Who Are the Beards?

The Bearded Ladies Cabaret is an ever evolving cast of characters. We began as an ensemble of theater, music, nightlife artists in 2010. Under the artistic vision of John Jarboe, we have built a network of artists, collaborators, and partners in Philadelphia, nationally, and overseas. We are a queer and trans led group of artists and administrators that draw inspiration from our cabaret ancestors, and seek to honor and expand upon their legacy.

The following ingredients, values and mission are written by the artistic leadership of The Beards: founding Artistic Director John Jarboe, Associate Artistic Director Sally Ollove and edited and pored over by stakeholders, staff, and our Associate Artist group.

Bearded Mission

The Bearded Ladies Cabaret is a queer arts organization that sits on your lap and sings you a story. Whether it’s an opera, a home-made cabaret, a musical walking tour, or a show on a truck, we employ song, spectacle, storytelling, and heart to welcome audiences into moments of joy, healing, and subversion. Through sharing our original pieces and creating bespoke platforms for performance at home in Philadelphia, nationally, and abroad, we nurture artistic connection for a community of misfits, rabble-rousers, chanteuses and the people who love and need them.

Bearded Values

Bearded values in how we make and share our work, and our values of Anti-Oppression

As we live in both the process of artmaking and the systems that support that work, we aim to be human-centered, by which we mean prioritizing people (artists, technicians, audiences, and administrators) at every step of our work. We see our work as rooted in queer liberation, a liberation which does not exist without the liberation of all oppressed groups. Prioritizing liberation and heart in our art-making means creating a healthy space with systems of support. While we work and play together, we know harm can happen, even when moving with care. The Beards believe in actively acknowledging and being accountable for harm that happens in our spaces. We create environments where ensembles and teams have tools to navigate harm explicitly and without the onus being on the afflicted party.

The Beards believe in creating spaces where people’s agency over their bodies, their image, and their identity is respected and celebrated. We seek to creatively build consent into our performance and administrative spaces.

The Beards are a mix of employees and contractors, freelancers, guest stars, steady relationships, and one night stands. The Beards believe that making work with care necessitates actively sharing the context of decision making, whether it be financial, logistical, strategic or otherwise. We believe in giving our community the data to make informed decisions and creating an environment in which people feel empowered to ask for whatever information they believe will allow them to do their best work.

Clear and Authentic Communication
The Beards believe in the power of listening and clear communication. We take time to articulate shared values and expectations, adjusting as we go. We believe that work and play is better when there is room for everyone involved to contribute their voice.

Continual Learning
We believe in inquiry and questioning. We are investing time and resources in experimentation, and allowing individuals, ensembles, and our administrators the opportunities to grow.

We are on a journey towards making our spaces welcoming to everyone who wants to access them. We strive to make points of access that are meaningful, thoughtful, and created with care and to be proactive in creating welcoming spaces.

Bearded Ingredients

Spontaneous, live, and crafted
All of our work encourages the audience to be active participants in the creation of the performance. Interactivity yes, but also creating moments for them to notice their own responses and each other. We value and respect the craft of performance, giving time for scripting, rehearsing, and designing an experience so that we can take full advantage of the live encounter.

Tasty and Challenging
Our work involves spectacle, nostalgia, camp, pleasure, glitter, cardboard, really bad hair puns and discomfort, hard questions, silence, and space for reflection.

Queer as a verb, adjective, noun, adverb. We queer spaces, ideas, language. Many of us are queer. The constant is change and questioning.

Ambitious and Intimate
We love the hand-made, the human touch and the fireworks show. We aim to let ideas be as big as they want to be while centering the personal connections, the nuances that remind us that we are human.

Polyvocality and Lead Artistry
We create platforms for individual artists and make work as an ensemble. We value the dynamic tension between a singular vision and the group brain. Polyvocality means welcoming many different voices and centering processes and performances that allow them to be heard. Many of us are homos but we never want to be homogenous.

Can u host?
We love to flirt, partner, and grow in relationship with new artists, audiences, and organizations, sometimes for one night, sometimes for years. We also love and believe strongly in the art of good hosting, of feeding our audiences, artists, and technicians literally and figuratively with care and love.

The Power of Music Compels Us
Music is the cornerstone of our work. This music can be any style, can be original or recycled (with proper crediting). We use it as an essential element in all of our storytelling to give pleasure, to subvert, to access vulnerability and create reflective space.