She is a lesbian. He is a gay man. They are joining forces for an unprecedented event, a queer variety show. Amber Bradshaw and Corian Ellisor’s “Identified” debuts this weekend at 7 Stages.
Bradshaw had never met Ellisor until a few years ago. A long-time theater artist born in Atlanta who moved away to go to school and then to France, Bradshaw relocated back to the area in 2003. When she did, she jumped right back into theater.
“I did an internship with Actor’s Express and then a few years with Synchronicity Performance Group,” she says. After a three-year break to focus on a family business, Bradshaw got heavily involved again in 2010.
“I’ve done more in the last year and a half than I’ve done in 10 years,” she says. Besides working in puppetry and dance, she is very much into multimedia work.
She has also directed a number of staged readings and worked with playwrights to develop their work. Two pieces she helped co-create, “Time to Eat the Dogs” and “Learning to Fly,” were part of Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts’ annual Xperimental Puppetry Theater production.
Bradshaw had always admired the work of choreographer Ellisor, staged around town. After seeing one of his productions, “It Takes a Village,” a few years ago, she made it a priority to reach out to him. The two hit it off and vowed to work together.
“He has been doing a lot of choreography in town for quite a while,” she says. “He started doing his own work. The show I saw was a dance piece but it had a lot of theater in it. He seemed to grasp the telling of his story better than other choreographers I had run across. After the show I approached him and told him I thought he was brilliant. Later I asked if he wanted to have coffee.”
Originally from Houston, Ellisor, who has a musical theater background, moved here six years ago to be part of the Core Performance Company dance troupe in Decatur. He left a few years ago to pursue other things.
“I found myself wanting to do more,” he says, including incorporating music and performance art into his work. He is also a drag performer; Ellisor’s drag persona is Ellisorus Rex, which is also the name of his company. He coordinates drag shows for Mary’s Atlanta on the first Saturday and third Thursday of every month, and has a new show at Burkhart’s every other Sunday.
‘Identified’ a mixed-media piece It took about eight months after that initial contact before Bradshaw and Ellisor sat and talked shop. But it was worth the wait. “I knew he was very focused and that he liked thinking outside the box,” says Bradshaw. “I knew there would be lots to learn from him. What he does is his art; he brings incredible ideas to what he does.”
Both artists share certain sentiments. “We both felt a little at odds in our art world,” says Bradshaw. “Sometimes it was hard to connect to people who did the same thing. It’s hard to work with theater people and I think he feels the same way with dance people. Most of that is usually about yourself. We spent a lot of time talking about what we wanted to do and why.
“One of our issues is people judging us by the way we look instead of for who we are—the way people perceive us versus the way we are. That is very universal. I am blonde with blue eyes and people may think, she is innocent, she is angelic. When people meet me they are surprised. That is not who I am. I am strong and I am edgy. I don’t mess around. Corian is a black man. The perception is that he will be scary, when he wouldn’t hurt a fly. When he started talking about those things, we said, ‘Let’s be who we are.’”
Hence, “Identified” was hatched.
Ellisor, named by Creative Loafing as one of the “20 People to Watch in 2013,” liked the idea of doing a piece that felt personal to both of them. “We talked about our principles,” Ellisor says. “We decided to just go for it. This piece is very specific to the people we are. It’s coming from a genuine place.”
“Identified” is a mixed-media piece that will combine dance, burlesque, theater and drag, “all interspersed together,” says Ellisor. For the most part, it’s just him and Bradshaw performing.
He thinks staging a queer variety show here is vital.
“Queer culture is becoming the new gay culture,” he says. “Gay or lesbian is a little too limiting for what our LGBTQ culture is. There is so much more and you get that more specifically when you say ‘queer.’ This deals very much with sexuality and gender.”
The show’s message, he feels, is something anyone can relate to. “It’s about finding identity, the love in yourself,” he says. “At the end, even if there has been a lot of hurt and pain, it makes you who you are. At the end we may all have hurts and pain and joy, and that is the same.”
The ultimate goal, “once we get the kinks worked out,” is to take this to other theaters, Ellisor says. He expects a strong LGBT crowd to come to the local event, but would love to see a crossover mainstream audience as well.
‘Identified: A Queer Variety Show’ Feb. 26–28 7 Stages Backstage Theatre 1105 Euclid Avenue N.E., Atlanta, GA 30307 http://tinyurl.com/q6pofyl