The Clark is Burning: A Workshop on Queer Performance & the Archive

Photo of Clark Library vestibule ceiling

Saturday, June 15, 2024
1:00 pm PDT – 4:00 pm PDT

William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street

Organized by Erin Severson, University of California, Los Angeles

The Ballroom scene (at times synonymized with the performance art form of “vogue”) began in the Black and Brown queer club scene of late 1970s New York, and has since flourished as an increasingly globalized space for building personal identity and community. Please join us for this workshop on the vogue dance form, which we will explore by considering performance itself as both a contemporary art form and a historical practice. Featuring a vogue showcase produced by writer and Ballroom historian Sydney Baloue and the House of FUBU, attendees will serve as an audience to a roll call that presents different voguing styles and competitive categories commonly walked in balls around the globe, which will be introduced for the first time into the Clark’s historic drawing room. Through a series of dramatic readings given by graduate students and scholars, the workshop will place the textual performance of identity in dialogue with contemporary performance art. The title references the seminal 1990 documentary film Paris is Burning by Jennie Livingston, which helped make Ballroom culture visible in mainstream culture. Drawing on material from the Clark’s own institutional archive as well as its core collections ranging from seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British literature and culture to Oscar Wilde and his circle, this event propels us into the future through a thoughtful consideration of the past, as contemporary identity is negotiated both individually and collectively, through bodily contortion and gesture.

As a member of the House of Xtravaganza, a Ballroom academic, a producer on HBO Max’s Legendary, and a performer himself, Baloue has been carving out space for trans masculine representation in the scene for years. He is in the process of writing a history of Ballroom entitled UNDENIABLE: A History of Voguing, Ballroom and How It Changed My Life (and the World), under contract with Crown Publishing Group and Sugar23. The LA-based Kiki House of FUBU (their namesake “For Us By Us”) is a chosen family of performers, competitors, and artists that train for and walk (i.e. “compete in”) pageant-style competitions referred to as “balls” across the country. It was founded in 2023 by Packrat and Carlos, two heavy-hitting members of the house Ballroom scene who have dedicated much of their lives to the community and culture.

The opening performance will be followed by a Q&A on the history of queer performance and what it means to build community in a space that was started by Black and Latino LGBTQIA+ individuals who fought to combat the forces of racism, discrimination, abandonment, and other important social and economic issues across history. The latter half of the event will consist of a reception in the style of a “high tea,” which honors another form of LGBTQIA+ community practice—connecting to the history of tea dances as safe spaces for the gay community in the pre-Stonewall era—as a nod to the taste for drama which ties together modern Ballroom culture and Regency-era society. Attendees can visit the “literary salon” taking place in the North Book Room, which will feature a display of rare material from our collections highlighting gender nonconformity and performance as selections from these pieces are read from the balcony above.

During the salon, there will be four dramatic readings from Restoration and eighteenth-century plays that playfully challenge the stability of gender expression, sexuality, and patriarchy. Thomas Otway’s tragedy, Venice Preserv’d (1682), offers comic relief, kinky sexual exploits, and gender hierarchy subversions in a scene featuring a senator and a sex worker who is secretly aiding a coup d’etat against the ruling class. Aphra Behn’s tragicomedy, The Widow Ranter (1689), embraces one of the most popular tropes of the Restoration stage: women cross-dressing. In this scene, the play’s titular character seduces her male object of desire while disguised as a man. Margaret Cavendish’s closet drama, The Convent of Pleasure (1668), imagines a refuge for women with no interest in marriage to enjoy all the pleasures that Goddess Nature offers them—including each other. This series of dramatic readings will end with a beginning: David Garrick’s prologue to Hannah More’s 1777 play Percy, which calls our attention to gender performativity and gender inequality. These scenes were selected by Sabrina Yates (Stanford University), whose research focuses on dressing up and disguise in Restoration and eighteenth-century English drama.

Performers & Speakers
Sydney Baloue
The Kiki House of FUBU
       Packrat FUBU
       Carlos FUBU
       Haneef FUBU
       Fantasy FUBU
Anadaios Box, University of California, Los Angeles
Helen Deutsch, University of California, Los Angeles
Cailey Hall, University of California, Los Angeles
Rebecca Fenning Marschall, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
Jai (James) Ocampo Severson
Erin Severson, University of California, Los Angeles
Cass Turner, University of California, Los Angeles
Sabrina Yates, Stanford University

Program Schedule
All times listed in Pacific Daylight Time

1:00 p.m.
Introductory Remarks
Erin Severson, University of California, Los Angeles, and Sydney Baloue

1:15 p.m.
Vogue Performance and Panel
The Kiki House of FUBU

2:30 p.m.
Rebecca Fenning Marschall, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
“Rumors of W. A. Clark Jr.”

Helen Deutsch, University of California, Los Angeles
“A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed”

Vogue performance by Jai Ocampo Severson

2:45 p.m.

3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Literary Salon (North Book Room) & Reception (Outdoor Reading Room)

3:00 p.m.
Thomas Otway’s Venice Preserv’d (1682)
Aquilina: Sabrina Yates, Stanford University
Antonio: Erin Severson, University of California, Los Angeles

3:15 p.m.
Aphra Behn’s Widow Ranter (1689)
Widow Ranter: Anadaios Box
Chrisante: Sabrina Yates, Stanford University
Daring: Erin Severson, University of California, Los Angeles

3:30 p.m.
Margaret Cavendish’s Convent of Pleasure (1668)
Princess: Cass Turner, University of California, Los Angeles
Lady Happy: Cailey Hall, University of California, Los Angeles

3:45 p.m.
David Garick’s Prologue to Hannah More’s Percy (1777)
Speaker: Sabrina Yates, Stanford University

Workshop registration has reached capacity. To be added to the wait list please submit the form below. If seats become available due to cancellations, individuals will be contacted in the order received. Seating is limited at the Clark Library; walk-in registrants are welcome as space permits.

Please note photography and filming will take place as a record of this program. By attending this event, you irrevocably consent to and authorize UCLA and its licensees to photograph you, make sound and/or video recordings of you, and use such recordings in all media now known or later created, in perpetuity for any purpose whatsoever, including but not limited to, publicity and promotion of this event and UCLA generally. You represent that you are at least eighteen years old. If you are under the age of eighteen, you represent that you have obtained your parent’s/guardian’s consent to attend this event and to be bound by these terms.

Image: Clark Library vestibule ceiling mural by Allyn Cox. For more information on the art and architecture of the Clark, please see here.