I have always been enamored by the beauty of traditional Geisha attire with striking silks and the fantasy and imagination involved in the art of Kabuki stage make-up belonging to the Japanese culture. I have always wanted the opportunity to dress the part of a Geisha so I created one. The mysterious beauty always made me want to feel what it was like to experience that sort of transformation wearing that beautiful garmentry and make-up: to dress as a Geisha and 'walk a mile' in one's shoes. You could compare the feeling to a male who always wanted to dress like a female; a practice that is widely accepted today in the gay community and has come to be known as 'Drag.' It is not considered offensive on a sexist level; rather, it is the outward expression of an inner desire. I can liken my journey into this work as a similar one.
The content of the show is a take on the traditional lifestyle of a Geisha being a Japanese version of a high, upstanding American escort. That is all. The show is about Geishas living in America and not a show only about Japanese people. It is a satire that inevitably plays on all stereotypes. The external appearance of the characters does employ traditional, familiar elements in order to achieve a recognizable façade that people could begin to associate the show with Geishas and what it is that they do. As artists, Geishas are trained in traditional dances; a portion of that culture that we have incorporated into the show without satire because the presentation is visually stunning and again something that the art and culture entails.
The show has a theme that does incorporate satire toward certain Asian stereotypes. Moreover, there is a much stronger theme toward sexual innuendo and a promiscuous drag personality. It is true that I am a Caucasian male in a Kimono and I make no bones about being anything other than that. The characters, in turn, break intentionally during the performance to convey that we are not actually pretending to be Japanese rather, we have employed the tradition of being a Geisha as a vehicle to tell the story of these two 'sisters' struggling with relationships as escorts and as people. What I am most proud of in the piece is when the theme fades away and you are able to catch a glimpse behind the mask and see the person strip the exterior away in order to reveal what is happening under all of the pageantry. It is a moment of great personal honesty that I wrote into the work so those who experience the show are able to take from it more than a stunning visual presentation and a feeling of mild offense: it is a journey with a poignant introspective twist.
It is my hope that those who attend the performances will take with them an experience and journey. The show is great entertainment and provokes thought and emotion behind humor and sexual shock. The greatest compliment to me as an entertainer is that I could create a work that is provocative. I did realize that there would be those who are initially offended by the setting of the story and it is my vision to allow people to have reactions and experiences that challenge and, in turn, surprise. The moral and underlying theme of the show is that things are not always what they seem.
Kyle Hustedt on Geisha Gaysha: showing Sundays at 7 pm at Mary's Attic.