offers chills & thrills
Irreverent 'The Silence of the Trans' plays the Castro Theatre
by David-Elijah Nahmod
When the Oscar-winning chiller The Silence of the Lambs was released two decades ago, it came under fire for presenting a cross-dresser as a cannibalistic serial killer. In her new show The Silence of the Trans, which will be performed at the Castro Theater on Saturday, July 28, monstrous drag diva Peaches Christ tosses all that political correctness out the door and has a little fun with one of her favorite horror movies.
We spoke to Peaches' alter-ego, filmmaker and horror buff Joshua Grannell, who assured us that there was nothing for the trans community to worry about. "Our friends who are transgender, drag queens or transvestites understand that the show is a parody, a comedy. The film was protested because LGBT representations on screen were not as varied as they are now. And Silence of the Lambs is a pop-culture phenomenon. It's a great, campy movie."
"I extend a hand to the trans community," said Sharon Needles, who co-stars in the show. "They've been dealing with a big struggle. But there is a big difference between language and intent. We are in the business of pushing buttons. We are equal opportunists who offend everyone. Drag queens are the clowns in our culture."
Who is Sharon Needles, who'll be prominently featured onstage in the stage show that precedes the screening of the film that inspired it? "She's an enigma," Needles stated. "She isn't real, so her back story isn't true. It's not natural, it's supernatural. It's beautiful, spooky and stupid. Sharon is my baby, my pride and joy, my ultimate piece of artwork. She's a downtown clown who happens to be dead. But she doesn't know that she's dead."
For Grannell, playing Peaches and staging shows such as these is a labor of love. Horror films have always been his genre of choice. What's most interesting about Grannell is how gentle and soft-spoken he is, as opposed to the monstrously over-the-top Peaches.
"Both are the real me," he said. "Peaches is an expression of my sense of humor, my outrageousness. Peaches has been part of me for 16-17 years now. Because of Peaches, I can wear crazy clothes and do outrageous things."
The stage show is certainly in keeping with the Peaches Christ persona. "People can expect a fully orchestrated stage show. A scripted musical theater piece, a straightforward play. We've become more polished. A drag queen killer is killing the most famous drag queens, so Clarice goes to see Trannibal the Cannibal!"
The director/performer has fond memories of his Midnight Mass screenings, which were seen for many years at the Bridge Theater on Geary. He admits that age has contributed to the move to the Castro. "I'm not getting any younger. Doing the earlier shows at the Castro is lovely! I miss Midnight Mass, but starting at Midnight was killing me."
For the immediate future, Grannell is teaching at the San Francisco Art Institute. "I hope to inspire students to create rich characterizations where they can create great work. Peaches made it possible for me to do these fun things." He also has new films in preparation. His well-received feature-length horror film All About Evil is now available on DVD. It's also aired on The Chiller Channel, which is available to Dish Network and Direct TV subscribers.
As for Peaches, she's not going away anytime soon. After The Silence of the Trans, be on the lookout for Peaches' 15th anniversary showing of the classic camp-fest Showgirls, which promises to be very naughty indeed!
The Silence of the Trans, starring Peaches Christ, Sharon Needles and the Midnight Mass Players. Sat., July 28, 3 & 8 p.m., Castro Theater, 429 Castro St. Tickets: $20-$45.