Now that fall is upon us in a year that has been filed with adversity, gay funnyman Ike Avelli and his friends are coming back to the KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival with laughter, the best medicine of all. In years past, Ike and his colleagues would pile into his car, and travel, Wong Foo-like (as Ike puts it), to upstate New York to perform live at the Festival. This year, of course, foreclosed that possibility, but nothing stops the show. Ike is bringing JUNK star, vocalist, and LGBTQ advocate Tym Moss and couture drag diva Viki Villainess right to your screen in a virtual presentation of his long-running, hysterically funny 50 Shades Of Gay variety show. Since its beginnings in 2015, 50 Shades has played to sold-out audiences across the country, winning widespread critical acclaim in media such as the Huffington Post and the Rochester CITY News.
Building on the success of his original program, Ike went further, creating a special holiday-season version of the show. Both editions of 50 Shades feature Ike’s often ribald humor, plus campy drag performances and musical interludes from notable LGBTQ artists. Although Ike prefers to perform in person, this year’s changes necessitated adaptation. “I really wanted to do a live show,” Ike says, “but with all the COVID restrictions in place, the Fringe Festival decided to go virtual.” As theatrical venues try to cope with prolonged shutdowns because if the ongoing pandemic, digital presentations have become the order of the day. Even as local lockdowns have been eased in some states, with movie theaters reopening, the public has been reticent to return, citing COVID-19 fears.
Undeterred, Ike and other LGBTQ artists are reaching out to audiences on YouTube, Zoom, and other live-streaming platforms to deliver new content while encouraging social distancing. While this has been tough on entertainers’ pocketbooks, they nevertheless recognize the need to give us all a break from the daily cocktail of stress, isolation, and despair we have been contending with for the past half-year. “The moment it is safe and possible to go back to performing live,” Ike projects, “I will be right back there onstage in a heartbeat”. In the meantime, events like the LGBTQ-friendly Fringe Festival (running now through September 26) are just the tonic we all need to help us get through this plague.
Ike, Tym, and Viki promise plenty of audience engagement, with fabulous giveaways (a 50 Shades hallmark), and all the tea and shade you can handle. You can get your tickets here, and check out all the Fringe Festival has to offer at this link. Ike and his gang are waiting for you!