Glitterbomb Queer Variety Show
Every Thursday evening at Mable Peabody’s Beauty Parlor and Chainsaw repair, Glitterbomb show founder and producer, Lillith Karen Grey and Master of Ceremonies, Chloe McDowell, make things exciting with a whimsical theme (look out for Galentine’s Day, Scary Potter and Nude Frontier in 2017) realized by a rotating gamut of queer performers who conceive their own creative numbers related to the theme of the week, a culture that Grey cultivated (more on her in a second). The show begins around 10pm, runs for approximately 2 hours, and is only five dollars at the door before 10p.m. and seven dollars after. Make sure to bring more bills for later, because these talented performers have been trained to give their audience a little extra glitter for a little extra cash, wink wink.
At first, Grey was opposed to bringing a weekly queer variety show to Denton, saying it was “a terrible idea.” But in the spring of 2015 a friend of hers had pointed out that if this type of show had consistent success through the Tuesday Tease at Sue Ellen’s in Dallas, a show which she had been producing for two years, then why not have something similar right here in Denton? At the time, nothing remotely close to The Tease had taken off in the little D.
Before any show could be born, however, there were Grey's non-negotiables. She wasn't putting on a show which lacked attendance which meant the founding performers had to be great. The show had to be 18 and up to accommodate the “baby gays” (as McDowell lovingly calls them) and to create a community space for “clearly queer and clearly non-binary” college students attending UNT or TWU. This meant Mable Peabody's had to invest funds to compensate performers and staff extra security at the door for minors filtering into the bar. So Glitterbomb was born, and now consists of performers who are true representatives of Denton, Grey’s years of production experience, and the financial support of Mable Peabody’s.
When asked how the Glitterbomb branch of Denton’s LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) community has evolved since the show’s humble beginnings, Grey says, “I’ve seen diversity increase significantly, both on stage and in the audience.” This is a direct result of the intentional planning of the GB team. To curate one of their successful world-renowned shows (yes, their stellar reputation has garnered attention across the country and overseas), a great deal of work must be done every week.
First of all, the chosen themes must actually excite the performers, prompting them to create unique acts. Besides steering clear of cultural appropriation and hateful messages, performers can virtually create whatever they want, fostering diversity in its purest form. Beautiful. Next, from the acts proposed to the production team, a diverse slate of performers are chosen. Various performance styles, ages, races, genders and body types are considered, as well as levels of experience.
When amateurs grace the Glitterbomb stage, they are encouraged to embrace what makes them special through a performance validated by a beautifully inclusive, safe space. Grey is “not only putting white people on fliers,” to put it bluntly, because “we have to cultivate the show but we also have to cultivate the community.”
As the host, McDowell has a leadership position which grants an ability to model apologetic language in front of impressionable audience members. Setting a standard of self-awareness and swift self-correction is an important responsibility to the entire Glitterbomb production team as a culture. In situations where insensitive or oppressive comments are made at 'the shrine of the shimmer' by staff members, an apology is surely issued. These are important teaching moments for the young queer community to encourage its growth and evolution.
There is nothing quite like the plurality of show and community that is Glitterbomb. Everyone dances together, tosses dollars together, debates together and protests together. Sometimes, amidst unspeakable tragedy like the mass shooting at Pulse Night Club in Orlando this past summer, the tears and grief are shared together. The community remembers. And the show goes on. This is what the show is for. This is who the LGBTQ community has always been. Mama Bear Karen reflects, “I’m not sure that we knew it would end up like this… I would have killed for this in college.” Looking to a bright and glitter-filled future, with a momentous two-year anniversary on the horizon to celebrate the Glitterbomb’s beginning, Chloe adds, “It’s becoming something that I’ve never seen before.”
Glitterbomb is held every Thursday at Mable Peabody which is located at 1125 University Dr. To stay informed on upcoming shows and auditions, visit the Glitterbomb Facebook Page.
Upcoming performance dates and themes:
November 3rd - Amusement Parks
November 10th - Musicals
November 17th - Junk Food
Photos by Kristen Gaddis and Chloe McDowell
Header Image design by Jason Lee