DIVAfest pays tribute to, among other women, historic prima donnas. One was dadaist Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, highlighted in playwright Kerry Reid's The Last of the Red-Hot Dadas. The event also features classic feminist works, like Clare Boothe Luce's farce The Women, presented in a staged reading starring the collected performers of the festival plus surprise guests. Original works include Madam Noir's Fandango, a western and sci-fi vaudeville show performed by the Carnival of Chaos, a band of loony mischief-makers who combine song, dance, circus arts, and comedy.
Sean Owens is a diva, although he circumvents the standard requirement of having been born female. His one-man musical revue, Girlesque, showcases the powerful female influences who have shaped his life. Donning a different wig and breaking into a new song for each of his finely crafted heroines, he embodies them to the hilt, whether he's playing a 9-foot nun, his loving mother, his sassy Aunt Fanny, or the inimitable Carol Channing.
Like a classic diva, performance artist and classically trained vocalist Amy X Neuburg has fashioned a career out of breaking the rules. Frequently compared to Laurie Anderson and Frank Zappa, Neuburg studied with such avant-garde luminaries as Pauline Oliveros and David Rosenboom before fronting her most recognized band, Amy X Neuburg & Men. Backed by a formidable posse of male virtuosos, Neuburg blends electronic cabaret and art rock played on high-tech instruments like drum pads, MIDI mallet, and a Chapman Stick (a distant cousin to the guitar). Neuburg's outlandish antics and avant-garde predilections sometimes get more ink than her operatic voice, but at the DIVAfest, she sings Songs About Life & Death & Love & Insects sans Men, so she should get all the attention -- as befits a proper diva.