Bay Area audiences look forward to it all year long. We plan outfits around it, line up dates for it, and buy our tickets early (because it always sells out). San Francisco’s annual Fresh Meat Festival of transgender and queer performance is an award-winning audience favorite–and the only event of its kind in the U.S.
And this year is extra-special: June 16–18, the Fresh Meat Festival celebrates its 15th Anniversary with a star-studded lineup of opera, hip-hop, hula, live music, modern dance, circus, theater and voguing.
“We wanted to go all out for our 15th Anniversary,” explained Artistic Director Sean Dorsey, “so we’ve got a lineup of world-class artists, plus lobby after-parties every night with DJs, go-go dancers, drinks, dancing and our popular Fresh Meat photo booth.”
The 2016 Festival features three jam-packed nights of transgender opera stars, North America’s same-sex ballroom champions, a gender-bending boy band, gay hula, queer bachata, voguing, mixed abilities dance, and some of the nation’s most innovative LGBT artists. Friday features ASL interpretation and Saturday is a “15th Anniversary Gala” performance and reception.
We sat down with Artistic Director Sean Dorsey and talked about milestones, bathroom bills and solidarity.
San Francisco Bay Times: 15 years! Congratulations.
Sean Dorsey: Thank you! We’re thrilled to be celebrating this milestone, and we can’t wait for our audiences to experience the performers we’re presenting this year. It’s definitely the place to be this Pride season.
San Francisco Bay Times: Why, and when, did you start the Fresh Meat Festival?
Sean Dorsey: In 2002, literally no one was putting transgender artists onstage. No one. So I brought a group of artists and activists together for what we thought would be a one-time trans and queer performance event. Well, the shows were standing-room only and the community response was so huge that we decided to transform into an annual festival and a year-round organization.
San Francisco Bay Times: And so that’s how “Fresh Meat Productions” was born?
Sean Dorsey: Exactly. Fresh Meat Productions grew from one single event into the nation’s first and only organization creating, presenting and touring year-round arts programs! We’ve supported and presented over 900 transgender and queer artists since 2002. And we’ve brought transgender and queer dance, theater, music and arts to more than 125,000 people across the U.S.
San Francisco Bay Times: We’ve really seen the landscape change since that time.
Sean Dorsey: Yes. Transgender visibility has obviously skyrocketed, and so has the number of incredibly talented trans and queer artists. But at the same time, transgender people are under attack all across the U.S. right now, with anti-transgender bathroom bills and hate-fueled campaigns.
San Francisco Bay Times: Does the festival respond to that?
Sean Dorsey: Yes! The Fresh Meat Festival is a joyful call to action, a celebration of our community. The festival affirms that we are powerful, we are beautiful and we are this nation’s future, not the small-minded hatred of a small minority. Join us and transform the world!
San Francisco Bay Times: Members of our team have been to the Fresh Meat Festival and can attest to the fact that there really is nothing else like it in the country. The quality of the artistry, the warmth and power of the audiences, the after-parties, and the diversity of the audiences are extraordinary.
Sean Dorsey: We are really proud of all of those things. Fresh Meat is about good art, relevant art, important art, empowering audiences, celebrating each other. Lifting each other up in solidarity and celebration!
San Francisco Bay Times: What are some highlights of the 15th Anniversary Festival?
Sean Dorsey: Oh, wow–It is a smorgasbord of goodness! This year, we’re presenting world-class artists who are on the very cutting edge of American performance.
We have Na Lei Hulu performing an all-male hula piece celebrating a Hawaiian king’s male lover (yes!); AXIS Dance Company changing the face of dance and disability; queer bachata champions Jahaira Fajardo and Angelica Medina; whip-smart, insightful singer-songwriter Shawna Virago; powerful wordsmith mestiza Elena Rose; same-sex ballroom champs Robbie Tristan and Ernesto Palma… .
San Francisco Bay Times: And you’ve got one of the world’s first transgender opera stars Breanna Sinclaire and soul-stirring singer-songwriter StormMiguel Florez … two of our faves!
Sean Dorsey: And brilliant queer circus artists India Davis and Toni Cannon; Star Amerasu is back from Canada and France with her beautiful songs; Karen Anzoategui’s gorgeous storytelling/theater, and Jocquese Whitfield and Saturn Rising are going to bring the house down with their epic voguing and performance!
15th Anniversary Fresh Meat Festival of transgender and queer performance
June 16–18, 2016 (all shows 8 pm)
Friday: ASL interpretation
Saturday: Gala Performance & Reception
Z Space (450 Florida Street between 17th Street & Mariposa, San Francisco)
Tickets: $15+ sliding scale
Advance tickets are recommended for this highly-anticipated 3-nights-only event.