A Cornyation Virgin’s Voyage Through Cringes and Glitter

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The 2013 Cornyation cast poses for a group photo after their first performance on Tuesday night. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The Cornyation royalty and cast pose for a group photo after their first performance (there were two) during Fiesta 2013. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

biopicLiberals throw the best parties. Why? Because everyone’s invited – especially the gays and even some conservatives.

I watched an elderly couple cringe, frown, and shake their heads during a musical skit bashing Gov. Rick Perry and his anti-abortion (anti-woman) crusade last night’s opening performance of Cornyation at the Charline McCombs Empire Theater. The choreography and loud pop-music led the audience through a fast-paced summary of how utterly ridiculous it is to legislate a woman’s personal medical decisions.

“(Get) the government’s big, old meat hooks out of our vaginas,” said Co-Master of Ceremonies Elaine Wolff, editor of the local news website Plaza de Armas (PdA), during the skit’s introduction. The couple struggled to contain their sighs of contempt as the audience cheered.

Though mostly scripted, some dialogue is improv during Cornyation 2013. Masters of Ceremonies Rick Fredrick and Elaine Wolff play well off each other's witty, biting remarks. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Though mostly scripted, some dialogue is improv during Cornyation 2013. Masters of Ceremonies Rick Fredrick and Elaine Wolff play well off each other’s witty, biting remarks. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

By the end of the skit, “Representing Unwelcome Intrusions and Exclusions,” designed by Jesse Mata and the Order of the Dancing Bear, the actor portraying Perry was center stage in a compromising position on all-fours, receiving his “comeuppance” from a sharp-toothed human-sized vagina standing behind him. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Teeth,” it’s kinda like that, but it’s bigger and fights dirty.

Now the elderly couple is visibly uncomfortable. Whether or not they consider themselves liberal, conservative, Republican, ex-hippies, still hippies, libertarian, whatever – it’s their own business. Maybe abortion just makes them uncomfortable. Maybe they’re related to Perry. It matters not because they, and almost 800 other people fortunate enough to have acquired a ticket to the sold-out series, were laughing their elderly asses off by the time the next skit, “Representing the Sugared Up Beauty Queen,” filled the stage. The couple seemed to have forgotten how uncomfortable they were moments earlier.

Costumed men relax and chat in dressing rooms before their Cornyation performances on stage at the Empire Theatre. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Costumed men relax and chat in dressing rooms before their Cornyation performances on stage at the Empire Theatre. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

For the most part, the skit’s underlying social and political messages are preaching to the choir – but there’s probably at least one cringe-worthy moment for everyone. Gun control, Honey Boo Boo, the media, obesity, religion, VIA’s local street car plans, the Castro twins (Mayor Julián Castro and his wife, Erica, sat in the front row Tuesday night), national and local sex scandals, and even rape was served up in glittery dance routines topped with lip-synched Dolly Parton and Beyoncé singles.

Mayor Julián Castro (front row) watches a performance that pokes at VIA Metropolitan Transit's in-progress streetcar project – "A Street Car Named Desire" as an illustration suggeted. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

An audience of about 800 and Mayor Julián Castro (front row) watches a Cornyation performance that pokes at VIA Metropolitan Transit’s in-progress streetcar project – “A Street Car Named Desire” as an illustration suggested. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

“There are no sacred cows,” the motto of PdA, seems a fitting tagline for Cornyation as well, as the Express-News also notes.

I’ll admit: I cringed a little at rape.

“Representing the Duchess of Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” designed by Wolff and Gregorio Mannio, explored the Lackland Air Force Base trainers sex abuse scandal. The skit depicted a pig-tailed female officer, played by a man, being aggressively pursued and harassed by two male officers. I started to think too hard about it. Cringe.

I snapped out of it quickly, however, as Co-emcee Rick Frederick, director of local theater company Attic Rep, pointed out: “The Pope takes his glory ‘whole.’ ” Pun intended.

The officers and the Pope, played by last year’s King Anchovy and local chef/entrepreneur Andrew Weissman, were joined by Jenn of the House of Dobbs in a Native American costume, a man in a dog suit, and a Mexican caballero (played by Ruben Garcia). The skit disintegrates (in true Cornyation style) into a slightly confusing rendition of “YMCA,” having almost all of the Village People band represented.

I had to laugh. You have to laugh.

It’s through humor that we humans point out our biggest, saddest flaws – the point is to highlight, the hope is to fix.

I walked into Cornyation knowing very little of what – or who – was to unfold that night. What I had heard so far, I liked. What’s not to like? Cornyation is the rebel child of Fiesta, it’s the kid at the back of the bus playing with matches.

"Representing Mayans, We're Over You," The Duchess of Doomsday Dumbed Down Sheila of the House of Currie pokes at Mayan calendar dooms-dayers via an Elvis impersonator's ironic farewell song: "Viva Las Mayans!" Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Mixing cultures, icons, and time periods: “Representing Mayans, We’re Over You,” The Duchess of Doomsday Dumbed Down Sheila of the House of Currie pokes at Mayan calendar dooms-dayers via an Elvis impersonator’s ironic farewell song: “Viva Las Mayans!” Photo by Iris Dimmick.

From what I’ve gathered as a newcomer to San Antonio, it directly mocks Coronation, the crowning of the Queen ceremony, as well as the entire faux-royalty system of Fiesta. Traditional Fiesta royalty hail from “high society” or social grace, have strong ties to the charitable community, and often are multi-generational San Antonians. It’s pretty serious. To be fair, there are serious donations being made to extremely worthy causes by these royals and events.

Equally serious, however, are the funds that the Fiesta Cornyation Inc. non-profit raises for various local HIV/AIDS prevention and support organizations and the Robert H Rehm Scholarship – more than $1.3 million raised since becoming a charitable organization, according to its website. The end is serious but the means are blow-job jokes, partial nudity, expletives, glitter, expletives, insults, irony, more glitter, men in drag, expletives, pop-music, dance and a well-stocked bar.

Cornyation participants are local celebrities of different, one might say “alternative,” social circles. They’re artists, journalists, cooks, politicians (former Rep. Charlie Gonzalez was crowned this year’s King Anchovy) bartenders, performers, small business owners, lawyers, doctors … and yes, many are gay.

The 2013 Cornyation cast poses for a group photo after their first performance on Tuesday night. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The 2013 Cornyation cast poses for a group photo under an enlarged illustration of this year’s Cornyation medal after their first performance on Tuesday night. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Cornyation veterans Ryan and David Nanny-Isban enjoy a cigarette after their performance Tuesday night. Ryan and David were married in Connecticut and now happily live in Highland Park. Their advice to first-timers: "Just let it happen ... just take a deep breath and let it slide right in." Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Cornyation veterans Ryan and David Nanny-Isban enjoy a cigarette after their performance Tuesday night. Ryan and David were married in Connecticut and now happily live in Highland Park. Their advice to first-timers: “Just let it happen.” Photo by Iris Dimmick.

It’s clear that if you’re not okay with sexual identities beyond “straight,” then you can GTFO of Cornyation … in fact, downtown is looking pretty rainbow-friendly this entire week. That elderly couple I mentioned earlier? Two men in love. They held hands for the duration of the show. This kind of public behavior might even spread to the entire nation, (dare I say, world?) – you may just want to stay in, lock your doors, do some self-reflecting.

Just kidding (not really), during Fiesta, there are events for everyone, even the homophobic (unfortunately). That’s kind of the point of the modern Fiesta celebration. It’s gone beyond subjective celebration of independence battles. Any organization can crown a king, appoint duchesses and hold fund-raising parties – sometimes it seems like all of ’em do.

Cornyation isn’t for everyone, I understand that some locals might be tired of the barrage of sex jokes and re-hashing of perhaps played-out national/local dramas. I don’t fault them for rolling their eyes while Fredrick deep throats the microphone. Sure, it’s gross … but it’s probably one of the few times that I’ve felt so close to and a part of San Antonio since moving here just over a year ago. I didn’t get all the inside jokes or recognize all the actors as local celebrities … but it felt good to laugh like a 13-year old alongside 800 other 13-year-olds, mostly fellow locals (if I may call myself that yet).

I know that sounds corny.

 

Tickets are, as usual, sold out … but I saw a couple empty seats at last night’s 7:30 performance. Just saying. Showtimes: Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. at the Charline McCombs Empire Theater.

Iris Dimmick is managing editor of the Rivard Report. Follow her on Twitter @viviris or contact her at iris@rivardreport.com.

 

Related Stories:

A Brief Guide to Fiesta for First Timers & The Cascarón App

Fiesta Excess: When Commemoration Turns Sloppy

The Spirit of Fiesta

Gallery: First Impressions of NIOSA

Texas Book Festival/San Antonio Edition Takes Downtown by Surprise

It’s The Gay (in the) Economy, Stupid

 

4 thoughts on “A Cornyation Virgin’s Voyage Through Cringes and Glitter

  1. Thank you Iris for a fabulous story. I have yet to go to this event but I promise to in the future. I am all about inclusiveness and thanks to all who are brave enough to stand up, thumb their nose in good hearted jest, and remind us all that we are a big family, though a bit dysfunctional sometimes! Bravo.

  2. I’ve never been and was thinking of going next year but now I’m not after reading about the scenarios. You had me at the rape scenario.

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