By Leela Ginelle, PQ Monthly
Circus performer Sir Cupcake, running late as always, uses his magic pocket watch to try to reach his performance on time. Instead, he travels back to the 1930s, just in time to attend his ancestor, queer singer E.R. Martin’s show, and to stage a queer and trans circus for the ages!
Such is the conceit for queer circus veteran Jack Stocklynn’s newest show, which plays on May 8 & 9 at the Echo Theatre. “Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus Goes Back in Time,” which Stocklynn stars in and directs, features aerialists, acrobats, clowns and burlesques, celebrates queer and trans identities, and features queer and trans performers and their allies.
The venue for “Sir Cupcake” is wheelchair accessible and both shows will be ASL interpreted. We spoke with Stocklynn about Sir Cupcake’s genesis, time travel, and the history of queer circus performances.
PQ Monthly: Your show features many fun elements: storytelling, burlesque, trapeze, acrobatics and more. Where did the idea come to blend these different arts?
Jack Stocklynn: I have been combining art forms for as long as I have been making art. I can never seem to stick with just one. I think it started in college, at Cornish College of the Arts, the campus had classes all intermixed with different kinds of artists. When I graduated I was involved in a theatre troupe that had actors and dancers and visual artists in the company. I think live performance can only compete with internet, TV and music shows if we bring everything we have to the stage. So I do.
PQ: This is Sir Cupcake’s first show. What can you tell us about the character? What do you think led to his creation?
JS: Sir Cupcake grew out of my frustration with drag culture being kinda off limits to me, as an assigned female at birth (AFAB) person. Sure I can do drag and such, but it doesn’t you know, count. So I wanted to make a character that was so fabulous that he was beyond drag. Also I have always wanted to grow a mustache. I have been growing mine out for a long time, but I do have to augment a bit. Sir Cupcake started as a photo project, mostly on tumblr, but he just couldn’t stay off of the stage. He took a turn at the TBA Critical Mascara Ball, dressed as a Centaur. Sir Cupcake is a more fabulous version of me. He is human and a clown, though, so he messes up, gets excited, and jumps before looking. He flails with his whole heart and crazy stuff just happens, yet Sir Cupcake somehow remains cool; he can accidentally travel time, but instead of freaking out he rolls with it and does a show!
While this is Sir Cupcake’s first show, I have been making queer circus-theater shows for years, the last three have been under the name Pervert the Cirque. But I wanted to go in a more burlesque direction with this project, and thought this would be a perfect place for Sir Cupcake.
PQ: “Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus” is billed as a celebration of “queer and trans identities.” Why was it important for you to celebrate queer and trans people through your art? Is there a tradition of queer and trans circus shows?
JS: As a queer and transgender person it is incredibly important to me to see art where I recognize aspects of myself on stage. And in the current circus world queers are not often reflected. Certain kinds of femininity are celebrated and certain kinds of masculinity are celebrated, read: CIS-gender. I rarely see queers, and even more rarely see transgender folks, and often they are played for comedy or titillation, rather than anything else. So, as someone said to me once, if you want to see that, why don’t you make it? Historically, of course the circus and vaudeville world could be a refuge for queer and transgender folks and currently many queers are in the circus world, but somehow the shows still remain straight-ish and heteronormative. The love story isn’t ever two fellows falling for each other, for example. However, there is a growing movement of queer circus for queers happening. I have been in two queer circuses in San Francisco, and heard of several more in other parts of the US. For this show, I am bringing two trapeze artists here from Philadelphia who do a fabulous routine about two women falling in love. They also have a version of their act which is “two friends having a nice time together,” but it misses some of the depth of their artistry to avoid their queerness. In making a show like this I am making space for people to bring their whole selves to the stage.
PQ: Sir Cupcake’s magic pocket-watch takes him accidentally to the 1930s in this show. What was especially fun to explore about that era? Can you imagine other time periods you might like to visit with the character?
JS: Oh gosh, the best and hardest part of this show has been finding music. I love crooners and old standards and have had a blast finding new music and artists to love. I’m super into Maxine Sullivan right now; I just love her voice. I have also been surprised to find that several 50s standards were actually written in the 30s. For this show I wanted to pick a time that was sort of related to now, there are some fashion similarities and with electro swing there are also some musical similarities. And financially, we are supposedly out of The Recession… but I am not always sure.
Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus Goes Back in Time was created in honor of one of my queer ancestors, ER Martin, who passed away several years ago. He sang on the vaudeville circuit in his youth, and performed in musicals in Coos Bay all during my growing up. My mustache is also in honor of him. He glued one on for a show when I was about 12, and I realized that was a thing you could do!
You will find out where we go next at the end of this first show, but I will say we go somewhere pretty far out! I have the outlines for the next several shows already written, and we will be going EVERYWHERE!! (And I mean everywhere!)
PQ: You’ve performed all over the country, including in San Francisco, New York and New Mexico. Can you imagine taking Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus on the road?
JS: Oh I would love to! I love touring, you get to meet such amazing people and live a magical best job in the world vacation for a little bit. One of the great parts about the way I make shows is there is room for bringing in artists wherever we go to perform. Touring can be difficult and expensive, though, so I don’t foresee taking a whole show anytime soon, but I definitely will be touring individual acts and smaller group pieces this summer and beyond! (We have both floor and aerial acts available! Go to www.sircupcake.com to book us!)
“Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus Goes Back in Time” at Echo Theatre. May 8-9.