For nine nights, John Jarboe of the Bearded Ladies will play southern belle Dixie: a 10-foot-tall woman dressed in a 6-foot-wide hoop skirt. But he hopes you won’t notice.
“Gender in our cabarets is very layered. You’ll see a woman with a mustache — and a huge long wig. But ideally, you’ll forget the fact that you’re watching a man playing a woman playing a man,” Jarboe says.
“Dixie” is one of the characters in “Wide Awake: Civil War Cabaret,” the Bearded Ladies contribution to this year’s Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. Jarboe and crew will be performing at Innovation Studio at the Kimmel, which seats 150 — a jump up from their usual cozy cabaret shows in the lobby of the Wilma Theater. They’re hoping to fill the house without losing the intimacy.
“We use all the great things about cabaret and combine that with all the great things about plays: the story, arc and character,” Jarboe says. Also watch for shadow puppets, “wacky costumes” and “a lot of things made out of cardboard.”
“Wide Awake” fits in well with PIFA’s time travel theme. The show leaps back to the Civil War era, with a few updates to the history books: Abe Lincoln is now a DJ, and Walt Whitman just wants to belt out “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones.
If that doesn’t sell you, your ticket comes with a free drink. “The cabaret is going to be an hour and 15 minutes,” Jarboe says, “so it’s short, it’s dense, it’s musical — and you get booze.”
If you go
‘Wide Awake: Civil War Cabaret’
March 28-April 6
Innovation Studio at the Kimmel Center,
300 S. Broad St.