HANOVER, NH—A Portland, Ore.-based performance artist mingles drag, Disney and pointed commentary about ethnic stereotypes in his hilarious, irreverent show, Looking for Tiger Lily, at the Warner Bentley Theater of the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, on Thursday, April 19, 7 and 9:30 pm.
Anthony Hudson reckons with his own mixed Native and European heritage in this solo autobiographical show. Incorporating video, Broadway belting and a bit of Power Point, Hudson performs in part in his queer drag clown persona “Carla Rossi” as he recounts his Native father’s activism as well as his childhood fascination with such ridiculous native portrayals in white pop culture as Disney’s Pocahontas, Cher’s Half-Breed and the infamous blond, blue-eyed Indian “princess” Tiger Lily in the 1960 Peter Pan.
This is the show’s first performance outside of the Pacific Northwest, where it was praised by PQ Monthly as containing “a multiplicity of truths gleaned from personal experience and exploration…courageous, honest and funny.” Wrote Oregon ArtsWatch: “Touching on Disney’s Peter Pan, mid-century cigar-box Indian depictions, the absurdity of racial classification, and poignant family memories, Looking for Tiger Lily promises to be one of those rare identity-oriented shows that might actually appeal to audiences much broader than those directly implicated.”
A multidisciplinary artist, performer and filmmaker, Hudson is best known for his character Carla Rossi, a drag clown related to tricksters of Native culture—“on the edge between satire, reification and critique,” Hudson told the Portland Mercury. Since 2010, Hudson and Carla have been featured at a number of Pacific Northwest performance venues, and they host and program the bimonthly “Queer Horror,” the only regular LGBTQ horror screening series in the country, at Portland’s historic Hollywood Theatre. Looking for Tiger Lily is Hudson and Rossi’s third one-actor show.
Hudson told the Mercury that his father was the main inspiration Looking for Tiger Lily. “He was a social worker, and when I was in my teens I traveled with him to different state conferences where he gave presentations about the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act. That’s really where I learned about all the wrongs that had been done to us. That’s where I learned about intergenerational trauma and assimilation.”
Juxtaposed with those wrongs is what Hudson “learned” through pop culture, including musicals—one of his favorite being the 1960 TV film of Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin and featuring the blond, blue-eyed Sondra Lee as the Indian princess Tiger Lily. Hudson still loves Tiger Lily’s song, Ugg-A-Wugg, he told the Mercury. “It’s stupid. It’s joyful. It’s old classic Broadway. For me, Ugg-A-Wugg—as awful as it is with all the Indian gibberish—never came across as mean spirited. The whole Broadway production of Peter Pan reads like children just playing and having fun.”