The Bearded Ladies bring Covid-safe cabaret to Philly and beyond

The Beardmobile celebrates Spring renewal and the magic of queer collaboration, activism and performance.

The Bearded Ladies Cabaret Company along with a slew of incredible partners and artists, have announced the Beardmobile — a roving, multi-use cabaret truck that makes live performance accessible in the age of the pandemic. The 15-foot box truck will be the main stage for a series of outdoor pop-up performances throughout Philadelphia, presented as part of the queer cabaret group’s Late Night Snacks series this Spring.

The Bearded Ladies Cabaret is a Philadelphia-based troupe of artists who use cabaret to tackle the politics of gender, identity, and artistic invention with sparkle and wit. Cabaret, a unique blend of popular and ‘high’ art, lends itself particularly well to artistic exploration of contemporary issues. Their interdisciplinary productions also draw from traditional theatre, opera, dance, and art installation. In their 10-year history, they have collaborated with the Wilma Theater, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Kimmel Center, Opera Philadelphia, FringeArts, and Eastern State Penitentiary to bring their unique form of cabaret to more than 10,000 Philadelphians.

The Beardmobile is a big, gay mobile performance unit, glitterfully outfitted for socially-distanced performances and political actions. With neon LED lighting, high-powered speakers, a 6-foot retractable stage, and room for a three-piece band, the truck is not only stunning, but versatile. The Beards have already experimented with “protest mode,” a mode in which the back door of the truck opens and the speakers swivel to face outwards, allowing leaders to be better heard during protests. The Beardmobile was included in Democracy Now’s coverage of Philly’s “Count Every Vote” demonstrations in November 2020.

While the project is intended to raise morale all over Philadelphia, the Beards have implemented comprehensive safety protocols. In addition to protective vinyl shields to mitigate the spread of airborne germs, all passengers aboard the Beardmobile are required to follow CDC and city guidelines (masks at all times, 6 feet of distance) and the truck is sanitized daily. The leaders of the project planning team have also undergone an array of safety trainings, including Health Education Service’s COVID-19 Compliance Training. An Accountability Partner will be present at every Beardmobile performance.

“The pandemic left so many artists underemployed and so many organizations on shaky ground,” says John Jarboe (she/her), Artistic Director of The Beards. “We designed the Beardmobile not only to showcase Bearded Ladies artists but also to be a resource for performing arts and social justice organizations in Philadelphia.”

For the four-week run of pop-up performances (designed to be enjoyed at a distance), the Beards have teamed up with a variety of organizations across the city. Partners like Spiral Q, ILL DOOTS, and Philadelphia Contemporary will help curate performances, choose accessible locations, and most importantly, gain the consent of their community.

“We’re taking every precaution, and part of that is making sure we build trust with the neighborhoods where we plan to take the truck,” says Cat Ramirez (they/she), Line Producer for the Beardmobile. “We’re co-presenting with organizations who have strong ties in their communities. In many ways, they are leading the charge on curation, outreach, marketing, and the safety processes specific to each location and audience.”

With a rotating cast of hosts including Anthony Martinez-Briggs (he/they) of ILL DOOTS, Sam Rise (they/them) of Girls Rock Philly, and award-winning performers like Cookie Diorio (he/she), Jess Conda (she/her), Eric Jaffe (they/them), Brett Robinson (she/her), and John Jarboe (she/her), the Beardmobile will be popping up in neighborhoods across Philadelphia starting in April. John Jarboe hopes the project creates needed space for the particular communal joy, grief, processing, and release that live art provides. “The Beardmobile was born to facilitate collaboration, activism, and performance in the city we love,” she says. “Who would have thought a queer cabaret company would pull out wrenches and wheel greese? That’s adaptation for you.”

The Beardmobile hits the road for a four-week run of local pop-up performances this April. More information on ticketing, reservations, and locations to come.

The Bearded ones are implementing safety procedures in alignment with local and national guidelines. Facial coverings that follow the recommendations of the CDC are mandatory. Reservations may be necessary. Performance schedule may result in modifications to conditions, postponements, or cancellations, based on shifting local policy. Each location will be overseen by a certified Accountability Partner who will provide site-specific adaptations.

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