part of our "Community Response" series
by Isaiah Archie

As a Black LGBTQ artist in Louisville for six years, and a repeat resident since birth, I can say in Louisville, KY there were many times that one might struggle to find spaces that would affirm such a unique background. While church and school-affiliated theater programs would provide a place for championship and community, these spaces can be inconsistent and the subject of equity for those of the LGBTQ happening. The recent attempts to limit the existence and accessibility of affirming spaces is worrisome to say the absolute least, and tiresome to say more. For someone like me, who relies on these spaces to feel renewed and to embrace the world with the love that remains the center of my identity, experiences like the one Dusty Ray Bottoms and May O'Nays charge are fearless examples of progress. The overwhelming feeling of fellowship and more importantly FUN that I felt while attending The After Show Show brought tears to the eyes of a young Isaiah and hope to a more learned one that the scarcity of these queer-affirming spaces will soon be a thing of the past.
In my best Stefon, "This. Show. Has. Everything."

The cast of the April 11, 2024 "The After Show Show"
photo credit: Actors Theatre of Louisville

Walking into the Victor Joy Theater at Actors Theatre Louisville, I was pleased to see a wonderfully welcoming mix of my accomplices in the Greater Louisville theatre community and the general public in the throes of lively conversations prompted by the cabaret space. Our party bet on the courtside table seats to ensure we'd experience every bit of talent that was programmed to take the stage. Our seats did not disappoint. From the moment Dusty and May came out with a hilariously aware song about what makes an impactful opening number, we could not lose. In their Derby-themed finery, they led a night of witty banter, social critique, and overwhelming pride with acts like May O'Nays' use of their keen wit to emobdy "To Excess", a disproportionate love song from the Off-Broadway show Out of Our Heads by Kooman and Dimond, or Dusty Ray Bottoms adeptly assimilating audience affirmation into their rendition of "I Am What I Am" from the show La Cage Aux Folles by Herman and Fierstein.

While Dusty and May were our radiant emcees, the true value of the show was our colloquially YT hosts leveraging their platform to prominently feature Black, Non-Binary, and Trans artists from our community. If I wasn't already in love with their performances, this understated action only filled me with a deeper love and admiration for the pair. The cast of Drag Daddy Productions' Alice in Derbyland brought all the energy to the stage with dance numbers from the Derby-themed parody show, a touching moment with Naomi Wayne and Richie Goff's rendition of "Suddenly Seymour" from Little Shop of Horrors, and Philip Clemons' sharing of "My Old Kentucky Home."

Richie Goff and Naomi Wayne
photo credit: Actors Theatre of Louisville

Tyler Tate (Lola) and Lola's Angels
photo credit: Actors Theatre of Louisville

The cast of Redline Performing Arts' Kinky Boots arrived unflapped, having come directly from weekend two of their three-weekend run at the Henry Clay just around the corner. These superstars came dressed, ready to deliver, and did; they were the highlight of my evening. We began with a warm, familiar ballad, "Tennessee Whiskey," from Louisville beauty Nina Nashae Rose. Following this, we were privy to a preview of what awaited Kinky Boots ticketholders with Peighton Radlein's proficiently funny and clean execution of "History of Wrong Guys": Lauren's lament of her poor choices in men. Tyler Tate—the embodiment of Lola—along with Lola's Angels (August Anderson, Ale Betts, Noah Nehemiah Robinson, and Javon Vanlier), and the ensemble of Kinky Boots brought powerhouse vocals and amazing presence utilizing director Zachary Joseph Boone's clean and dynamic choregraphy in "Land of Lola." While the first numbers were meant to bring the party to us, Derrick Palmer's effortless rendition of The Wiz's penultimate song was all too perfect to (pun-intended) bring it home.

The artists in Louisville's community deserve equity and a stage to be featured and valued. The tangible action that Actors Theatre of Louisville is actively taking to move the needle to make this a reality is sickening. The show was just plain old too darn fun, and I will be there for Season Two of The After Show Show. Periodt.

About the Writer

Isaiah Archie is a resident artist of Louisville, KY. He studied theatre and vocal performance at the University of Kentucky Theatre Department in the M usical Theatre certificate program. He is currently an actor, teaching artist, director, and writer in Louisville.