The gods take on current issues in ‘Sync or Swim’ at Hawks & Reed

  • Queer & Now theater company members run through their performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Queer & Now theater company members run through their performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Sandra Seoane-Seri, center, films a segment of Queer & Now’s performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Queer & Now theater company members run through their performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Queer & Now theater company members run through their performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Queer & Now theater company members run through their performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Queer & Now theater company members run through their performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Akira Rose performs as Mami Wata during Queer & Now’s performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Bry Belling performs as Merrows and Selkies during Queer & Now’s performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Faolain Bobersky performs as the sorceress Circe during Queer & Now’s performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Garrett Sager performs as Demeter the Greek goddess of fertility during Queer & Now’s performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Elisabeth Castellon Gonçalves performs as Nemesis the Greek goddess of divine retribution and revenge during Queer & Now’s performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Sebastian Salloum performs as Narcissus during Queer & Now’s performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Bry Belling performs as Merrows and Selkies during Queer & Now’s performance of “Sync or Swim” on Saturday night in the Perch at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 1/19/2020 4:45:44 PM
Modified: 1/19/2020 4:44:45 PM

GREENFIELD — Having dealt with issues like climate change and sexism, the ancient gods and goddesses of Greece, Africa, Ireland and Scotland found each other in the tempest.

They huddled together, the storm crashing around them. Then, united, the deities rose and performed “God is a Woman” by Ariana Grande.

The climax of “Sync or Swim,” a narrative drag show and the latest production from Amherst-based theater company Queer & Now, was given a heartfelt performance at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center Saturday.

A live performance was held Friday, but the Saturday show was canceled due to weather. However, that didn’t mean the cast and crew were going home without some film and photos, and they performed the “cathartic” experience themselves.

“We almost always sell out,” said Finn Lefevre, a dramaturg and member of the show’s production team. “It’s usually one of those shows where people are screaming and cheering.”

Saturday was a chance for the crew to cheer and laugh with their own cast members, who danced through “Sync or Swim” to create an archive of the work.

“Sync or Swim” is a show that is entirely lip-synched to music like Prince, Britney Spears and Beyonce. While the music is contemporary, the characters are ancient gods and goddesses drawn from various mythologies, like those of ancient Greece, Africa, Ireland and Scotland.

The deities are used to highlight issues of the modern day, like climate change, corporate greed, sexism and sexual harassment.

“Despite being deities, they are overcoming experiences a lot of us have,” Lefevre said. “There’s one scene where someone is being a little too touchy-feely at a bar, and that’s something many people have dealt with.”

For example, the character Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture and fertility, is utilized in a way that explores corporatism and corporate harm to the environment.

In Greek mythology, Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, is abducted and dragged down into the underworld by the god Hades. Persephone is rescued, but was tricked by Hades into eating pomegranate seeds that bound her to the underworld for certain times of the year. As personifications of fertility and the harvest, the ancient Greeks used the Demeter and Persephone myths to explain the changing of the seasons and vegetation.

“My story is a retelling,” said Garrett Sager, the director of “Sync or Swim” who also plays Demeter. “And Hades is Shell Oil and the other major oil companies.”

Sager said Hades is killed in the performance as an expression of the urgent need to address climate change.

“Sync or Swim” is the second major piece from Queer & Now — the feminist, trans-inclusive and “futuristic” theater company having started in 2017 with the drag show “A Lip Sync Spectacular.”

After a successful run in 2018 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the company toured “Sync or Swim” in New York City at West Chelsea Arts last April.

Currently, there is no plan to reschedule the canceled second-night show at Hawks & Reed, and Queer & Now will shift its focus to a new piece on sex education.

But, according to Lefevre, the unique blend of mythology and thought-provoking contemporary topics resonated with people who saw “Sync or Swim.”

Lefevre said one scene particularly stuck with audiences, in which a woman confronts her abuser — the audience cheering the woman, booing the abuser.

At the end of the show, the characters unite, having come together in a tempest, and perform to “God is a Woman” by Ariana Grande.

“It’s a long-form drag show with a plot,” Lefevre said. “They are just deities because they have extra powers, even though they are dealing with real life issues.”

For updates on Queer & Now’s future performances, visit www.wearequeerandnow.com.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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