Take a quick glance at the photos for the upcoming production of Cocktales with Maria at this year’s rEvolver Theatre Festival and you may be reminded of a kinkier version of Hedwig & The Angry Inch. But look beyond the visuals and those comparisons quickly disappear.
Described by its creators as a “gay sex drag cabaret opera”, Cocktales with Maria is a hybrid of classical opera and new music, mixed with verbatim first-person stories of West Coast gay sexual experiences. The word-for-word real-life sex stories of a group of Vancouver gay men are molded into what the creators describe as a “fun, serious, touching, and shocking camp trash opera cabaret theatre piece”.
Cocktales with Maria is the result of a four year collaboration between Victoria-based composer Isaiah Bell, Joel Klein (aka drag opera diva Maria Toilette), and concert pianist Karen Lee-Morlang. The show got its start as a 2011 commission by Out on Screen / Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
Klein and Bell are both accomplished opera singers in their own right, with Klein having sung lead roles in operas for Vancouver Opera, Edmonton Opera, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Bell has written four operas, two of which have toured extensively, and has toured around the world as a tenor.
Stories in the show, which are sung live by Maria Toilette (Klein), include an actual transcript of a BDSM play session, a bathhouse hookup, a first-time experience with a counselor at an evangelical church camp and an awesomely terrible hookup with a guy from Squamish who lets wild birds roam free in his apartment.
“From rapacious to tender, at its core this piece shows universality among the experiences we try to hide away,” say organizers.
Following the show on May 30 audiences will have an opportunity to participate in an after/play party at Davie Street’s private club 8×6, open to all sex and gender identities.
Cocktales with Maria plays The Cultch (1895 Venable St, Vancouver) as part of the 2015 rEvolver Theatre Festival May 27-30. Visit http://revolverfestival.ca for tickets and information.