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RNC: Creative Time for the GLBT Set

Bedlam Theatre flamesOnly 16 protest permits were given out for groups of at least 25 people for this year’s Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. As I write this, several hundred protesters and activists have been arrested, many of them in the midst of “civil disobedience,” often simply congregating without a permit.

But many organizations in the Twin Cities are proving that the party doesn’t stop once the permits run out, especially in the GBLT community. This week has given an already blossoming queer scene the fuel to burst with carnivals, performance art, theater, and music. And hey, what’s deviance without a flaming hula hoop?

Pi Bar, a Minneapolis queer karaoke bar and restaurant, was more hopping than ever on Sunday when it hosted the adult-only Carnival of Deviance, a benefit for organizations providing assistance to RNC protesters. “Carni-core” punk band the Knotwells set the mood with a wild take on Americana, and Gay Witch Abortion, voted one of First Avenue nightclub’s best new bands in 2008, played with a fervor that induced foot stomping heavier than anything seen on the streets of St. Paul.

The carnival, organized by Pi co-owner Tara Yule and Pi entertainment director Shannon Blowtorch, also featured the sword-swallowing Bedlam Theatre troupe, a “bizarre bazaar,” side shows, and a cabaret, all for the purpose of uniting the dissenting queer.

Yule noted the intersection between queer and subversive culture in a recent interview with the Daily Planet: “We’re a bar for alternative, subversive, and counterculture clientele. The actual intention of Pi is to be a place for all people who are subversive or progressive in some way—not only lesbian or gay....This carnival will be a jumping-off point making a statement, reflecting who we are...We need to reinvigorate the counterculture movement, and that’s why Pi is here. We are good at bringing people together. It’s a magical place.”

Sharon HayesThe next day, as people were just getting comfortable in the shade after Monday’s march of 10,000-plus people, New York performance artist Sharon Hayes and her band of queers interjected: “My dear lover, I know you will be angry at me for speaking to you like this in public but you left me with no other choice.”

It was Revolutionary Love 2: I Am Your Best Fantasy, a two-part perfomance art piece that took place at both conventions this year as part of Creative Time’s summer-long national public art initiative “Democracy in America: The National Campaign.” Hayes recruited about 75 citizens in Denver and Minneapolis to become the medium of her work by reciting, in unison, a script that explores the relationship between sexual and political desire, and dismantles the traditional power structure of political address.

“This morning I tried to get into the convention to talk to you,” they went on, “but I don’t have a pass and there are police and party officials four lined thick down there. It’s not like the old days when things were loose and you could flirt or lie your way in. I’m not quite sure what you're all so afraid of. What’s with all the armor? Are things really that bad?”

The Gay Liberation Movement is still forging new relationships between love and politics, and the crowd of smiling, sequin bikini-clad queer folk surrounded by pink and yellow “Gay” balloons at Revolutionary Love couldn't help but bring new life to a Stonewall-era Gay Liberation chant.

“You may be holding yourself up inside those layers of people, but I know that the ears are the only orifice that can’t be closed.  I am an army of lovers, my sweet, and I want you to hear me very clearly. I’ve found my voice and with it I scream, 'I love you!’”

 For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Republican National Convention, click here.

 Images courtesy the Bedlam Theatre, Sharon Hayes.