I know that we tend to be pretty quick with the superlatives in this business, but I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that Teena Geist’s Stairwell Symphony, which opens tonight, may be one of the weirdest, strangest, and most bizarre live shows that you’ll ever see. It’s also totally worth seeing, based on a Teena Geist performance I saw last year at L’Etage.
Geist is a drag persona created by Philadelphia theater artist Mark McCloughan, who has performed with Pig Iron Theatre Company and New Paradise Laboratories, among others. But if you go expecting a “drag show” a la Bob & Barbara’s or Voyeur, that’s not what you’re going to get. Not in the slightest.
McCloughan wears a creepy Eyes Wide Shut sort of mask and speaks and sings through a vocal effects processor that pretty much makes him sound like what you'd imagine a serial killer who locks you in a room and speaks to you through an intercom would sound like as he sits in a nearby room sharpening his blades. But he can also sound sweet and naive at times, and it's this duality that makes it all especially unsettling.
As for this particular show, which takes place in a private residence in Northern Liberties, here is how it's described in an advertisement:
Spiritually sick? Astrally discombobulated? Let Ms. Teena Geist help you to ascend to a higher plane of self-actualization through THE STAIRWELL SYMPHONY.
A group ritual of cleansing and transformation, this event will find Ms. Geist opening her heart, mind, and third eye to share with you the infinite wisdom she's gained in her seventeen long and fruitful years as a journeywoman on this planet.
You have four opportunities to spend a precious hour in her powerful light:
Thurs. Jan 16 - 8PM
Fri. Jan 17 - 8PM
Thurs. Jan 23 - 8PM
Fri. Jan 24 - 10PM
Tickets are $15 and include "a carefully calibrated menu of beverages and snacks designed to focus your energy and help foster an environment conducive to real self-discovery." One such beverage is the "JA DEREMEMBERANCE," which purports to be a "liquid chlorophyll and champagne cocktail that looks like a football field and tastes like reverb."
Below, some videos of Teena Geist in action: