For almost two years, local musician and performer Stanley Roy has been hosting a monthly evening of performance called Show & Tell at local queer bar Cheer Up Charlies here in Austin.
Roy hosts the evening's events as Fantasy, a persona he created many years ago when a friend threw a birthday party and told guests to come as their own theme. “Basically, my closet vomited,” Roy said of his initial costume.
Since then, Fantasy has become an extension of Roy's own unique personal style. “The things I do as Fantasy, I do all the time,” Roy said. The mannerisms and catchphrases many would associate with Fantasy are also a part of Roy's self-expression even when he's not “in character.”
“I'm not the kind of person that's like, 'I'm Fantasy now and I won't talk as Stanley,'” he noted. “Fantasy is an extension of me.”
Roy joked that a depending on the day and the effort he puts into a given ensemble, one of his friends will name it 'Fantasy light' or 'Fantasy mostly.' “It's a very thin line,” Roy explained. “Show & Tell is so loose; we're all playing characters.”
After the initial birthday party unveiling, Roy went out as Fantasy many times. One day, a friend said, “You should host a party as Fantasy,” he remembered. Before Show & Tell, Fantasy hosted a monthly karaoke/dance/performance night in the loft of Silouhette Sushi called Fantasy Lounge.
Speaking of the shift from Fantasy Lounge to Show & Tell, Roy said he loved Cheer Up Charlies and that they were open and receptive to his ideas. “I knew I wanted to do some kind of interactive show, not just another open mic night,” he noted.
Roy had performed at Cheer Up Charlies previously, and also knew one of the owners, Tamara. “They'd seen other stuff I'd done,” Roy explained, detailing his experiences as a singer/songwriter and member of rock 'n roll band, as well as exploits like interpretive dance, puppetry, and even a sci-fi musical.
“When I originally came up with the name Show & Tell,” Roy said, “I thought people would bring their dog or a sweater they made.” Speaking of the show's flavor now, Roy said, “It kind of created itself.”
For those unfamiliar with Show & Tell, the Facebook events describe it as “a monthly monster of a night (more Grover than Sasquatch)....A swirling together of creative spirits, secret squirreled oddities, and raw pieces of time ‘n space.”
Ten performance slots are available, and those who sign up have five minutes to share music, sculptures, animals, concepts, characters, dances, stories, songs, clothes, rituals, short films, or anything else they like. Fantasy also performs at least one song.
The evening also includes a Q&A with each of the performers, with both questions Fantasy thinks up on the spot and ones his friends write down on index cards before the show. “Lately even I'm surprised by what I ask people,” he said. There is also the opportunity for audience members to submit their own fantasies, whether sexual or fantastical, for Fantasy to read during the show.
While Roy has gotten more comedy/stand-up performers than he anticipated over the course of Show & Tell, he said what's been most surprising is the people telling very personal life stories in an almost confessional manner. “It's a beautiful thing,” Roy emphasized. “It gets super real.”
Roy said he's seen people performing for the first time in ten years at Show & Tell, people getting over their stage fright. He's also seen return performers blossoming, creating their own personality and industry out of what they developed at Show & Tell. “There's always a moment when they switch and they understand why they are up there,” he said. “Everyone feels it.”
“If I called it an open mic it wouldn't be what it is,” Roy argued. “Show & Tell is an old term; it alludes to being a child. Show what you have. Show me something. It opens it up to people who aren't necessarily performers. It's like, 'Yay!'”
Roy believes that child-like element to the Show & Tell concept is part of its success, describing a fearless innocence he sees as characteristic to the show. “Open mic nights are cool to try stuff out,” Roy said. “But the audience is other musicians, so there's an unspoken pressure to be at a certain level, and we criticize more.”
“Show & Tell [is] more diverse and open, so there's less pressure,” Roy explained. “No one is expecting anything. That's what can kill creative air, the idea that it needs to be this one thing. Show & Tell...it's open to whatever. Every performance is unique in its own way.”
Roy said that now, when he's asked, “What is Show & Tell?” he answers, “I don’t know. I'm just along for the ride.”
The next Show & Tell will be September 10. Roy is moving to New Orleans with a lover he met at Show & Tell in September, but plans to be back to produce Show & Tell bi-monthly for at least the next year. “It's so inspiring,” he said. “It's worth a ticket.”
When asked if he's planning to pass the Show & Tell torch on to someone else, Roy said, “I want to do it for a while, so right now that doesn't make sense. Maybe in a year that would make more sense.”
But Roy is also uncertain about the idea of someone else taking over Show & Tell at any point in time. “If someone wanted to do something similar,” he said, “they should create it. I don't think someone couldn't, but it wouldn't make sense.”
“Create your own damn show!” he joked.
Roy went on to explain that he feels that as Austin is growing, venues are struggling. “Anyone could start, any night,” he said. “Name a day, time, [and] concept. Just commit to it. The town is begging for it. If we want to live up to 'keep Austin weird' we have a lot of work to do.”
But then, Roy mused, “Maybe that's not a slogan we want to live up to. 'Weird' is overrated or misunderstood. And I don't think you can 'keep' anything. That's really limiting.”
Roy said that at the last Show & Tell, one performer showed up in a raccoon mask. “That's superficially weird,” Roy agreed. “But then he told this moving story about his gender identity and cross-dressing and where he was with all of that. He slowly stripped off his suit to reveal a ruffled bra and panties. It was superficially weird, but there's a realness underneath.”
“Keep Austin REAL,” Roy exclaimed. “Can we start that? Realness is weird, too; especially to small-town mentalities in places like Texas.”
Roy said he will try to start an event like Show & Tell in New Orleans. “I'd be an idiot not to see what New Orleans has to offer,” he noted.
Roy said he's been inspired by so many beautiful, magical people since he first moved to Austin in 1998. He will miss the city, as well as the community he's built here. “Austin's been so good to me,” Roy said. “It will always be my first adult home.”
This article was originally published by The Horn on 08/28/2014.