Interview | Cara Whithouse

An interview with Cara Whithouse : I Want it That Gay

It’s 1998… you’re sitting in front of the telly on Saturday morning watching Video Hits. The Spice Girls pop up on screen, you LOVE the Spice Girls! But soon you’re wondering – do I want to be Sporty Spice or do I want to be with Sporty Spice?
FUSE  |  Art & Culture
Cara Whithouse : I Want it That Gay

I Want it That Gay is a cabaret-comedy that sheds light and humour on the challenges of growing up with starkly heteronormative music, popstars and paradigms. At times hilarious and at times heartbreaking, the show is an irreverent look at the way popular culture shapes what we see and therefore who we’re allowed to be. Think Destiny’s Child, Britney, Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys and more – queerified! Reminisce on your favourite hits from the 1990s-2000’s through a queer lens.

Showing at the Tuggeranong Art Centre on Saturday, 13 April, Cara shares her thoughts about her new show.

Can you elaborate on how the show came to fruition, especially with both you and Andi Gambrill involved as creators?
 
I Want it That Gay has lived in three cities - the initial idea was born in Vancouver, Canada towards the end of 2020. Post lockdown, my visa ended abruptly, so I immediately lost my income, and then I also ended a relationship, all in the space of 5 days. I was in the shower, where all great ideas are born, singing Britney, and happened to notice the video clip playing in my imagination where I was trying to entice the aforementioned partner back into a relationship. And I thought, “hey... I wonder if other queer people modify lyrics and images like this?!” I called my (long-time) ex for approval, and the show was born.
 
I met Andi (and producer Becks Blake) at Butch Fashion Show in Sydney in 2021, and after Andi shared some singing videos on Instagram, I reached out to make the show a reality. I knew this was a duo, rather than a solo show. I wanted to emulate the conversations that queers have when dating or building friendships and relationships. In my experience, deep, layered, frank, and ever evolving. The shared life experience of growing up in a world not quite made for us lends itself to friendships of this nature.
 
Time Out magazine described your show as a mix of trauma therapy and educational satire. Could you delve deeper into how you use pop culture references to explore queer lived experiences?
 
Forbes tells me that, “trauma therapy is a form of therapy specifically focused on helping someone cope with the emotional response caused by a traumatic event.” So, I would say that for some people the show can be that healing. We’ve received messages from audience members saying that it helped them come out to themselves and their family as non-binary or genderqueer. Straight friends tell me it’s given them the language to talk to the queer people in their lives, and parents of young children have thanked us for the light-hearted education, should their child ever come out as queer. Those conversations are moving and rewarding and that’s why we do this show.
 
Pop culture is a common language that helps us interrogate the default way of being in the world. Most of us in the western world were only given default heteronormative examples of how to be, look, feel and act. By using blatantly heteronormative pop songs and flipping them into queer narratives, we can highlight the space between these narratives, creating room for experiences outside the default.
 
What has your experience been presenting the work to Gen Z and Gen A?
 
There’s a Gen A? One moment while I google. Right, so they are still in primary school, we aren’t performing to them! We’ve seen multiple generations come and see this show and everyone has had a really positive response to the work. During the world pride season at Hayes Theatre Company, we often saw family groups come through with up to three generations seated together - a Gen Z queer, a Gen X parent, and a baby boomer or beyond grandparent. I know there were a lot of conversations that opened up in the foyer during previous seasons.
 
Destiny's Child's 'Say My Name' and The Backstreet Boys' 'I Want It That Way' are just a couple of examples of how you reimagine pop songs to convey LGBTQ+ themes. What's the process like in choosing and reinterpreting these iconic tracks?
 
It’s so fun! The process starts with asking; what is the story we want to tell in this moment? For each of the formative moments that we share, we asked ourselves what we wished we could say out loud, but never did. Then we chose songs that fit the unsaid thoughts. The first song we parodied was that same Britney hit I was singing in the shower, and it became a sultry break up anthem. The parody of the lyrics starts with changing a few words and moves from the pedestrian to the utter ridiculous both in words and expression. Think the sexy music video vibe you see in your head.  In the reinterpretation process, we are careful to keep the themes universal. That way someone of any gender or sexuality can relate. This isn’t just a show for queers, it’s themes of belonging, self-acceptance and self-expression are relatable to all.
 
How do you strike a balance between entertainment and conveying deeper messages about identity and acceptance?
 
Human beings naturally cope with difficult situations through humour. Particularly in Australia, we love to make fun of ourselves for art, so that part was quite natural. It is challenging to know what is appropriate to talk about in a funny way for our audience. I find that the parts of my queer experience that I have processed are completely safe and quite lighthearted, though they weren’t at the time! The intersections of identity that are recent discoveries are more raw, and make for a nice contrast with the comedy.
 
Also the journey isn’t over yet! And we wanted to be clear on that. Like my favourite wine - it’s fluid! I’m still unraveling pieces of identity and I know a lot of our audiences are, so I wanted to invite them all, including myself, to enjoy the process.
 
 
Could you share a memorable moment from one of your performances that had a significant impact on you?
 
My mum came to the show at Theatreworks in Melbourne. She told me afterward that, “after this show I understand you better!” So that was pretty special. Everyone, bring your mum!
 
Given the show has already been presented in various venues, how do you feel it resonates with different audiences across different locations?
 
Queer audiences of all ages always seem to be having a good time. We have created a pair of ridiculous but recognisable characters that embody the offensive things that queer people hear, and they are loved by all.  My (straight) sister said, though she didn’t get all of the queer references in the show, she laughed until she cried at this pair of characters - and that’s a common experience. It’s also surprising to me that the venue does impact the show so much - both the energy of the show physically, and the audiences that are regulars to that venue. Hayes Theatre has a dedicated Musical Theatre loving Boomer subscriber base who see everything. In these shows we naturally learn more towards a Musical Theatre style of presentation. Theatreworks is very much an independent theatre venue, so authenticity and dry wit became the energy. There is so much audience interaction, so the We also bringing the handsome Juliet Hindmarsh onboard for our Melbourne season upon Andi’s exit to study Music Therapy. Though the lyrics are the same, all of these elements contribute to the delivery of the show on a moment to moment basis.
 
What do you believe sets I Want it That Gay apart from other nostalgic-themed performances, particularly in its ability to speak to the LGBTQ+ experience of the '90s?
 
Oh that’s a big question! I haven’t seen everything so I can’t speak for other nostalgic shows, but the nostalgia in IWITG is accidental - with another happy accident being the return of 90s fashion! If we grew up in the 80s, it’d be 80s hits etc. What sets IWITG apart is our intention to present comedy firmly rooted in reality. We are absolute in our commitment to authentic storytelling, so 98% of what we say is our lived experience, and we had to rewrite many sections with the addition of Juliet. We’re also not out to dump on the 90s or trauma share, which is what’s often seen in queer works, unprocessed trauma. We are all about validating the queer community’s collective experience, and celebrating our strength, whilst hinting at ways in which it could be easier. All whilst having a great time! We hope that our audiences walk out with more energy than they came in.
 
Do you have a connection to Canberra?
 
Leah Maddocks aka Drag King Guy Alias who runs Canberra Drag at Smith’s Alternative is a gem of a human being and a leader in the drag king community. My partner Becks Blake aka Jim Junkie has performed at this event, and it was such a well curated variety show, incredibly welcoming, and a highlight of Jim’s drag adventures.
 
Considering the diverse range of audiences your show attracts, what do you want Canberra readers to know about your performance at Tuggeranong Arts Centre?
 
This show is safe to bring your mum to. Or your dad, your Nan, your neighbour, your barista. Anyone who you want to gently educate about the realities of growing up queer in a heteronormative world - we’ll do it for you, through beautiful harmonies! It’s universally relatable, celebrates queer narratives, and is not an attack on the world we grew up in.

I WANT IT THAT GAY: CARA WHITEHOUSE

It’s 1998… you’re sitting in front of the telly on Saturday morning watching Video Hits. The Spice Girls pop up on screen, you LOVE the Spice Girls! But soon you’re wondering – do I want to be Sporty Spice or do I want to be with Sporty Spice?

I Want it That Gay is a cabaret-comedy that sheds light and humour on the challenges of growing up with starkly heteronormative music, popstars and paradigms. At times hilarious and at times heartbreaking, the show is an irreverent look at the way popular culture shapes what we see and therefore who we’re allowed to be. Think Destiny’s Child, Britney, Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys and more – queerified! Reminisce on your favourite hits from the 1990s-2000’s through a queer lens.

  • 137 Reed Street, Greenway Tuggeranong
  • Saturday 13 April
  • 7:30pm – 8:30pm
  • $38 full / $32 concession

MORE SHOW DETAILS

Tuggeranong Arts Centre

 

 

 



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Happenings at Tuggeranong Arts

Tuggeranong Arts creative program aims to help build resilient communities and further develop our nation’s cultural identity.

Cabaret & Comedy : I want it that gay

'I Want it That Gay' by Cara Whitehouse is a cabaret-comedy that sheds light and humour on the challenges of growing up with starkly heteronormative music, popstars and paradigms. It's showing at Tuggeranong Arts Saturday 13 April 2024.

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