Sebastian in Philadelphia
Sebastian Cummings

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Off the wall. Queer. Out the box. Wacky. Wild. Raw. That’s The Dumpsta Players. Since the 90’s, this company has been producing monthly theatre experiences that feel a lot like a genderfucked sketch comedy show on acid. They’ve got their own style; Dumpsta. They reach in their bag and recycle costumes,actors, and characters every month to lampoon the shit out of pop culture and society, leaving you laughing, disturbed, and quite often sexually aroused (this isn’t just colorful writing, I mean it when i say sexually aroused). The shows feature dancing- big choreographed numbers, some of which feature the entire cast, live mic’d acting, and some of the best, funniest, wonkiest, lipsynching numbers. This group has a style; Dumpsta. This group has a feel: throwback. This group has an attitude: Queer. When I found out The Dumpsta Players had given their last scripted live performance, I was in shock and I felt sympathy for all the souls just moving to Philadelphia who never got a chance to witness the company and the Queer Royalty that rolled through over the years. I must be noted that Ricky Paul, John Donges, Chatty Catty, Freddy, Franco, Nathan, Kevin Jordan, Sara Sherr, and the gorgeous, Messapotamia Lafae are the wonderful performs I had the privilege to witness on stage, but there were many more amazing company members over the years. So, I got to thinking I needed to talk to Ricky Paul, one of the founders and scratch his brain for info. I knew there was one place he was sure to be… The Green Room

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When I came to Philadelphia as a young queer looking for hope of similar life forms, The Dumpsta Players were a lighthouse, helping to steer me in the right direction. When did you all first get started and what were you aiming to accomplish? How did the show end up being at B&B?

Ricky Paul
Ricky Paul
I began my relationship with Bob and Barbara’s in 1996 DJing retro 70s and 80s. Having worked as an actor and activist, the event attracted peoples from those communities. We were a motley crew that shared one common goal-accentuate the alternative. After a few months, performers started appearing in wild costumes ready to lip synch their fav retro hits. The Dumpsta Players organically grew out of this.

Tell us about the early days, what was it like when the show was in a state of obscurity? Was there more artistic freedom?
Firstly, South Street was still a middle class neighborhood with artists and students starting to creep in.

It was a bit rough and somewhat derelict. After the excesses of big 90s circuit parties, the dive bar was an oasis and people loved the buttoned-down style. We were a perfect match! Much of our random audiences in the early days were made up of working class folks just finishing their shifts mixed with poor, queer West Philly types and dandies out for a few laughs. This unlikely combination made for great fun. Artistically, improvisation was much more in the mix. Often, drunken strangers would wind up onstage playing along for all to see. Audiences ate it up.

How was the show initially received by audiences?

The Dumpsta Players were a relief for audiences tired of the same old Liza/Barbra style sing-song drag. Lisa Thompson and her drag show were already pleasing crowds with r n b hits and we occasionally would join forces which made for great audience crossover. Lisa used to say that, “The Dumpsta Players were the clamor and they were the glamour”.

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The Dumpsta Players reminds me of Monty Python or a queer SNL. In the early days, was there a natural leader that emerged among the performers or someone who unexpectedly found their wings and took off?
John had never done any acting at all and was a bit terrified of performing. He built up slowly, took acting classes and eventually turned in a fantastic performance as Petula Clark. Through it all, I continued to direct and lead the troupe relying on my years of professional experience, training and activist roots to guide me.

I’ve often been surprised by the storylines, what is the writing process like for the show?
The group would meet after a show to watch the video and that naturally led to discussions of future shows. I encouraged people to “babysit” their ideas and worked with them until they were full show scripts and ready for production. Everyone contributed, in some way, to the process.

Run us through the rehearsal process, how hectic was it?

It was quite hectic. In the early years, we produced 11 shows per year! The morning after a performance, I was already shoring up the next script and cast. It had to be written with all songs edited for rehearsal the following Wednesday. We would typically rehearse 4 times and then perform the show once, then, start the process all over again.

The entire company seems like one big family to me, what’s it been like working with so many of the same wonderful people each year?

It’s really a wonderful experience and I am quite grateful. I love working in an ensemble. Of course there are personalities that don’t always mix, and people do go their own way, but love is at the heart of it all.

In the nearly 20 years we’ve worked together, members have died, partnered with one another and had second generation Dumpsta babies!

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Were there any major struggles the company had to overcome?
Hmmm…..major struggles…..keeping costs down. Part of The Dumpsta Players modus operandi is recycling props, costumes, wigs and even lines. It’s an artistic choice as well as a pragmatic one. Still, I have been presented with more than one $89 receipt for reimbursement on a new wig. It’s challenging.

How did Prom Trash get started? How did it become a recurring thing?
“PromTrash” was the first show we ever performed. It is at the crux of all things Dumpsta.

As young high school queers, many of us had horrible, sometimes scarring, Prom experiences.

“PromTrash” was created as the first alternative Prom. It’s a chance to take back your lousy memory and remake it into something more fitting. The first Prom was such a sensational hit it seemed only fitting to crown a new queen each spring. We are presenting our 20th PromTrash competition on April 20th, 2016, “PromTrash All-Stars”!


Can you entertain us with one of your favorite stories from the glory days?
Oh, Lord, well, after the 2002 performance of “Prankstas’ Paradise”, we were loading out the costumes and props around 2AM, lining up bags along the curb. Well, one or two performers who were assisting with the load out may have imbibed one too many spirits, ahem. I realized a bag of wigs was left behind on the curb. Unfortunately, it was trash night, and the bag blended in with the rubbish. We walked over the next day to search around for the missing stuff and found Dumpsta wigs strewn all over the street. Classic Dumpsta 😉

What do you think The Dumpsta Players meant to the city? to the people?

The Dumpsta Players are at the cross section of chic and realness. We are absolutely fashion forward while maintaining a distinctly Philly vibe-stripped down, scrappy while presenting cutting edge, topical humor in a classless style. In a John Waters’ tradition, we are truly an original creation.

What”s next for The Dumpsta Players?
The Dumpsta Players will continue our mission in a studio setting. Through our parent non-profit org, DP Arts Consortium, (www.dpartsconsortium.org), we are partnering with PhillyCAM (www.phillycam.org)

to produce raucous sketch comedy and other parody performances. Just completed-“Razzle Dazzle” featuring old skool stars of the screen and radio, Charles Nelson Reilly and Peggy Lee, coming to PhillyCAM Comcast channel 66 in April!

Can you share one of your favorite ensemble videos with us?
Sure! There are sooo many, but I will go with one featuring the music of eternal icon, David Bowie with a hot rap by Queen Latifah. Enjoy and thanks for your interest!!!

Description of video clip:
In the exciting conclusion of the fashion show, Kim Katrashian, Miss Philippines, Lance Armstrong, Miss Kosovo and Honey Poo Poo all claw and scratch for the title of most attention-seeking celebrity! Find out the winner of this pathetic attempt at tabloid domination! From The Dumpsta Players, “Honey Poo Poo’s Chic-Fill-A Fashion Show”!

If I were you, I would get my ass to Prom Trash All Stars on April 20, 2016 and catch the last live show!!…AAAAnd follow The Dumpsta Players on Facebook to learn all about their future endeavors.

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Inside The Green Room
Sean Green

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Sebastian in Philadelphia
Sebastian Cummings
Sean Green
When I think of performances happening in the gayborhood of Philadelphia, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Not saying everyone is predictable, but when you turn on HGTV, you know you’re gonna get a home/renovation type show… Truth. But, girl was I in for a surprise when they announced Sean Mychael Green’s name at Tabu…
1.Sean does amazing pole work, like you’ve never seen before. I’m telling you, it looks like ballet on a pole, I’m not kidding. He’s strong, graceful, and talented.
2.I would eat a three course meal off his naked body, particularly his ass. Sean has worked hard to maintain an amazingly impressive physique. (His fiance is also tres sexy)
3.I mean, he’s just the nicest guy you ever met. The kinda guy that makes you realize how bad a person you are.
Once I discovered that we share a name (Sean) and a place of birth (Frankfurt, Germany), I just had to track down Mr. Green and find out what makes him tick. I just had to know. I asked around and learned that he appreciates a nice glass of Malbec, so I grab a bottle and head to the one place I knew I could find Sean Mychael Green… The Green Room.

When in, life, did you know you wanted to perform?
I had dreams of becoming a ballet dancer in high school but learned that i was born with two left feet. Just these past two years i have fallen in love with the aerial arts and seeing where it can take me as a performer.

Tell us about your first experience as a performer.
My first live performance was actually a professional pole dance competition in Boston of early 2014. I was soooooooo nervous. After 3 months of training and numerous pep talks from my fiance and close friends i arrived the day before the competition to learn that i was the only male in my division and was given the option to advance to the Pro division. I did and i took 2nd place! I am a believer that humans grow most when forced to step out of their comfort zone. I performed to an Enya song and had some feathers in my with powder. There were some pretty rad hair flips lol

I’ll be needing a video of that for your E! True Hollywood Story. If there is one area in life I have problems with, it’s flexibility. Is that something that comes naturally to you?
Ha!! What’s flexibility? Do i know her?? No, it does not come naturally to me at all. I have to work on it everyday of every week. Sometimes touching my toes is cause for celebration.

I can totally relate to that! I had back surgery 14 years ago, touching my toes since then… ha! You perform with lyra, with poles, what are some of your greatest challenges, performing with your feet off the ground?
Honestly my only challenge is when my feet hit the ground. In the air it’s just the music and I, that’s all. When i have two feet under myself i feel clumsy and unbalanced. With no dance background i would much rather spend my time manipulating my body in the air.

I had an ex tell me I was useless, unless my feet were in the air… different kind of story though. Forget I said that. Did you ever have personal problems with body image? How did you work through them?
I would like to think that i am a confident individual but everyone doubts their physical appearance from time to time. I did a body building competition in 2013 and it really messed with my head. Took some time for me to be ok with “me”. Being perfect is too much work and i love some Dominos!

Sean Green
Buy Bastian, a new album by Sebastian

What keeps you motivated?
I am constantly motivated to do more! If you ask my fiance he’ll tell you i don’t like to sit still. There is always time for another project right? I won’t be able to maintain this level of activity forever so i guess my motivation is “time”.

I think about that sometimes as well. Better do it before I cant… What do you feel is the greatest struggle in your life that you’ve overcome?
In 2010 i was diagnosed with bipolar depression. Unfortunately, the diagnosis came after i had been kicked out of a University for causing myself bodily harm. I was Baker Acted in Miami and sent home to live with my parents, attend out-patient therapy and take a lovely mood stabilizing cocktail. For me it was rock bottom… It’s taken a lot of time and work but now the only harm i do to my body is the occasional bump of bruise from training.

Thank you for having the courage to share that with us. You are very brave and very strong.
What is love?

Love to me is a two parter. I must fully love myself and who i am before i share myself with someone else. To love someone else for me is to want nothing but a life time of partnered adventures. Complimenting and enhancing each others lives.

How is the engaged life?
Engagement life is great! We are still looking for the perfect outdoor location for out special day. We recently adopted a puppy that has become best friends with our cat. I couldn’t be happier with my family.

Does he have a brother? I’m trying to be happy with a family like that too… I mean, congratulations. I’m always overcome with joy to see two men in love… it really is sweet. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
10 years… I see myself having my student loans paid of! Hahaha
I hope to continue building momentum as an aerialist and build my own aerial dance company.

What do you most enjoy about this thing we call life?
I enjoy my freedom. It doesn’t come without judgement but i have the right to be a melato gay pole dancer. My father served in the US National Guard for over 20 years and fought for that right. Without his and many other men and womens sacrifices i wouldn’t be able to enjoy this wonderful thing we call life.

What a wonderful response. I hope I have a son a appreciative as you are. We wish you the absolute best! Invite us to the wedding… why am I saying us, I’ve got multiple personalities… invite ME to the wedding. Anyway, wanna see more from Sean? Follow him on Instagram! @skydancersean

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Inside The Green Room

Sebastian in Philadelphia
Sebastian Cummings

Icon

I first met Icon Ebony Fierce three years ago at Tabu, she wasn’t performing, and yet she seemed to have an entourage. I asked myself, “who is this ebony icon?” (see what I did there?). The next thing I knew, I was seeing girlfriend EVERYWHERE, but I didn’t get a chance to really speak to Janet, Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty Icon until a fundraiser for Phreak N Queer at The Troc. We both performed that night and when I finally got a chance to witness what is Icon Ebony Fierce, all I could say is, “Respect.” A Drag/Performance Artist with original music and a fierce look…. you know I can get with that.

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Icon, Me, and Co. at Phreak N Queer Fundraiser. c 2013

Over the years, I’ve come to respect Icon for her talent, perseverance, and positive attitude. I am privileged to call her a friend. So, I decided to track my old friend down Inside The Green Room. I know the hooker lives for whiskey, so I go to the bar, grab a shot of Heaven Hill (I’m on an artist budget, alright!), snag a cigarette from the drunk guy waiting outside of an unoccupied bathroom and present an offering to the Icon.

Icon Ebony Fierce, that is quite the name, my friend. What does the name mean to you?
It means the elements of who I am and who I wanted to aspire to be in the past (and now) Icon means an unique image. A known figure in the community. Ebony represents me always embracing my roots in all forms. Fierce is my style of performance.

—–I take a moment to digest the beauty of what she just said and to recover from the seemingly source-less wind that gently blew her hair as she spoke… is this real life?

What does “drag” mean to you?
Drag means creating a non gender binary character. Bending gender in the most extravagant and glamorous way.

Walk us through you first experience performing in Drag.
I performed an original song with my own hair in locs for a benefit for top surgery called “Pop That Pussy” which was sampled from Janet and Luther’s “The best things in life are free”. I was literally shitting bullets. Mind you I was very new to the drag world in general. It was the most liberating and electric feeling ever.

I know a lady who describes taking molly the exact same way… hmm. As a performer, what do you feel is the greatest struggle you have faced in your career thus far, and how did you handle it?
Being understood and accepted as someone that’s seen as “different” as I learned about all the elements of drag. As well as the normal shade, rumors and hurtful comments made about myself. I learned to deal with it by doing what was my original passion and knowing my reason for pursuing drag. Performance through expression.

Excellence is often met with opposition. Who is your greatest inspiration?
To name a few, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Kevin Aviance, and all the queer performance before me.

Buy Bastian, the new album by Sebastian


What do you love about the Philly performance scene? What would you change?

I love the ability to create spaces to open up new places and spaces for us. I would change the community aspect of the scene. That’s up to everyone’s interpretation.

My middle name is Rosetta Stone, so….
What do you feel is the greatest struggle in your life that you’ve overcome?

My own struggle with coming out my shell, insecurities and battles with my fears.

What is love?
There’s so many ways I can explain love. But I can pinpoint that love is within and outward. Can people embrace both is the question.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself traveling to change people’s thoughts and perception on people like myself. And as complex as I am, there’s always work to be done. Especially because there is so many people like myself.

What’s next for you?
Stay tuned.

And stay tuned, we will! Follow my girl on instagram and keep up with this Kardashian Philly Gem! (@IconEbonyFierce)


Inside The Green Room
gemini rose inside the green room