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CandyLand: Fun for all queers
New weekly queer Sunday night kicks off on February 2.

Once upon a time, we spent carefree days dazzled with the Imperial King Kandy, Grand Jujube, and Queen Frostine. With our primary-colored gingerbread people, we skipped on jeweled stepping-stones and sauntered down a shimmering rainbow path. All in the hopes of hitting our ultimate destination: Candy Castle. There, after trouncing our childhood chums by wielding a winning mix of luck and skill, some of us tasted the tang of victory for the first time. Ah, Candy Land(r). You are missed.

But take heart, kids. For a new homespun queer club of sorts called CandyLand plans to surface at the Milky Way Lounge and Lanes with a grand opening bash on Sunday February 2. Okay, there's no Pepperstick Forest or sticky Molasses Swamp. Instead, welcome a fresh one-night promotion that plans to take place every Sunday night while promising just as much fun and dazzle as the game without the tricky pitfalls.

"I wanted to call the night Lester's Lounge after my grandfather [who owned the Milky Way's old bowling alley] but that got vetoed," said promoter Aliza Shapiro of her unique family tie with the club. "But I love the idea of CandyLand. It sounds fun and playful and I like the idea of using that graphic with the candy cane."

Despite the similar promotional tools, the shared traits between the two stop there. This CandyLand marks a new "all-queer, all-gender" promotion presented by Shapiro's Truth Serum Productions, which organizes the drag/karaoke nights called Glitter Switch at Hollywood KTV. After finally working a schedule with the Milky Way folks, Shapiro, a Bay Windows contributor, began to shape her vision. That vision aims to stage cabaret style entertainment and dancing while creating a new inclusive queer space.

"The thing that ultimately excited me about the space was that no one is doing a queer night that is men and women and trans," she said. "And Jamaica Plain is the perfect place to do that."

That idea matched the vision of the Milky Way's Promotions Manager BJ Ray. Nearly three months ago, when he was deciding how to change the direction of the club with his staff, Ray described the process of booking a queer night as a "no brainer."

"It only took one day before everyone chimed in with the same idea: a queer night," said Ray. "What was important for us, though, was creating a night with a cabaret-like atmosphere, where the entertainment and clientele reflected one another. Gay men, lesbians, trannies, bisexuals, etc. We wanted to make a playground with none of the divides that exist - at least socially - in the queer community."

Hoping to mend that perceived social divide, Shapiro said that CandyLand operates to build a space that's accessible and utilized by a mix of promoters without competing agendas. Certainly not a new idea, but definitely a challenging one. Still the hope is that they'll join hands and create a succession of Sunday nights that'll give queer folks different alternatives to explore on Sundays.

"Truth Serum is starting it off but it'll evolve to build a coalition with other producers," she said. "The goal is to open it up for different kinds of producers and I'm hoping everyone will rise to the occasion to make it work. So it won't always be Truth Serum thing. I definitely want to spread the love."

While Shapiro works out future Sunday line-ups, the February 2 grand opening is booked with a jam packed evening of nonstop entertainment that ranges from poets to drag bingo to strip bowling. To fit everyone in, some performers will limit their sets to 15-minutes. So far, the line-up includes poet/playwright Letta Neely, Fire Balls Drag Bingo host Toni Laurence, and the Pansy Brigade, a new troupe of "fat-positive, sex-positive, politically charged, all gender inclusive cheerleaders." Plus Amy Evans of Pussywhip Productions is rumored to be cooking up some kind of "strip bowling event" with Charlie Anders, "The Lazy Crossdresser" and promoter behind the monthly Lizard Lounge spoken word variety show series called Writers with Drinks. Local comic Mina Hartong emcees the evening while DJ Jamila provides the tunes following performances by the jazzy lounge duo Lucky and Angel, poets Judith Moman and Raquel Seidel, artist Kristina Lenzi, and dancer/choreographer Gabrie'l J. Atchison who is featured in Catherine Pedemonti's photo series, "Faces of Survivors: Voices Reclaimed." But this is hardly an exhaustive list. Rather, it goes on and on and on.

"For opening night, it was about getting everybody in and getting everybody excited," explained Shapiro. "This way everyone can mark their place and leave their scent so that they can come back and do a full production another Sunday."

In the midst of this chaos, expect some unpredictable performances to be sure. Still, the entertainment list reads a bit lady heavy for a mixed night. It's an imbalance that Shapiro says she's currently working to fix by hooking up with producers like Stephen Crowe who heads Scarecrowe Productions, Rick Berlin of the Shelly Winters Project, Toby Ingalls of Magic 12, Dan Boucher from Neptune, and Gunner Scott from Butch Dyke Boy Productions. With their help, the hope is that the evenings will grow to unite those who seem to keep separate camps at night.

"The goal is to get men and women hanging out. Like at Pride, the guys go to their block party and the girls go off to theirs," she said. "I hope that in offering [CandyLand] that people will take advantage of it. I don't know if we're going to fix the divide but maybe people will feel more comfortable about it or at least it will get people thinking about doing something different."

CandyLand's grand opening takes place on Sunday, February 2 at The Milky Way Lounge and Lanes, 403 Centre St., Jamaica Plain. (617-524-3740) Doors 7:30pm. Cover charge $5.
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