Grapefruit Lab’s Latest Production Strange Bird, Queer Bird Runs April 7 – 15

Lars Reid and Julie Rada in rehearsals for Strange Bird, Queer Bird

Strange Bird, Queer Bird is the latest production from Grapefruit Lab and it launches on Friday, April 7 and runs the following two weekends (see dates and times below) at Buntport Theater at 717 Lipan St., Denver, CO 80204. Per the latter’s press release:

“Strange Bird, Queer Bird, the latest original show from Grapefruit Lab, is
an early-pandemic love story based on actual events. After a single face-to-face date, the world shuts down, but two queer people manage to connect despite the imposed distance. Against the backdrop of forest fires, uprisings in the streets, uncertainty, and massive death – this show finds a hopeful tone in the personal and profound connections still happening between people.

“It’s a story told through music, dance, and intimate correspondence,” says Lars Reid, one of the creators. “A story about falling in love, and finding comfort in a time of great loss and widespread isolation.” The text is taken verbatim from letters, phone messages, journal entries, and poems between Reid and Julie Rada – who perform as themselves. These words are joined with original dance (Kate Speer, Allison Blakeney) and live music (Teacup Gorilla) to create a poetic reflection on blossoming love.

“The show is inspired by the complex mating rituals of bowerbirds,” says Rada.
“These birds build intricate nests and colorful collections to impress each other – and we’re telling a queer version of that story. In the context of the pandemic, it’s a story that seems relatable, in spite of these specifics.

“This vulnerable, charming production is a collaboration among many other local artists. In addition to the creators and performers, the show features sculptural scenic pieces and costumes created by the masterminds at Colorado Shoe School: Annabel Reader and Dan Huling. It is also being performed at (and co-produced by) Buntport Theater, another company known for their innovative original work.”

Allison Blakeney and Kate Speer in rehearsals for Strange Bird, Queer Bird

All ticket sales for the Sunday April 9 performance will benefit the Denver Actors Fund which profides financial support to Colorado artists in medical need. On Saturday, April 15 Grapefruit Lab will host a thirty minute “creative conversation” at 4 pm for attendees with an interest in a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how the production was made.

As per usual for Grapefruit Lab, a performance company founded by long-term collaborators Julie Rada, Miriam Suzanne and Kenny Storms, this show will be a mixed media affair imbued with great creativity, humanity, humor and warmth that will provoke thought and reflection on the subjects presented. For tickets visit Grapefruit Lab’s website at this link:

Allison Blakeney and Kate Speer in rehearsals for Strange Bird, Queer Bird

Friday, April 7, 2023 – 7:30pm
Saturday, April 8, 2023 – 7:30pm
Sunday, April 9, 2023 – 6:00pm (fundraiser for Denver Actors Fund – suggested
donation $20)
Friday, April 14, 2023 – 7:30pm
Saturday, April 15, 2023 – 2:00pm
Saturday, April 15, 2023 – 7:30pm

Live Show Review: Pity+Fear (a travesty) at Buntport Theater 5/27/22

Miriam Suzanne and Josie Cool in Pity+Fear (a travesty) at Buntport Theater 5/27/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Pity+Fear (a travesty) was the latest original show from Grapefruit Lab and in general it might be described as a darkly comedic Greek tragedy that per the press release for the production explores “what it means to be alive, to tell the truth, and to change over time.” The set was in the modest setting of the Buntport Theater with some lighting, a low stage, a ladder, reams of documents that the characters use to consult for information and little else. One immediately thinks of Samuel Beckett’s 1953 existential play Waiting for Godot with its own minimalist set and two characters engaged in witty and conversational dialog about the significance of existence as well.

Pity+Fear (a travesty) at Buntport Theater 5/27/22, photo by Tom Murphy

The two leads for this play, Miriam Suzanne and Josie Cool (who also performed music at various points to accentuate and complement the themes of the play), use the vehicle of delving into both the fraught mythology of the Greek mythological figure Agraulos in parallel with foundational stories from their own lives. There are three myths about the death of Agraulos, all contradictory, but all of which reveal something significant about the Greek view of women and identity with one myth saying how Agraulos and one of her sisters opened a box containing the monstrous offspring of one of the gods and going insane and throwing themselves from the Acropolis (in Athens) or off a cliff; another that Agraulos sacrificed herself for the good of Athens and in the third that Agraulos stood in between Hermes and her sister and was turned to stone for her trouble. All stories that extol blind obedience and sacrifice. But Suzanne goes deep into Greek theater history and in unraveling stories that serve as the foundation of our culture and to a large extent our own identities and relationships with one another between that mythological framing and deconstruction Suzanne and Cool examine and deconstruct the seemingly arbitrary rules for how we learn and build our own identities.

Pity+Fear (a travesty) at Buntport Theater 5/27/22, photo by Tom Murphy

What made that exploration of myth and personal anecdotes from life that included stories of figuring out confusing and emotionally traumatizing situations and others finally illuminating and life affirming so poignant and effective is that Suzanne and Cool are both trans women. Suzanne’s story about how her mother had a dream of having a boy before her brother was born and not having a dream of gender for Suzanne beautifully illustrated how we subconsciously know we can know truths about ourselves before we have the language for them. Juxtaposed with the myths that represent cultural norms that often impose identity and mores even when they serve little but ritualized tradition.

Pity+Fear (a travesty) at Buntport Theater 5/27/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Both Cool and Suzanne made the material which could have been perceived as academic or theoretical seem immediate with an obvious gentleness and awareness of how these subjects impacted their own lives in a very real and direct way. Maybe it was a reference or a quote from another thinker but when Suzanne said “The body has little regard for theory” it hit with the ring of truth because humans often have all these ideas that they insist are the truth merely because there is a consensus of the moment based on incomplete information and stating that one point in an evolving comprehension of a matrix of interrelated phenomenon and existences is static and eternal. Science is catching up to a non-binary view of gender in DNA as a spectrum but of course that’s been a fact that theory has taken a long time to account for and thus Suzanne’s aforementioned quote seems even more relevant.

Pity+Fear (a travesty) at Buntport Theater 5/27/22, photo by Tom Murphy

With the right wing trying to erase the existence of transfolk or trivialize that identity as a choice like what clothes to wear, a play like this bypasses that analysis and offers real insight into the nature of how we construct identity whether you’re trans or not. It challenged, without aggression, the very stories we learn and internalize from culture going back centuries and in doing so suggests a more compassionate and human way to understand the personal, familiar, societal and religious stories that inform who we are and we who can be and chart a path to embracing are true selves beyond rigid categories as everyone has multiple identities they navigate every day of their lives whether or not they are conscious of that fact. Pity+Fear (a travesty) was, beginning to end, incisive, insightful, sensitive and at keen times humorous without trivializing anyone’s struggles and challenges.

Pity+Fear (a travesty) at Buntport Theater 5/27/22, photo by Tom Murphy

Grapefruit Lab Presents Darkly Comedic Tragedy Pity+Fear (a travesty) May 13-May 28

Pity+Fear (a travesty) is the latest original work from Grapefruit Lab the performance group that brought us the fantastic production 2018 JANE/EYRE, a queer interpretation of Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel. This new performance piece is, according to the Grapefruit Lab press release, “an intimate and darkly-comedic modern Greek tragedy, exploring what it means to be alive, to tell the truth, and to change over time. It was written by founding Grapefruit Lab member Miriam Suzanne (of JANE/EYRE and 10 Myths on the Proper Application of Beauty Products) who will also perform with live music by Josie Cool (An Antiquated Bluff, The Better Selfs). You will see Suzanne and Cool tell the story through three “incompatible myths of a Greek princess Agraulos” with personal stories from the performers. As with JANE/EYRE the performance promises to be utterly unique and imbued with meaning, humor and of course the tragedy one would expect given the genre vehicle of what you’ll witness on stage. But rather than summarize the Grapefruit Lab’s excellent synopsis of the performance and the ideas informing it, here’s is a bit more of what the group has to say about this current production:

“I’ve been trying to write about Agraulos since I first encountered her myths in 2010,” says Miriam Suzanne. The character has become a sort of worry stone for Suzanne, according to director and Grapefruit Lab collaborator Julie Rada. “This piece wrestles with both the mythical character and also Miriam’s ongoing obsession with her three lives and three deaths.” Those stories are framed by the two performers, who use the myths as a starting point to reflect on their own lives as queer and trans women through song and direct address.

Pity+Fear premiers on Friday, May 13, at Buntport Theater (717 Lipan St) in Denver, and runs for three weekends with shows every Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm. In order to make this production accessible, regardless of ability to pay, tickets are all name-your-price. “Buntport has been kind enough to lend us the space, and we want to pass along that generosity, especially as we’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” says Kenny Storms, the third member of Grapefruit Lab.

Grapefruit Lab is a performance company founded by long-term collaborators
Suzanne and Rada, along with Kenny Storms, a sound designer for theaters around Denver. The three met in 2009, working on a LIDA Project production. Since then, they’ve collaborated under various names — finally forming Grapefruit Lab with a vision for mixed-media shows that engage the community. “We want to make art without assumptions,” Rada says, “Art that humanizes, and entertains, and challenges, and brings you into conversation.”

Friday, May 13, 2022 7:30pm
Saturday, May 14, 2022 7:30pm
Friday, May 20, 2022 7:30pm
Saturday, May 21, 2022 7:30pm
Friday, May 27, 2022 7:30pm
Saturday, May 28, 2022 7:30pm
All tickets are name-your-own-price.

Buntport Theater
717 Lipan St
Denver, CO 80204


Grapefruit Lab: Julie Rada, Miriam Suzanne, Kenny Storms
Also Featuring: Josie Cool
Created With: Erin Rollman, Ben Meyer Reimer