Big Gay Cabaret takes centre stage for queer joy

Still of the Solo Chicken Production event for 'Big Gay Cabaret,' held at the Charlotte Street Art Centre. (Giuliana Grillo de Lambarri/AQ)

Opening the show wearing her now iconic vagina costume, Lisa Anne Ross came onto the stage of Charlotte Street Arts Centre on Feb. 8 to present Big Gay Cabaret, a collaborative multi-disciplinary show that celebrated queer joy. 

Hosted by local drag queen Heather Silk, Big Gay Cabaret had a mixture of performances, from drag artists to dancers and comedians. The show aimed to spread love and community while supporting Equality NB, an organization bringing forth a legal challenge to the Human Rights and Charter Rights violations for the review of Policy 713.

“Tonight, it’s an act of rebellion. It’s a testament to our refusal to be defined by the restrictions that the government is trying to impose on us. It’s a ‘fuck you’ to anyone who tries to impose limitations,” said Gail Costello, Equality NB director and 2SLGBTQIA+ advisor at St. Thomas University.

Related: ‘It absolutely crushed me’: Student reacts to school before, during, after Policy 713

Portrait of drag queen Heather Silk hosting Big Gay Cabaret. (Giuliana Grillo de Lambarri/AQ)

On the day of Big Gay Cabaret, the show completely sold out. The audience was lively and enthusiastic, with over 80 people in attendance having the opportunity to win a Sephora bag by participating in a best-dressed competition. 

Emmanuelle Sabina was one of the dancers on the show who performed a solo improvisation of Reneé Rapp’s Not My Fault, featuring Megan Thee Stallion, drawing inspiration from jazz and heel dancing. 

“I love dancing in any form, in any way,” Sabina said backstage before the show started. 

Related: STUdents take the stage: STU’s Got Talent is back

They found out about the event through Ross, who “gently pushed” them to perform. They accepted, saying events like these are important because they showcase the queer community that Fredericton has to offer. 

”I think it is important to have a night where we can celebrate, have fun and raise some money.”

Portrait of Emmanuelle Sabina backstage. (Giuliana Grillo de Lambarri/AQ)

Later in the show, Sophie Brander grabbed the microphone for a funny monologue about her “sad dating life” as a lesbian from middle school to adulthood. 

“Nobody else does it like lesbians,” joked Heather Silk when introducing Branden to the stage. 

Recalling what coming out in Grade 7 was like and joking about how small the dating pool is for lesbians in Fredericton, Brander told two anecdotes about her personal life. 

“I’m 20, I’m not very old. I haven’t been in the game for a long time, but dating in 2024, it’s a little bit silly. It’s a little bit weird,” she said.

She described her dating app experiences with queer women as “super different” from her friends’ experiences. She added she always takes inspiration from her life to write her jokes. 

“Everything I write boils down to lesbianism. It’s a great identity and it’s very funny. Honestly, it’s a good experience.”

Sophie Brander performing on Big Gay Cabaret. (Giuliana Grillo de Lambarri/AQ)

While Sabina is a more seasoned performer on that stage, it was Brander’s first time performing at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. She said she felt nervous but encouraged by the crowd. 

“I feel like I’m always telling silly little stories to people around me. So I feel if I imagine it’s just some friends, it’s the same.”

Costello thanked Ross for putting the show together, the artists for their performances and the audience for their time and money, which will cover the legal fees for the lawsuit against the province. 

“The Big Gay cabaret is a crucial part of our battle,” said Costello. “So sing, laugh, dance, we need you. It is our right they cannot take it away from us.”

Dancer at the Big Gay Cabaret. (Giuliana Grillo de Lambarri/AQ)