Portland’s premiere drag clown, Carla Rossi, is an immortal trickster, an ancient entity who’s bent on capitalizing on the worst parts of contemporary society, crafting herself into an object for consumption. Anthony Hudson, her creator, or her vessel depending on your point of view, is a mortal multidisciplinary artist, performer, and filmmaker.
Both are featured in Looking For Tiger Lily, the acclaimed performance piece that will show at Pacific Feb. 21. Also present in the show are a slew of mediums; song, dance, drag, and video coalesce into a queer spin, modern and vibrant, on the ancestral tradition of storytelling.
According to Hudson, the show interrogates the different ways Hudson and Carla interact with, and are acted upon by, a “racist, heterosexist, misogynist, body-phobic, ableist, classist, capitalist, celebrity-driven society.” It closely examines white supremacy through the lense of gender identity and Hudson’s experiences as a native person, specifically a member of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.
It draws on Hudson’s experience as a nonbinary person as well as the way these intersect. Note: Hudson does not use pronouns, preferring to be referred to by name.
The format of Looking For Tiger Lily draws on a wide variety of stylistic influences. It draws inspiration from the native stories told by Hudson’s grandma, and Hudson describes Carla Rossi as “the show’s own Coyote.”
It is as full of singing and dancing as a vaudeville revue. The most important influence on the format of the show was the PowerPoint presentations that Hudson’s dad, a Tribal social worker and former radical American Indian Movement activist, would give to (white) state social workers. The PowerPoints were designed to teach them “about the importance of the Indian Child Welfare act and the lived realities of of genocide, colonization, assimilation, acculturation, and intergenerational trauma.”
It’s heavy stuff, but as Hudson recalls, “my dad would break down resistance and build trust with his audience by always leading with silly PowerPoint slides and dad jokes, and that’s where I really learned how comedy could be used to educate.”
While Hudson’s father’s presentations were for a professional audience in a professional setting, Looking for Tiger Lily is designed to entertain and educate the general public. Hudson has performed it all over Portland, at Dartmouth, and later this spring is touring internationally. Hudson particularly appreciates doing the show for youth audiences, in part because of their willingness to laugh at the dark humor in the show, but primarily because of their receptiveness to the show’s intended impact.
Hudson wants the show to help people, especially young people, “to realize it’s okay not to feel enough, and it’s normal to fall out of the boxes society tries to contain us in.” Hudson leads by example, detailing that “I may not know who I am according to the terms American culture has given me, but underneath that I have a sense of what makes me me and the world I want to live in. It’s up to me to build that new language and better world for myself. This show is my way of doing that, and hopefully it helps others to begin to do the same.”
In service of this goal, Anthony Hudson will be leading a workshop on the art of drag open to all Pacific students in the third week of February. The exact date and time are undecided as of now. Students can register by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Looking For Tiger Lily, brought to Pacific by the Center for Gender Equity and the Elise Elliot Fund, will take place on Feb. 21 from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the Taylor Meade Auditorium. The show is free for Pacific students with ID and $10 for all others.