Monday night I had the pleasure of attending Cherry, at Jacque's Cabaret in Boston.
"Cherry" is described as " a night of New," for a reason. It features new performers or veteran performers doing new things. There was a very special reason I was present at this particular show and it was because Johnny was doing something new.
Last week, Johnny Blazes, wrote to a handful of hir friends saying:
As any performer will tell you, and most of you are performers so you know first hand, there are certain things that a performer feels completely comfortable doing onstage.... There is also usually at least one thing that that performer is terrified to do onstage. In my case, sing anything other than opera.
Not sure why. I can take off my clothes, flamenco dance, recite a soliloquy, lip synch like a fifth grader, cover myself in fake blood, fake fur or real whipped cream, without the slightest hint of stage fright or embarrassment, but singing earnestly onstage seems off-limits.
Well. It's about time.
Johnny's letter went on to express fear, and even uncertainty about inviting any of us, but asked that we come out to support this new endeavor. I hadn't seen Johnny on stage in a while due to my own rigorous performance schedule, so I made plans to go.
Jacque's was well populated when I got there. I'd never been before, but I started enjoying myself right away. Monday night featured Becca D'bus, Katya, and Hava Heart, and their lip synching, hip twisting, hair flipping performances were all spectacles in their own right...
But Johnny, as promised, was singing. Earnestly. And it was amazing.
Hir second number was a rendition of Ne-Yo's "Miss Independent," done with all gender neutral pronouns. "Ze does hir own thing," Johnny sang, sidling up to audience members in the small space, "that's why I love hir. Mix Independent, won't you come and spend a little time?"
As Johnny moved, every other person in the room remained riveted. Johnny didn't strip, or juggle or do any of the complex choreography the audience knows ze's capable of. It was just Johnny being Johnny, sharing hir voice in a way that is usually off-limits. I watched with a mixture of love and pride, and was surprised by the end to find my eyes full of tears.
Because that's how performers grow. But not just performers. That's how we all grow. Facing and shedding fears one at a time. And if we're lucky we get to share those moments with people we love.