Photo by ET Russian
After seeing Bet Ya Ungodly Things at Gay City, I felt like I had woke from a dream and was forced to return to the dark cold reality of 2018. The show was a one-person performance-art piece which transported the audience to rural New Jersey, to a time where fairies and magic hum in the air.
The show was created, written, and performed by Neve Andromeda Mazique Bianco with the help of a small stage crew. Bet Ya Ungodly Things was yet another example the of the boundary-breaking artistic endeavors occurring at Gay City Arts. It was unlike anything I’ve seen before. Neve’s work represents a new facet of queer POC magick folklore – I don’t know what to call it, okay – and one can only hope to see more work from them. Their use of original folklore, their unique storytelling technique, and the production made it a performance art experience.
An insert was graciously included in the handout for the performance. Without it, I honestly think the show would have been lost on me. The insert, titled “A Pearl of Salt for the Careful Audience Member,” explained where the symbolism and inspiration for the performance came from. It was a useful resource for understanding the trajectory of the show. I am going to be honest with y’all. There were times during the performance I had no idea what was going on, which was still interesting because it reinforced the dreamlike spell that the show cast. An explicit request to read it beforehand was not optional. Otherwise, you find yourself on somewhat of a wild roller coaster ride. And does everyone read the play bills anyway?
The fable centered around Neve, their childhood, and their experiences as a magical disabled queer POC. They drew especially from Hoodoo and Silkies folklore. Neve also states that author Virginia Hamilton’s The Mer-woman Out of the Sea influenced their work. The incorporation and influence of these different entities shine through in Neve’s writing. It was a beautiful combination of the two sides of their family’s heritage.
The set was simple, but exaggerated the hazy feeling of a children’s fable-like narrative. Sketched black and white images projected onto the whole back of the stage, changing for each scene, depicted locations from Neve’s childhood, a street they lived on, an old barn, a path into the forest, a bedroom, and the Seattle skyline. A large rock with framed family photos jutted out, embodying the inspiration of the seal folklore.
The performance concluded with Neve in front of a new background. It was a drawing of the Seattle skyline from the water. I found this part to be incredibly personal. At the entrance to the theatre, a table was filled with strips of earth tone fabrics and an invitation for all the people of color to write a wish upon to be read as the closing ritual. It was a very beautiful ending to the show that left you feeling closer to your neighbor and more human.
Neve took a huge risk with Bet Ya Ungodly Things. They created something really unique, ethereal, moving, confusing, and downright magical. I was lucky to have experienced it. Neve Andromeda Mazique Bianco is a force, and I cannot wait to see them grow and continue to create new works of art.