Mandy Kahlmeier recalls how a seemingly innocuous event on a C-Train stirred her feminist sensibilities and planted the seed for the upcoming show Herotica — A Cabaret for Her.
Kahlmeier spotted a fellow commuter — a middle-aged woman — reading a romance novel but trying to shield the book with a newspaper so people couldn’t see the racy cover.
“She was trying to hide it. I had this thought, ‘Why do we do this as women?’” says Kahlmeier.
Her response to the sense of shame she witnessed on the C-Train was to solicit proposals from the Calgary arts community to create an evening of provocative cabaret–style performance called Herotica — 10 acts from a variety of artistic disciplines which explore “female pleasure.” (Though a self-described “raging feminist,” Kahlmeier, 22, has also written and published a romance novel — although she says she didn’t stick to the typical male/female stereotypes inherent in the genre; instead, she “redefines” the characters.)
However, she says that while “erotica is often defined in sexual terms... not every piece in Herotica is necessarily a sexual exploration.”
There will be an improv troupe, for example, that will ask audience members to write down a “pleasurable moment” spent with a woman in their lives. The actors will then create skits based on the responses they receive.
“Pleasurable is not necessarily sexual,” says Kahlmeier.
Other pieces in the show include: “chair puppetry,” in which puppeteers animate furniture and have them participate in some four-legged love; a performance by spoken word artist Kirk Ramdath featuring his “Panty Poem”; and a movement piece that involves male dancers unlocking a woman wrapped in chains. Standup comedian Kathleen Fullerton is also on the bill, as is a burlesque number, and two installations in the lobby of the theatre.
Kahlmeier herself is doing a performance art piece titled “Wet,” along with an “opera” in gibberish that, essentially, explores the sex act from an aural perspective.
Kahlmeier’s experiences in Paris inspired Herotica’s format. While there, the theatre graduate of both the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University attended such legendary locales as the Moulin Rouge and performed spoken word in a cabaret environment.
“One of the strengths I wanted to bring forward was to cross artistic disciplines,” Kahlmeier says.
In keeping with her desire to bring erotica out of the shadows, so to speak, the lights will remain up on the audience.
“It’s metaphoric,” says Kahlmeier, adding that she is presenting Herotica as part of her newly created performance collective, Lovers and Other Strangers. (She is borrowing the title from a radio show she recalls hearing while growing up in Ontario.)
“Herotica is unique because it has a strong feminine voice that is an alternative voice,” Kahlmeier says, noting that its collective format does not adhere to the traditionally patriarchal and hierarchal structure of classic theatre.
Tickets are available at the door, by calling 403-978-1139 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.