-quality’ video to just a tape of someone performing in their living room.”
The lineup for the event included: Hal Apenyo, Creatrix, Scarlette Switchblade, Lulu La Femme, Ginger Vicious, Mama MoMo, Sage Savage, Kale Green, Athena Merlot, Salix Morrison,Erin the Ax,Gina Tomorrow and Tessa Truehart.
With a mix of out of town performers and local favorites, the event works to showcase old and new talent from the Ithaca scene, as well as out-of-town performers.
“It’s really exciting as a way to build community and help people see different kinds of drag,” said Davis, who also works as a freelance lighting designer in town. “King drag, burlesque, genderf*ck, it’s all out there and we are providing all of that to people who might never get to see it.”
While Flame Night Fever originated from the absence of night-life, it has roots in an educational partnership between Tilia and Kitschy with Cornell. In the spring of 2019, the duo partnered with the university to put on a three-day educational program appropriately titled “Drag Me to School” that culminated in a fully produced drag show on campus.
In the wake of COVID-19, the 2020 version had to be cancelled, but in its absence Flame Night Fever was born. Spring Fever featured three members of the class: Hal Apenyo, Mama MoMo, and Ginger Vicious.
“[Flame Night Fever] felt like an amazing opportunity to flex my creative muscles during quarantine and reconnect by feeling united with the Ithaca community even while I was quarantining from half a country away,” said Hal Apenyo, an Asian drag king who performed a violin solo during his colorful, and fashion forward performance using a green screen.
The first Flame Night Fever on May 7 was broadcast through Zoom, but due to technical difficulties and issues of accessibility, it has been moved to the popular gaming streaming platform: Twitch.
“There’s actually a pretty big drag community on there,” Davis said. “Especially on the west coast there are some drag shows and bars that are moving online and it’s been interesting to see a little bit of a community on there that sort of parallels ours.”
The night began with a duet between Kitschy and Tilia to a parody song called “Let’s Go Live” that showcased their comedy skills and set the tone for the evening. Throughout the night, the hosts provided quips and bits to help smooth the transitions while their makeup and killer looks made them seem almost mythical against the glare of the computer screen.
Some highlights of the evening included Ginger Vicious’ mashup of several different versions of “Feelin’ Good,” a death-metal burlesque dance by Creatrix that featured an appearance by the Necronomicon, a campy duet to “Love Shack” with Kitschy in both female and male drag, a sultry Red Riding Hood number from Psycho Belle, and a vintage infused duet featuring local favorites: Athena Merlot and Dizzy Discretion.
“I decided to embrace this new way of performing by creating something from scratch, rather than adapting an old act into the virtual performance format,” said Lulu La Femme, a resident of Trumansburg and a core member of Syracuse’s Salt City Burlesque. “I also added a ring light and tripod to my equipment, and created my first virtual performance video, complete with text titles, effects, and a revving RX-8.”
Some performers were lucky enough to have a green screen to use while others took to decorating their apartments with colored lights, sequined shower curtains, flowers, and other bits of décor to spice up their quarantined space.
The performance was followed with a virtual dance party on Zoom, hosted by local DJ group: Spirit Posse. Many of the performers were in attendance, dancing amidst their backdrops, while members of the audience grooved along, or sat and watched with their cameras off.
“We had really no idea how everyone was going to react,” Tilia said. “We didn’t know that people were going to get as into it as they did. I kept reading the chat all night and there were so many positive messages. Lots of ‘yas queens!’”
Throughout the entire night, it was estimated that at least 220 people turned up on Twitch and the Facebook Live stream to show their support and revel in the fun times provided by the performers.
“It was a strange roller coaster of emotion, having had the “high” of the performance occur days earlier and then waiting for the performance to actually be shown to others and see their feedback and comments after-the-fact,” La Femme said. “There’s nothing like the energy exchange and applause from a live audience, but I’m grateful to have been a part of this incredible show!
With another round of Flame Night Fever over, the next performance is scheduled for June 18th. To celebrate Pride month, the theme is “Pride Fever.”
“It’s going to be every three weeks until the world stops ending,” Tilia joked.