On Saturday, Nov. 25, “HUNG With Care: A Queer Holiday Burlesque Spectacular,” produced by Big Gay Hudson Valley, was performed in the Studley Theatre at SUNY New Paltz.
Big Gay Hudson Valley (BGHV) was founded in 2008 by Stephan Hengst and Patrick Decker. Originally just a Facebook page to share weekend events, BGHV started hosting their events “just to give more people places to gather,” Hengst said. Hengst told The Oracle that BGHV is now “focused on continuing to diversify the community, bring people together in different ways and create different experiences.” Bringing a performance to the Studley stage gave BGHV’s community “a chance to welcome even more people in,” he said.
“HUNG With Care” has been the kickoff for BGHV’s holiday season for 11 years now. The sometimes silly, always glamorous show is about so much more than what is on the stage.
When the show began, Kim David Smith, an accomplished cabaret artist and actor living in New York City, walked down the aisles in a black leather Santa-esque coat through the full house at Studley Theatre, setting the scene. Smith served as the first-ever emcee accompanied by live music of “HUNG With Care,” and brought a “very warm, slightly different feel for the show,” Hengst stated.
Prior to the show, Smith told The Oracle that “the chief mission” of the event is “joy.” “It’s very much an ageless and timeless experience,” he said. Smith’s witty opening number immediately welcomed the audience into a space of bliss and laughter, having already accomplished the goal of “joy and silliness” he was hoping for.
The two hours that followed were flashy and fun, with some performances elegant and sultry, some vibrant and energetic, but all a sparkly representation of joy. The cast members of “HUNG With Care” are professionally trained, each performer exhibiting an ability of technicality and gracefulness in burlesque, featherwork, dance, drag and cabaret.
But professionalism is not the whole reason the show is so successful. When asked about his co-performers, Smith said they “all share the same spaces.” They all share a similar passion;36 whether burlesque or cabaret, there is love for each form of art and self-expression. The cast, most of whom have been a part of “HUNG With Care” since 2012, is a close-knit group of people. Along with the glitz and glam, the show is “an expression of found family,” Smith stated.
“HUNG With Care” started off the holiday season for BGHV with joy, cheer, art and community. Follow their Instagram @biggayhudsonvalley to learn about more local events this month with the same goal of joy and bringing people together.