As part of Zumanity, the sexiest show in the multi-million dollar Cirque du Soleil franchise, legendary New York drag queen Joey Arias could be seen as the Mistress of Seduction, rising up from the Las Vegas stage on an elevated platform, snapping whips in his skivvies twice a day for six years. Now he's back in New York performing on a slightly smaller scale -- as the sole human in a cast of puppets.
In collaboration with Basil Twist, the brilliantly creative and critically acclaimed puppeteer, Arias has created a show about coming home (Manhattan since 1976) called "Arias with a Twist." Twist, who says he is drawn to puppetry because it allows him to produce grandiose Vegas-style effects without corporate backing, is excited about the project. "You can do stuff that you could only do in an opera house or on Broadway, since [the puppet stage] is only like eight feet across," he says. The show bows at the 70-seat Dorothy B. Williams Theatre in the HERE Arts Center this June and will feature, among other things, Arias emerging from a spaceship to sing in his Billie Holiday-esque voice accompanied by a full marionette jazz band (created by Twist's grandfather, who was also a puppeteer). The celebrated gender-bender further reveals that he will get intimate with a puppet on stage. "I'm a virgin in this world of puppetry," Arias giggles.
But that doesn't mean he isn't comfortable within that world. Says Twist: "There's not that many performers who can actually jump in and, when they're onstage with the puppets, actually believe in them. You totally believe that Joey's, like, flirting with the puppets. It's this very special quality to be able to fit in this little fantasy and live in the imagination."
Pictured (l,r) Joey Arias, Basil Twist
Arias With a Twist opens at HERE Arts Center on June 12 and runs through July 13. For ticket info visit here.org.