Stand up and be proud

Oy gay! A drag show in Jerusalem?

'We wouldn't be doing this stuff 30 years ago," says Gil Naveh, a.k.a. Galina, one of the five stars of the Peot Kedoshot ("sacred wigs," a play on "sacred cows") drag show. "We could never have gotten away with it back then." Tomorrow evening, the quintet, four of whom are Jerusalemites, will put on their current show at Beit Shmuel. "If the show strikes out at conventions, it does so in a subtle way, in a way that is accessible to everyone. Our main objective is to encourage people to think," says Naveh. That, according to Naveh, does not mean hitting people where it hurts and giving them a rude awakening. "We think the best way to do that is to provide them with enjoyment. The show is, basically, lots of fun fun fun in the sun sun sun, and that's what gets people to think." Given the thorny existential issues we deal with on a daily basis in Israel, to some that may seem like a somewhat naive approach. However, Naveh comes across as highly streetwise, and says he feels that, besides giving an audience a good time, entertainment is an efficient vehicle for conveying meaningful subtexts. "The very fact that you have on the stage five men who look like five actresses who are really men, gets people asking themselves, 'What's really going on here? I'm in Jerusalem and I'm at a show like this?' That arouses a few issues to start with." As a US-born Jerusalemite ("I made aliya at the age of two weeks") who spent a year in New York and lived for a while in Tel Aviv ("I couldn't get out of there fast enough"), Naveh has a learned perspective on the capital's ability to accommodate the drag show and the messages it tries to put across. "It's interesting to see the way Jerusalemites and Tel Avivites react to our shows," says Naveh. "People in Jerusalem are able to be entertained by what we do and think about it too, but Tel Avivites are not really capable of both. For them it's either thought-provoking or fun, but it can't be both at the same time." During one of their first performances, at Tzavta in Tel Aviv, Naveh and the rest of the Peot Kedoshot gang thought for a moment they had pushed the boat out a bit too far. "We did something on [singer] Rita and her claim that [her former record label] Helicon owed her NIS 4 million. After we'd done it the audience went into a sort of shocked silence. We were worried for a moment. And then they started clapping and laughing hysterically. It was like they were saying, 'We don't believe you just said that.'" Naturally, the aesthetic side of the show is as important as the lines the actors deliver. "We offer a very glittery and sweet version of the way we feel about the world," says Naveh. "You also get that from the stage setting, and the way we dress and move, and from our makeup. People see all that and think: 'Wait a moment, the world isn't as glittery and sweet as that. Why is that?' That gets them thinking, too." Naveh says each member of the team has a forte, which comes out in their individual roles. "I started ballet classes when I was five. My parents said that even before that, whenever I heard music I'd start moving around the house, breaking things. So they sent me to ballet classes. "I do most of the choreography for the show, although with time we have started to encroach on each other's fields. And that's fine." When he was in his early teens, Naveh went to a drag show put on by now-37-year-old Peot Kedoshot colleague Danny Yair (aka Diva D). "I saw that show and thought, 'This is what I want do'. I really loved what Danny was doing." Despite the 12-year age difference, Naveh and Yair became friends and when he was 17 Naveh asked Yair to teach him some of the tricks of the trade. "There were a lot of things to learn - there still are - but I loved it." Naveh, who is deputy head of the Jerusalem Open House, says the Peot Kedoshot show appeals to a wide cross-section of the public, and not just the gay community. "We have had ultra-Orthodox people at our shows. They told us they didn't take offense at the potshots we took at Judaism, because we treat Christianity and Islam the same way. That's very encouraging and it means we are getting some messages across." Sometimes the messages have to be tailored to specific audiences. "We did our very first show in San Francisco to members of the Jewish community there. They really appreciated what we did but, naturally, we didn't poke fun too much at Israeli issues," he recalls. "We also do parodies of all kinds of singers - I do Shoshana Damari and Ilanit - but people outside Israel don't know that many singers from here. We did people like Rita, Ahinoam Nini and Shlomo Artzi, whom American Jews recognize." While admitting there are some taboo areas, Naveh says there is very little the Peot Kedoshot misses. "At a show in Jerusalem we made a - subtle - joke about 9/11. We would never do that in front of an American audience. "We really believe that if you want to get people to change their way of thinking, entertaining them is a good way to go about it. That's our way." Pe'ot Kedoshot will be performed at 9:30 p.m. at Beit Shmuel, Rehov Shama 6. For info and tickets, call 625-7241.