Faux Real 3 is an "avant-drag" show, immersive theater performance, masquerade ball, birthday party, and interactive art installation with the theme "aliens and androgynous gods."
At least those are the words that organizers Tiare Ribeaux and Najee Rene are using to describe it. The event, which will take place at B4BEL4B (184 10th St., Oakland) on April 4, is intended to offer a one-night-only alternate reality — complete with over-the-top outfits, mind-bending tech art, and gender-bending performances in which no one is themselves. Or, rather, everyone is so authentically themselves so as to be unrecognizable.
Faux Real began three years ago as Rene's birthday celebration. Rene puts on the monthly queer dance party Hella Gay (which was previously held at The Uptown and will now be held at Brix 581), so he is no rookie at throwing LGBTQ-centric parties. He wanted Faux Real to be an event that was not necessarily "traditional drag," but encouraged everyone to dress up to the next level — hence "avant-drag."
Rene held Faux Real's second iteration at B4BEL4B, and paired up with curator Ribeaux to add the element of interactive tech-art installations. Ribeaux, who is also one of the founders of B4BELAB, often organizes events that showcase work at the intersection of technology and art — most of which are interactive installations that involve projections, sensors, and virtual reality technology — to offer artworks in the form of experiences. That year, the two also added the masquerade component to encourage people to step out of their comfort zones.
This year's party will include all of the above elements, with the addition of an immersive theater aspect. For the first two hours of the party, performers will inhabit three sections of the space, each with its own theme. The performers won't have a script, but will improvise based on a developed character with a specific role, and interact with other attendees to collaboratively perform an open-ended narrative. Ribeaux didn't want to give away too many details, but said that part of the fun will be the opportunity to continuously reinterpret one's gender throughout the night. Fellow B4BEL4B founder, artist Heather Holton, also let on that she will be offering makeovers based on anti-face recognition technology.
Once in the space, it won't be easy to tell who is technically an actor because everyone will be a participant in the production. "It's like mad libs or choose your own adventure," said Jader, the master of ceremonies. "We provide the scaffolding and y'all fill in the blanks." Jader is a musician and drag performer with infectious charm, and will be just one of the many people designated to ensure that the environment remains inclusive throughout the night. Rene stressed that creating a safe space is a crucial foundation for the party.
As for the theme — "aliens and androgynous gods" — it's more than an encouragement to create an out-of-this-world look. "I feel like when someone not familiar with queer culture comes in, they look at us as aliens and freaks, when historically and in myth, androgyny has been revered," said Ribeaux. "It's just something I wanted to give a shout out to." Jader underscored that taking ownership and celebrating the qualities that alienate you can be empowering: "I'm now in control of being the 'other!'"
Added to all those layers is a long lineup of performers. Drag performances will take place upstairs, with live music downstairs. The list includes local drag king, faux queen, and musician Bebe Huxley; the incredible queer dancer Saturn Rising; and LA musician Jeremy Mikush, a frequent collaborator with Alaska Thunderfuck (made famous by RuPaul's Drag Race). The eccentric electronic and rap duo Double Duchess will headline. Made up of Krylon Superstar and davO, the San Francisco-based group is known for its deliciously campy and energetic performances and music videos — the latest of which featured Kelly Osbourne in a shiny, purple wig jumping rope with someone's twenty-foot-long braid.
Jader pointed out that queer people are often told to "turn it down," and at a certain point, many say "fuck it." Faux Real will be about turning that expression up. "You've been suppressed for this whole time, now how can you take yourself to the nth degree? How can you parody yourself, how can you make yourself hyperbolic?" said Jader. "Let's play with what 'normal' is."