The Slaughterhouse Society is an oddity that one would usually find during Halloween season—a time when all things spooky and horror become hot commodities in the US. But it’s an aesthetic that the performance troupe, primarily led by Boston-based performer and self-described “art-weirdo,” Fem Bones, pays homage to all year round.
While the troupe performs a variety of work—ranging from campy burlesque shows to theatrical plays—its residency at the Somerville Theatre has provided a freaky spice to peoples’ typically standard movie nights. It’s dubbed the Slaughterhouse Movie Club, and patrons can expect a wacky and unapologetically queer preshow to accompany select films throughout the year.
With its next performance, a 30-minute, kaiju-themed burlesque preshow for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, slowly approaching on May 31, I called up Bones to chat about her work with Slaughterhouse and to help enlighten me on the underground scene that her troupe proudly entertains.
When you first meet someone, how do you describe the Slaughterhouse Society?
Well, we started off about nine years ago as the Slaughterhouse Sweethearts, and we were an all-alternative-girl burlesque troupe. But after a lot of time and developing and meeting other artists we really loved working with, [we] kind of evolved past being a burlesque troupe into just an art performance gang.
So some of us sing, some of us do circus, some of us do drag, some of us do burlesque, and our shows vary too. Really, we just call ourselves this art alternative group of burlesque babes and gender punks doing spooky alternative performance art.
Where did this collaboration with Somerville Theatre come from to combine your performances with movie screenings?
The guy who runs the Somerville Theatre, Ian Judge, has always been really supportive of local artists in Somerville. I met him through performing as Clara in The Slutcracker a few years ago and ever since then, he’s just been really supportive of helping local art happen in a town where there isn’t a lot of venues or affordable options to local artists.
He started approaching me being like, “How would you like to do a fun little preshow to a movie.?” Over time I said, “Hey, can I turn this into a big show? Let’s just do an hour of spooky fun, movie-themed burlesque, and drag, and then show a movie and make a whole night of it.” With its success, he asked us if we wanted to do a whole season. So now we’re on our second season.
Where did the inspiration come from to create a group that, as your Facebook page puts it, is meant to “entertain the deranged”?
I’ve always been a performer. I mostly studied in ballet and more classic theater, but I always wanted to write my own stories and not just work in shows that needed particular body types or specific gender or racial roles. I just wanted to create a space where I could just be me. So we started the Sweethearts and of course, that’s developed a lot into what the Society is now today.
Now it’s really just about putting on art and creating art by queer weirdos for other queer weirdos and anyone else who might like to have fun with us. A really big part of it is just making really inclusive art that is a bit more for everyone by everyone. That is actually a really big part of what the Boston burlesque scene, in general, is about, and it’s something I’m really proud to be a part of.
With the Society, it’s about making new, different takes on things and just trying to bring a really unique experience from a local variety of really amazing different artists.
So going from that classical scene to what you’re doing now, how has that evolution been for you?
What’s great about ballet and opera is that there is an incredibly strong element of storytelling. A lot of shows, like movie club, it’s really just a fun escape evening. You go out, you see some really weird professionally dumb entertainment.
So while we do a lot of shows like this, I just like bringing that storytelling element. Not everything with a queer-based cast has to be silly and dumb or ridiculous. We’re actually very capable of serious theater. In a way, I still take a ton of stuff from ballet and theater and use it towards this. I try to use that expertise and background to create this space that is a very valid form of theater with actors like us for people who are like our fans.
What’s kind of like the space you’re hoping to foster for your audience?
We love making a space where everyone is welcome. Literally, anyone is welcome to be in our audience as long as they are bringing fun, being respectful, and ready to have a good time. We are a queer-based performance group, so we like creating shows and space for queer people to feel seen and celebrated. But also, we have people from all over, all different backgrounds and we’re trying to create this fun, immersive, over-the-top space to just have a great time.
While you’re with us, you’re with us and once you’re gone, we hope you take some of that with you and it brings fun to your next day. With something like the Slaughterhouse Movie Club, we really just want to create this really inclusive, happy, and fun environment where people can just be themselves, have a great time and laugh too loud.
How would you say Slaughterhouse has helped you grow not only as an artist and performer but you as a person and your own self-expression?
I definitely was not the same person I was when I started the troupe. I made a lot of mistakes, but I’ve been in a really great community to learn from. I’ve also just been around some of the most uniquely talented but wholeheartedly supportive people, and that influence has made me want to be that kind of influence.
Through being Fem Bones there becomes some responsibility because I do produce quite a few events in our scene and you see all these people who want to perform and feel free to be themselves. I realized through being a producer, I might have the power to create space to do that. It’s made me realize that a big part of what I love to do is to create more space that I know I would have loved to of known about when I was younger. Just knowing that weirdness, strangeness, and ridiculousness can not just be allowed in places, but also really celebrated.
No matter what the art is you want to make, just try and make it. There are people out there who are waiting for you to make that art you’re thinking about making. You should just go for it. That’s kind of what I want to tell people through being Fem Bones.
You can catch the Godzilla preshow on 5.31 at the Somerville Theatre at 55 Davis Square in Somerville. The performance is only for the 7 pm screening, with the preshow starting at 6:30 and doors opening at 6:15. More information about the Slaughterhouse Movie Club and its upcoming shows can be found on somervilletheatre.com.