Things Got Weird at Out of the Loop Fest Last Night, with Ayana Hampton's Morning After
Ayana Hampton, by James Daniel
Ayana Hampton, the "Kayne of Cabaret," has a lot of zingers:
For breakfast I had birth control. For lunch I had happy hour. And for dinner I usually get laid.
How do you expect me to work when there is so much werk to do?
If you love something let it go. Or hold onto that penis so hard with your kegel muscles that he blacks out, forgets everything that came before you, and see what happens.
Hampton's show, The Morning After, directed by Clayton Farris, and with keyboardist Thiago X. Nascimanto as a last minute add-on, made its Texas debut last night at Addison's Watertower Theater as part of the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival (tickets are still available for weekend performances). Although she says the one-woman show (in larger venues there are dancers and more numbers) is filled with different characters, I suspect they're all really Hampton. Her mother, April, was kind enough to confirm the suspicion when we chatted after the show, telling me it's all Ayana on stage.
Like any cabaret, The Morning After is heavy on musical numbers, all written by Hampton. Highlights include: "The Swelling's Gone Down" ("It's been swell, but the swelling's gone down"); "B.Y.O.B.G.Y.N." (where Hampton explains that Monistats 1, 3 and 7 are scams and you can cure STDs with yogurt on your cooter); and my personal favorite, her opening rendition of "The Girl from Ipanema" ("Tall and brown and slightly hung-over").
The show is peppered with drag queen lingo like "hunty," "spill the tea" and "werk." Hampton is from Dallas, so she prepared some state-specific gags. Upon realizing that without her cherished Planned Parenthood, and that she'd have to resort to a free clinic, she yelled, "Rick Perry took away my vaginal spa!"
Sometimes the jokes were excessively campy, like the pregnant pause between "stiff" and "drink." And Hampton told me after that she and Farris were worried before the show started: "Word came down from on high that I use the word 'pussy' too much." But she's crude and frantic in all the best ways.
There was a moment that completely threw me, and made me question everything I'd seen. While pretending to wait for her fiancé to return, Hampton tied an apron over her cat suit. She looked into the distance and pulled the apron front aside with one hand. With the other she pulled up on her crotch, then leaned forward and pulled up on her backside -- pantomiming the way drag queens tuck to hide their bulges.
"You can't clock it, can you?" she yelled at the audience, and then I wasn't sure what had happened. Was Hampton a drag queen? Had I missed some fundamental aspect about the show? Am I that bad at reading gender? A lot of things started to make sense: the frequent use of the word "hunty," the jokes about anal sex, the fact that "Let's Have a Kiki" was playing just before the show started. It was like I realized I'd been watching the wrong show.
But then she followed with her song that chronicles the frustration of being the only girl in a gay bar, "Straight Girl in the Corner."
My second-guessing was more than unnecessary -- it was embarrassing. And not just because Hampton spent the whole show in a cat suit that would make it impossible for anyone to hide their gender. Whether or not she had anything to tuck, she has great timing and can stellarly sing the raunchiest of lines. She's a beautiful woman with earnest tastes, and she yearns for a simpler time, a time she calls the era of Diana Ross, when all black women had invisible butterfly sleeves, and you could "go home, have a sensible orgy, and shit glitter."
Seems reasonable enough.
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